Restoration Economy: Talisker whisky, Don Julio tequila, and Guinness stout all step onto the path of regenerative agriculture

On October 12, 2023, Diageo, the global conglomerate that has acquired famed brands like Talisker single malt whisky, Johnnie Walker blended whiskies, Don Julio tequila, and Guinness stout, announced two regenerative agriculture programs across its tequila and scotch brands in Mexico and Scotland respectively.

The programs are focused on restoring farm lands and reducing the carbon emissions of farming barley and wheat for Scotch whisky and agave for tequila, while driving additional economic benefits for the farmers.

Photo courtesy of Diageo.

Ewan Andrew, Diageo’s President of Global Supply Chain & Procurement and Chief Sustainability Officer, commented “As we commit to continued investment in long term business growth, we’re excited to expand our regenerative farming work more formally beyond our current Guinness programme in Ireland. The Scotch Whisky and Tequila brands have such a strong connection to their local communities, and as we build increased resilience and productivity across our end-to-end supply chains, we are building broader partnerships to enhance the impact of regenerative farming practices at scale.

Both programs will hope to drive positive outcomes of enhanced biodiversity, improved water stewardship, carbon reduction and restoring soil health. The programs will look at locally adapted practices such as cover crops, reduced cultivations, and crop rotations.

The scotch and tequila programs are being delivered in partnership with agriculture and soil carbon experts, including Agricarbon and James Hutton Limited.

Agricarbon will help Diageo build the baselines of how much carbon the soil currently holds and track soil carbon changes over time across both geographic contexts, while James Hutton Limited will investigate how regenerative farming practices can improve soil structure, biological activity and water retention rate in the Scotch program.

The tequila regenerative agriculture pilot will build the local knowledge pool of agave regenerative practices and investigate how the plant holds carbon over a 6 to 7 -year growth cycle.

The program will span across Diageo managed farms and its network of producers of the agave required for Diageo’s tequila brands, including Don Julio, Casamigos, DeLeon and Astral.

The first phase of the scotch program will focus on approximately 20 farms in three key barley and wheat sourcing regions in Scotland for brands including Johnnie Walker, Talisker and The Singleton.

While the programs will aim to reduce carbon emissions, they will also aim to build supply resilience, particularly in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, a region that is exposed to climate risks, by rebuilding soil health.

Both programs will provide greater resilience and knowledge to the farmers on how to farm and adapt their farming practices in response to climate change.

Annie Leeson, CEO and Co-Founder of Agricarbon, said “Building our knowledge and understanding of the different raw materials across Diageo’s supply chain is key to reducing emissions and monitoring carbon changes in soils in different farming systems. Working with Diageo, we are pioneering large-scale assessments of soil carbon stocks.”

The outcomes of Diageo’s global regenerative agriculture programs are expected to contribute to a reduction in Diageo’s scope 3 carbon emissions reduction target as outlined in its 10-year ESG action plan, Society 2030: Spirit of Progress.

The programs form part of Diageo’s investment of £1 billion into developing a low-carbon world.

Featured photo of Talisker distillery in Carbost on the Isle of Skye, Scotland is by DeFacto via Wikipedia.

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