The water footprint for alcohol products is substantial. Despite this Diageo operate several production facilities in water-stressed areas. By using CSR activities the company hopes to secure its brand.
Alcohol production means increasingly scarce natural resources such as cereal crops and water are wasted for a “luxury good” instead of necessities.
The water footprint of alcohol is significant. According to Water Footprint Network, every liter of beer produced takes 298 liters of water. For wine the situation is even worse: one liter of wine uses 870 liters of fresh water.
The negative impact of alcohol production on availability of cereal crops for food, water security and food waste as well as the energy-consuming production processes are causing externalities that are unsustainable.
In 2018, an analysis scientists Poore and Nemecek showed that lowering consumption of “discretionary products” such as alcohol by 20% can help reduce land use by 39%, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 31 to 46%; and reduce scarcity-weighted fresh water withdrawals by 87%.
Several Diageo production facilities operate in water-stressed areas. Despite this, the company is boasting about its “grain to glass sustainability” efforts and water efficiency improvements. In the Diageo 2022 Annual Report the company describes how they “drive to be global champions for water stewardship” and stating that water use is a strategic priority for the company “especially in water-stressed areas”.
In 2020, Diageo announced a new five-year partnership with global NGO WaterAid, an organization the alcohol giant has funded since 2015. The new partnership agreement guarantees funding of 4 million GBP for “clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene in communities across Diageo’s global supply chains and beyond.”
While massive amounts of water are wasted on alcohol production, Diageo’s Chief Sustainability Officer Ewan Andrew said in the company statement that the company has been “helping transform lives with the provision of clean water and sanitation, a fundamental human right.”