How will you celebrate Earth week this year? We suggest you raise a glass of sustainable spirits. In today’s increasingly competitive post-pandemic market, brand identity and differentiation is more important than ever and products are under increasing pressure to be both highly creative - to stand out online - and environmentally friendly too.
First held on April 22, 1970, Earth Day is an annual event to show support for environmental protection. But practicing sustainability is more than a one-day event. So, here's how the spirits industry is going green not only this week but every day of the year.
A sustainable spirit isn't just about what's in the bottle. Using organic or locally-sourced ingredients might be part of it, but it's also about creating, packaging, and distributing alcohol-based products.
In 2020, the International Wine and Spirits Competition(IWSC) set a standard for identifying sustainable spirits that highlights a holistic understanding of the impact spirits producers have on the environment, including:
• recycling and repurposing efforts
• hiring locally
• sourcing ingredients consciously
• using an energy-efficient production process
• using a local supply chain to reduce the producers' carbon footprint
Sustainability could mean using wind or solar power in the production, eliminating unnecessary packaging, becoming a farm-to-glass distillery (growing their own grain and produce to use in the distilling process), and purchasing other ingredients locally.
It can be hard to tell which brands engage in sustainable practices and which are "greenwashing." There's no official certification for sustainable spirits, so it's up to the consumer to do their research.
You can check to see if a brand has received a sustainability award, such as the IWSC Green Spirit Initiative award. You can also look for local brands to support, keeping your own supply chain as local as possible.
Another way to tell if a spirit is sustainable is to look at the product packaging.
Customers remember unique bottles and interesting labels, but packaging can be environmentally friendly, too. Some brands are eliminating extra gift packaging, like specialty cardboard tubes, and others are finding more eco-friendly ways to bottle spirits.
Glass bottles are the standard packaging choice for spirits. It's possible to make a more sustainable glass bottle, though. For example, Rémy Cointreau is testing the “One Bottle for Eternity” project, which aims to consistently reuse the same glass bottles by collecting empty bottles, then cleaning and refilling them.
Other brands are using bottles with a higher recycled glass content, locally sourced bottles, or lighter bottles that use less glass overall.
While aluminum bottles are definitely not the standard packaging choice for spirits, at least one brand is moving to all aluminum bottles. In late 2022, the U.K.'s Penrhos Spirits announced they will now bottle their gin in custom-made, completely reusable, recyclable, and refillable aluminum bottles.
The canned cocktails market uses, by definition, sustainable packaging. Many beverage cans are already made from 100 percent recycled aluminum since aluminum tends to be recycled more than glass or plastic. Plus, cans are lighter and smaller, so they take less fuel and energy to transport and store.
As you raise a sustainable glass this Earth week, how can we help you build a sustainable spirits brand? Get in touch with us to discuss ideas and share your sustainability successes with us on Instagram.