Lessons Learned: Diageo Reduces GHG Emissions by 80 Percent

Scott Wentzell | February 28, 2013

By: Scott Wentzell

Today’s business climate demands that corporations increasingly do more with less. Cost cutting is the name of the game, and many organizations are beginning to realize the immense savings potential of simple energy efficiency measures. Diageo North America, a division of the multi-billion-dollar beverage giant Diageo, proved just that by reducing its carbon emissions by 80 percent, all while maintaining robust growth.

Diageo’s Case Study

In a recent Harvard Business Review blog, Andrew Winston tells how Diageo set the ambitious goal of reducing its global carbon footprint 50 percent by 2015. Diageo North American executives found that they were able to meet much of this goal by implementing primarily low or no cost solutions.

This is where the story gets interesting. A Canadian distillery identified it could drastically cut its own carbon footprint by sourcing natural gas harvested from a local landfill,  but at a price too steep for the individual plant manager. Luckily, a senior executive at Diageo got word of this project and was able to reallocate funds to make it happen. Although $1 million was quite expensive for that one distillery, it was a relatively cheap way for Diageo as a whole to achieve a very large emissions reduction.

Important Takeaways

As someone who works at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on corporate sustainability and energy efficiency, I was excited to see the ingenuity and foresight of this Diageo team. From this great case study, two important points beg further emphasis.

  1. Diageo has shown that there is massive potential for both cost-cutting and emissions reductions within their own operations through simple energy efficiency measures, such as updating lighting systems and aging boilers, and installing variable speed drives. Making the switch from oil to natural gas and downsizing boilers at one distillery enabled Diageo North America to reduce its organizational carbon footprint by 50 percent.
  2. By demonstrating great organizational flexibility and having an engaged executive team, Diageo was able to overcome structural barriers that often impede large-scale energy efficiency measures. Had a senior executive not been present on the company’s internal sustainability council, the plant manager might never have found the funding for this project, which reduces Diageo’s emissions by 30%. This is another scenario, proving EDF and MIT’s framework for the Virtuous Cycle of Organizational Energy Efficiency.

How EDF Can Help

We see these same dynamics at work all in the time in EDF Climate Corps and point to the EDF Climate Corps program as additional proof that these types of energy investments can be lucrative across a wide swath of industries.

If your organization is interested in saving energy, money and the environment, EDF Climate Corps can provide a trained set of hands to develop an actionable plan for implementing energy projects and "fresh eyes" to identify and overcome organizational barriers to energy efficiency.

This is the last week to enroll as a 2013 Climate Corps host organization – don’t miss out on your chance to impact the bottom line by cutting energy costs! APPLY HERE or contact me directly at swentzell@edf.org for more information.  


About EDF Climate Corps

EDF Climate Corps (edfclimatecorps.org) taps the talents of tomorrow’s leaders to save energy, money and the environment by placing specially-trained EDF fellows in companies, cities and universities as dedicated energy problem solvers. Working with hundreds of leading organizations, EDF Climate Corps has found an average of $1 million in energy savings for each participant. For more information, visit edfclimatecorps.org. Read our blog at edfclimatecorps.org/blog. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/edfbiz and on Facebook at facebook.com/EDFClimateCorps.