Johnnie Walker's parent firm Diageo doubles down on sustainability with paper-based bottle

Beer and spirits company Diageo has launched plastic-free spirits in paper-based bottles, made entirely from sustainably sourced wood. The paper-based bottle is said to debut with Johnnie Walker in early 2021. Developed in partnership with venture management company Pilot Lite, the new bottle is made from sustainably sourced pulp to meet food-safe standards and will be fully recyclable in standard waste streams.

The packaging is said to be designed to contain a variety of liquid products and will form part of Diageo’s commitment towards Goal 12 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals - Responsible Consumption and Production. This comes as Diageo and Pilot Lite partnered to launch Pulpex, a sustainable packaging technology company that allows brands to rethink their packaging designs, or move existing designs into paper, whilst not compromising on the existing quality of the product. This technology introduces a variety of plastic-free, single mould bottles that can be used across a range of consumer goods.

To ensure that the technology can be used in every area of life, Pulpex has established a partner consortium of FMCG companies in non-competing categories including Unilever, and PepsiCo, with further partners expected to be announced later in the year. The consortium partners are each expecting to launch their own branded paper bottles, based on Pulpex’s design and technology, in 2021.

Ewan Andrew, chief sustainability officer, Diageo, said the company was proud to have created this world’s first, and that as a company, it was "constantly striving to push the boundaries within sustainable packaging”, adding that the bottle had the potential to be “truly ground-breaking”. “It feels fitting that we should launch it with Johnnie Walker, a brand that has often led the way in innovation throughout its 200 years existence,” he added.

Richard Slater, chief research and development officer at Unilever. said the company believed in tackling plastic waste through innovation and collaboration, adding that it was going to “halve its use of virgin plastic at Unilever, reducing its use of plastic packaging by more than 100,000 tonnes in the next five years”.

Meanwhile, Simon Lowden, chief sustainability officer, PepsiCo said that innovative solutions and partnerships were critical to driving meaningful progress toward a circular economy. “The Pulpex consortium is well positioned to deliver sustainable packaging at scale and across industries, having impact beyond what any organization could achieve alone. We’re proud to be a part of it,” Lowden added.

Sandy Westwater, director of Pilot Lite, said the company was thrilled to be working with global brand leaders in this consortium, and that by working together, it could use the collective power of the brands to help minimise the environmental footprint of packaging by changing manufacturing and consumer behaviours.

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Separately, L'Oreal doubled down on sustainable beauty last year by coming on board as a pioneering member of the Paper Bottle Company to accelerate its paper-based packaging innovations. The PaBoCo project focuses on developing paper bottles, and according to L'Oreal, it is the first player in the cosmetics industry to have integrated PaBoCo alongside Carlsberg, Absolut and Coca-Cola.

Meanwhile in April this year, Diageo Singapore gave away over 1,000 meals to those in need in the country as part of its contribution to FoodBank Singapore, which distributes food to the needy. Additionally, it also paused paid advertising on major social media platforms globally starting 1 July, amidst a series of Facebook ad boycotts that included companies such as Coca-Cola and Unilever. 

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