Gabriel Opoku-Asare, is the Director, Corporate Relations at Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited (GGBL), a Diageo business, the world’s leading premium drinks business with internationally celebrated brands including Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Baileys. In an email interview, he tells Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online about GGBL vision to be the Best Performing, Most Trusted and Respected Consumer Goods Business in Ghana. GGBL CSR policy, activities, challenges and current phase of CSR in Ghana. etc. Excerpt.
Alaba: Can you take us through Guinness Ghana journey, business philosophy and the role you play?
Gabriel: Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited (GGBL) has been in Ghana in the last 57 years. We are the leading Total Beverage Business in Ghana with an outstanding collection of brands across beers, stouts, non-alcoholic and spirits. GGBL is a Diageo business, the world’s leading premium drinks business with internationally celebrated brands including Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Baileys. In Ghana, GGBL is the only beverage business listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange.
GGBL operates from two sites, its headquarters, Kaasi in the Ashanti Region and Achimota, in the Greater Accra Region with workforce of over 500 employees.
Our ambition is to be the Best Performing, Most Trusted and Respected Consumer Goods Business in Ghana. We seek to achieve this by strengthening our premium brands, innovating to meet consumer needs, building and extending our route to consumer, operating efficiently and developing our people with the right capabilities.
Our role in society is furthered through 3 key sustainability and responsibility (CSR) programmes. As a leader in Ghana’s manufacturing industry, GGBL is spearheading a Local Raw Materials programme that supports over 25,000 farmers and their families in the Upper East, Upper West, Northern, Brong-Ahafo, Volta, Eastern and Central regions to improve their skills and thus yields of cassava, sorghum and maize; enabling sustainable incomes for these farmers and their families.
Since 2007, GGBL and its parent company Diageo, committed to enabling the delivery of sustainable access to clean drinking water for 1 million people in Africa every year through the flagship Water of Life programme. Working in tandem with various partners, the programme has provided access to safe drinking water and sanitation to more than 600,000 beneficiaries in over 70 communities in Ghana.
We are committed to ensuring that our environmental footprint is minimized. We continue to invest in state of the art equipment and processes that significantly improve our operations, enabling us to operate more efficiently whiles reducing our impact on the environment.
Alaba: Tell us about your company’s CSR journey.
Gabriel: At GGBL, our CSR journey has been an interesting one, where we have moved from the traditional form of CSR and philanthropy to ensuring that it became part of our strategic decisions as a business. In recent years, we have moved to aligning it to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and then to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); in order to ensure that we are connecting our impact to a much broader and global discourse.
Also, as a proactive business, we have set ambitious sustainability and responsibility targets dubbed the 2020 Sustainability and Responsibility targets which will ensure that we are impacting our communities and contributing to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Alaba: Do you have a CSR policy? What are the key focus area(s)?
Gabriel: Our CSR policy as a business is underpinned by our 2020 Sustainability and Responsibility Targets. These are ambitious targets we have set for ourselves to be reached by 2020 and are committed to measuring and reporting on our progress in a transparent and meaningful way. These targets were selected to ensure we help achieve the UN’s Global Goals and support WHO programmes on health, such as the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases.
They are industry-leading goals that reflect the holistic way we measure and evaluate our responsibility and sustainability efforts, focusing on impact, not only within our own operations but across our supply chain. They also reflect the importance of working in partnership to create true scale for our many programmes and initiatives around the world.
Our 2020 targets focus on three (3) areas that are most material to our business and our stakeholders. These are:
- Leadership in alcohol in society
Our goal is to create a positive role for alcohol in society through initiatives that reduce misuse and promote a balanced lifestyle.
- Building thriving communities
Our goal is to equip the communities in which we operate with the skills and resources to build a better future.
- Reducing our environmental impact
Our goals in this area by making our products and business operations more environmentally sustainable.
Alaba: Mention some of Diageo CSR activities in Ghana?
Gabriel: Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited (GGBL) has a long standing array of CSR interventions and achievements in Ghana. Over the last decade or two, we have been a force for good and an agent of change in Ghana.
Through our Leadership in Alcohol in society, we have rolled out our flagship road safety interventions in Ghana. Twa Kwan Mmom, our ‘Don’t drink and Drive’ campaign is a behavioral change programme aimed at reducing drink driving among commercial drivers. Since 2013, over 7000 Commercial drivers Drink IQ-ed.
By collaborating and partnering with government, law enforcement agencies and civil society, we have played a key role in mitigating the impact of drink driving while ensuring safety on our roads.
Additionally, about 6000 students have been trained on what’s your DrinkIQ and we are employing innovative programmes such as “Hit the Books and not the Booze” and our Responsible Drinking Booths to educate people on alcohol while reducing the incidence of underage drinking among the younger population in Ghana.
In the area of building thriving communities, GGBL through our Local Raw Materials Initiative, has partnered over 25,000 farmers to develop sustainable agricultural supplies of key raw materials used in the production of our products. 48% of our raw materials are sourced locally and targeting leadership in this area with 70% sourcing of agricultural raw materials by 2020. By increasing our usage of local materials in production, we have improved the income of local farmers to the tune of over GH¢100 million a year.
Connected to this is our Water of Life programme which has evolved from being part of Corporate Social Responsibility to an essential element of sustainability within the supply chain. It seeks to establish strong relationships with local suppliers and their communities, and for taking collective actions with them on WASH where this emerges as a priority challenge.
We believe that sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is central to meeting global development goals on poverty, health, education and economic growth. A third of the volume produced from our sites is from operations based in water stressed areas, and as a drinks company, water is an essential resource and a top business priority. Our Water Blueprint sets out the company’s strategic approach to water stewardship, and commits us to increasing our efforts to address global water challenges, in the souring of raw materials, in the communities in which we operate, and through local advocacy. Since 2007, over 70 communities have benefitted from this intervention with over 600,000 beneficiaries.
Lastly, as a business which relies on water and other limited natural resources and whose activities has impacts on the environment, we want to use those resources responsibly, preserving them for future generations. Thus, measuring and managing our environmental impact is not only important for the planet and the communities in which we work, it is essential for the financial sustainability of our supply chain and our business.
We are committed to minimizing our environmental impact across our operations, and are working to extend environmental standards throughout our supply chain. Since 2015, we have ensured zero waste to land fill. To address the menace of plastic waste, we are also partnering industry to establish the Ghana Recycling Initiative by Private Enterprises (GRIPE).
To reinforce our leadership in recycling, we are reducing our total packaging by 15%, increasing our recycled content to 45% and ensuring 100% of our packaging are recyclable.
Furthermore, CO2 from our operations is recovered for production to reduce our carbon footprint while our refrigeration equipment in trade are HFC-free with reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Lastly, we have also reduce water usage by 29.6% since 2015 and ensured that 100% of operational waste water is returned to the environment safely.
Alaba: Could you tell us in your opinion the current phase of CSR in Ghana? Challenges with possible solution?
Gabriel: The private sector can be a force for good and lead the way. With the financial power and able human resources, businesses are better placed and should be poised to lead the agenda for sustainable development/growth.
In the current phase of CSR in Ghana, you can see more companies linking their responsibility and sustainability efforts to the UN-SDGs. This has become the big ambition of local businesses apart from the focus on bottom line. For us at GGBL, we have connected our initiatives and interventions such as the Water of Life, Alcohol in Society and Local Raw Material initiatives to the SDGs 6, 12, and 8 among others.
Also, cross-sector partnership has become essential to scaling and sustaining impact as far as sustainability is concerned. There are more partnerships and collaborations by key and relevant stakeholders in ensuring high impact for communities and the critical mass of stakeholders.
Additionally, companies are moving beyond traditional CSR to new ways of adding value to society. In times past, a company donating a TV to a police station or a one-off activity by a company was often classified as CSR. This used to be norm until the debates around sustainability set in. It has delineated a clear difference between corporate philanthropy and corporate sustainability.
For a company like Guinness Ghana, our Local Raw Material (LRM) initiative is being used as a means to support smallholder farmers and aggregators through the creation of value chains. In so doing, we are not only using local raw materials in the production of our products but also supporting local farmers to gain ready market for their produce and empowering communities.
Despite the current phase of CSR in Ghana, some challenges do exist, ranging from issues relating to funding, evaluating the impact of programmes and projects and the sustainability and life term of projects; as often projects are not owned by the community and constantly needs the support of corporates to thrive.
One other challenge of CSR has always been to ensure that employees feel tangibly connected to their company’s causes. For most companies, employee volunteering is not a core area as far as corporate social responsibility is concerned. I believe this should not be the case.
Going forward, the solution is for CSR and Sustainability professionals to be able to bring some numbers to the management table and quantify the impact of projects. This is the only way to ensure that management will understand what we do and why we do it in order to receive the much needed support and funding.
Also, employee volunteering should be a core aspect and strategy for businesses. Essential internal stakeholders such as management and employees should be made to understand the position of the business in the areas of responsibility and sustainability. It must be integrated into the overall business strategy, with a clear vision, goals, metrics and strong executive sponsorship.
Additionally, for the culture of sustainability to thrive, an employee engagement program with rewards and recognition must be ensured to reinforce sustainability behaviors.
Alaba: Are there any programs in the world of sustainable development (SDGs) that you think are spectacular?
Gabriel: I believe our programmes as a Total Beverage Business (TBB) can be classified as being spectacular. For instance, our Sustainability and Responsibility initiatives align with 13 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Our Alcohol in Society initiative supports goal 3 by ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages and goal 12 through the promotion of sustainable consumption and production patterns
Also, our Building Thriving Communities initiative connects with goal 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 8 by ensuring we End poverty in all its forms everywhere, Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all, among others.
Lastly, in reducing our environmental impact, we are addressing 5 of the UN SDGs in the areas i.e. goal 6, 7, 13, 15 and 17 such the adoption of urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, partnerships to achieve the goals, etc.
Alaba: Advice to corporate organisations that see CSR and Sustainability projects as waste of time and resources.
- Responsibility and Sustainability should be an inception philosophy and not an afterthought or an activity undertaken as a reactive measure. Businesses right from the onset should have CSR and Sustainability at the core of their inception philosophy or strategy. It should be a core business practice to have sustainable processes, products, packaging, and delivery.
- CSR as a strategic business decision gives to the business the social capital and license to operate.
- There is a direct correlation between a company’s position on social and environmental issues and its perception and position as an employer of choice. Young professionals and millennials want to be part of a company which has a culture and a reputation for being responsible and has a far-reaching impact on society.In our era, it also assures reputational capital since people want to work with organisations or companies with purpose.
- Furthermore, embedding it in the corporate strategy ensures a sustained supply chain and life expectancy for your business.
- Through CSR, such as we have with GGBL’s LRM initiative, we are creating jobs for the community and purchasing power for people to buy the products we create from their produce.
- Also through CSR, organizations can create the enabling environment for their entity to thrive while adding value to society and individuals.