Corporate Social Responsibility: Companies with an obligation

sign for environment and climate protection
© AdobeStock / User: Chinnapong

As the saying goes, “with ownership comes responsibility”. Companies are expected to be more socially committed today than ever before, and almost no company can avoid it. This is also true in the beverage industry. Here are some examples demonstrating how Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an important issue.

Brown-Forman, brand owner of Jack Daniel’s and other spirits, came up with an unusual approach for its 2019 Christmas message. In the email greeting card, the company told its business partners about its latest social commitment and announced that it would rather donate funds to selected social institutions than spend it on gifts. The recipients of the funds included a day care center for the homeless, a nursing home and a language training project for immigrants.

Other companies have certainly done similar things for Christmas: What made this new and special was that the addressees could personally select one of five organizations by voting via click from their email. This was a clever move for three reasons. First, it made the commitment seem very credible and comprehensible. Additionally, the recipients were forced to interact with the initiative – which makes it memorable for them. Finally, it was an elegant way for Brown-Forman to communicate its values.

All in all, it was definitely a clever and sustainable measure within the framework of corporate social responsibility, a duty to which at least today’s larger companies are dedicated. Based on the assumption that companies, as a part of society, gain benefits from the system – such as infrastructure or education – it is expected that they, in return, also take responsibility voluntarily and beyond the legal requirements. However, where companies become involved largely depends on their size and scope of action, on the industry, and not to be forgotten, on current social trends.

Coca-Cola is committed to diversity

Jack Daniels Wagen bei Pride Veranstaltung
© Brown Forman Deutschland

For example, Coca-Cola has been committed to equal rights for people of different sexual orientation for more than 15 years. “Diversity is complex and extremely enriching,” is their credo. As the company stated, it wants to promote greater awareness of the issue both internally and externally. The Rainbow Network, founded in 2014, also provides specific support for lesbian, gay, bi- and transsexual colleagues.

Meanwhile, the social commitment from the producers of wine, beer, and spirits is completely sector-specific. They promote the responsible consumption of alcohol. Along with joint voluntary commitments on an association level, many companies are also tackling the issue independently. For instance, market leader Pernod Ricard Deutschland is extensively involved in this area.

Pernod Ricard invested large sums into the “My child doesn’t want alcohol” information campaign highlighting the dangers of alcohol consumption while pregnant. It was launched in 2010, together with the Foundation for the Handicapped Child. A specially produced TV spot, a national poster campaign and dedicated web and Facebook pages attract even more attention.

Protecting the environment is a priority for Corporate Social Responsibility

Environmental and climate protection is nearly mandatory for many companies, regardless of the industry. For instance, the Bitburger brewery group has been working to reduce its CO2 emissions for years. The company says it has already reduced emissions by more than 50 percent since 2008. Those unavoidable emissions still remaining will be eliminated by the end of 2022 with the help of compensation measures.

This will be achieved in cooperation with the Center for Sustainable Management (ZNU) at the University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany. The Bitburger brewery group has used green electricity since 2012. Electromobility is making the company more environmentally friendly in the short to medium term, while the company intends to replace gas with biogas for the long term. With regard to “monetary donations”, the group cooperates with the Plant for the Planet organization, among others.

According to the job platform, one of the new trend professions for 2020 is that of CSR manager. CSR communication enables companies to convey their social commitment to all relevant stakeholders, such as through their foundations, social projects or sustainability initiatives.

Altruistic goal or implausible advertising?

Be it climate protection, social activities or charitable commitment, corporate social responsibility can quickly come under scrutiny. Is the company truly altruistic or is it pursuing its own self-serving, economic goals? When it comes to environmental aspects, the two often go hand in hand. For example, if a mineral spring is involved in water protection, a company is certainly doing that for its own vital interest – even before the public positive impact of the activities.

Bitburger Braugruppe umweltbewusster Hopfenanbau
© Bitburger Braugruppe

Corporate social responsibility activities can be perceived as promotional measures that allow companies to present themselves as being especially committed to society. As long as the actual accomplishment is in line with what is communicated to the outside world, one can hardly object to it. If, however, exaggerations or untruths are discovered, the efforts are not only futile, they can be counterproductive. Companies can quickly be accused of “greenwashing”. Anyone who has ever experienced a media frenzy knows how difficult it is to regain lost credibility.

Technical solutions in the wide-ranging field of sustainability will be presented at the international trade fair drinktec in Munich. Are you still looking for a platform to present your innovations in the field? Then join us at the next drinktec from September 13 through 17, 2021.

Barbara Rademacher

Barbara Rademacher worked for 18 years as an editor for a renowned trade magazine for the beverage industry. In July 2018, the trained journalist and her long-time colleague Dirk Omlor founded a text and consulting office with the central project