The Conversation Society – The UK Drinks Industry Entering a New Era of Responsibility…Part 3

Posted: June 13, 2011 in Food & Drink, Healthcare, Lifestyle, Public Relations

Last month saw The Conversation Society hosting its second debate, looking at the UK Drinks Industry and the Responsibility Deal.

Following David Poley’s thoughts, we heard from Mark Baird (Corporate Social Responsibility Director, Diageo GB)

Mark Baird 

Mark continued the conversation by talking us through Diageo’s approach.

“Diageo’s approach is three-pronged: firstly we seek to create a more positive role for drinking; secondly we target specific actions and programmes on minority groups who misuse alcohol; and lastly we continually reinforce positive attitudes and behaviour among the overwhelming majority who drink responsibly.”

“Contextually, it’s hard to believe all of the following given how the media reports alcohol, but they’re all true: average alcohol consumption is down, harmful drinking is down, hazardous drinking is down, those drinking on more than five days a week is down, binge drinking is down, underage and teenage drinking is down, the number of alcohol-related crimes is down and the number of alcohol-related deaths is down.”

Mark then went on to explain that these declining numbers are NOT because of the recession, despite what some might say. “They began falling around 2004, years before the recession began. And I believe they began falling because of what we as an industry and companies like Diageo have been doing during that time.”

At industry level, the Drinkaware Trust was established around six years ago and its five-year, £100million “why let good times go bad?” campaign, aimed at 18-24 year olds, has had significant  success; backed by 45 companies involved in the production or retail of alcohol it now has results showing around 70% of target groups have been prompted to reconsider their drinking as a result of the campaign.

“As for Diageo specifically, we were the first company to launch a national responsible drinking campaign in 2007 and we fund a wide range of social responsibility activities up and down the country. For example, we fund the delivery of a hard-hitting drama about the risks of alcohol which has been delivered to 12-14 year-olds in more than 90 schools – 18,000 kids; we fund a programme in Angus which takes troubled teenagers from three high schools and involves them in rebuilding old motorbikes, preparing them for race days and then acting as race-crew – the rebuilding happens on Friday nights and the races on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so no drinking and no hangovers.”

“We support a police-led project in West Yorkshire where volunteers go into the streets in the early evening and engage with young women to warn them about the serious risks involved in drinking too much.

These are just some of our community initiatives; on a broader scale we also support the Home Office backed Purple Flag and Best Bar None schemes as well as Brake, The British Liver Trust and the National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.”

So, to answer the question ‘are we entering a new era of responsibility?’ my view is a resounding no. And I base this on the fact that we as an industry, and Diageo as a company, have been involved in a new era of responsibility for at least the last seven years. Mark Baird May 2011.

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