Big companies have a responsibility to give back to their communities and pioneer sustainable practices to make the world a better place.
Bacardi has been an industry leader when it comes to corporate responsibility, and all employees are urged to live the motto “always do the right thing” day in and day out. Because May and June are Bacardi’s official Corporate Responsibility Months, we chatted with Rick Wilson, the global head of Corporate Responsibility, to learn more about the company’s sustainability initiatives, volunteer opportunities, and community outreach plans that are always in the works for the international spirits company.
Bacardi has a long tradition of always doing the right thing. What does this call to action mean to you personally?
As a family-owned business for more than 157 years, doing the right thing goes back to our roots. The Bacardi family has always been guided by doing the right thing for our people, our partners, and our communities. To me, doing the right thing applies across all our activities at the company. Two anchors of focus are protecting, as much as possible, the natural resources we use to create our brands and providing support to our communities, particularly in times of dire need. For example, after the devastating hurricanes Maria and Irma, the Bacardi company and family pledged $3 million to relief efforts—but the support didn’t stop with the money. It extended to opening our facility in Puerto Rico to the community so that they could access free water and meals. It meant pairing up displaced employees with others who opened their doors and putting together and transporting caravans of disaster relief supplies into the rural parts of the island that needed emergency help. Our partnership with Mercy Corps to support recovery efforts continues today as we work together to drive tourism back to the island and redevelop small businesses.
For me, it’s especially important to shed a light on the concept of mindful drinking and ensure that of-age consumers are enjoying our brands responsibly—that they are celebrating moments that matter in the company of our iconic brands and doing it one drink at a time.
What are some of the environmental sustainability initiatives that Bacardi has focused on specifically?
Bacardi Limited and its portfolio—which includes BACARDÍ Rum, Grey Goose Vodka, Patrón Tequila, Bombay Sapphire Gin, and Dewar’s Blended Scotch Whisky, among others—has been a staunch advocate for environmental sustainability since inception. Across production sites, we have ambitious goals to deliver environmental improvements to water balance, responsible sourcing of our materials, and to reduce absolute GHG emissions.
In addition, we’ve set out to reduce single-use plastics wherever possible. Back in 2016, we were the first global spirits company to take the pledge against plastic straws, and now, with our #TheFutureDoesntSuck campaign, we aspire to help eliminate one billion single-use plastic straws by 2020. Straws are a gateway to the bigger conversation of plastic pollution, and we have committed to review our supply chain to find ways to reduce, recycle, and, when possible, eliminate plastic.
What is really inspiring is seeing programs that our own people bring to life—not because it is part of their jobs, but because they are passionate about the environment. For example, the local New Zealand team developed a program to use discarded lemons from cocktails at bars and convert them into soaps. At the Bombay Sapphire Distillery in the UK, citrus fruit and husk discards are upcycled into a citrus cordial for a gin cocktail. At the North America headquarters in Coral Gables, we’ve partnered with local honey producer The Native Guy to install bee boxes to create honey that will be used at our office bar. This supports the effort to curb the population decline of bees. Another great initiative comes from our rum bottling facility in Jacksonville, Florida, where we adopted two bats named Frick and Frack from the Lubee Bat Conservancy to support bat education and their importance to ecosystems. These are just a few samplings of the incredible work and creative thinking of our Bacardi employees.
Bacardi is also big into volunteer work and encourages its employees to get involved in the community. What are some of the volunteer opportunities you offered through the company this past month?
Bacardi offers many opportunities to give back to our communities. The months of May and June are annual Corporate Responsibility Months, where offices worldwide sign up to volunteer at local organizations set on making the community a better place. This year, at our global headquarters in Bermuda, a team raced in the Relay for Life, while in Jacksonville, many of our employees spent a day gardening to refresh a certified wildlife habitat. In Hamburg, we partnered with BUND Friends of the Earth to restore a garden used for environmental education. In Coral Gables, another beach clean takes place next week, along with resume-writing workshops with Dress for Success, an organization that helps empower women and men to achieve economic independence. We have a blood drive coming up with the American Red Cross, and more.