Opinion: Working toward a world without harmful drinking

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One of the first things I did when I moved to the United Kingdom several years ago, to take my role as chief executive of Diageo, was to go on a night time visit with police to look at the challenges of irresponsible drinking in two very different London communities. I witnessed drunken and rowdy behavior, and it alarmed me.

I’m pleased to say that in many places, the culture around drinking is changing — and the U.K., where per capita consumption, underage drinking, and binge drinking are all in long-term decline, is a good example of that.

But there is more to be done, and tackling harmful drinking is something I know everyone in major alcohol companies shares our commitment to. The question that people sometimes ask is whether you can have a successful alcohol business while promoting positive drinking experiences. My answer to that is categorically: “Yes, there is no trade-off.”

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As an industry, as producers, and as individuals, it is our duty to fight the harmful use of alcohol, to help improve global health, and reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases. We all take pride in the drinks we produce and the enjoyment they bring to millions of people around the world, but we acknowledge our responsibilities to our consumers and our communities.

Deeper partnership between the industry and governments, the development sector and consumers, are the only way we can achieve positive change in every part of the world.”

— Ivan Menezes, International Alliance for Responsible Drinking chair and chief executive of Diageo

As producers, we can be successful by pursuing an agenda that is responsible, while educating consumers on moderation and advocating for policies that reduce the misuse of alcohol.

In 2012, 11 of the world’s leading beer, wine, and spirits producers agreed to work together, creating the Producers’ Commitments to take action in five key areas that would help combat harmful drinking. These were reducing underage drinking, strengthening and expanding marketing codes of practice, providing consumer information and responsible product innovation, and enlisting the support of retailers to reduce harmful drinking.

Having reached the end of our five years, we can reflect proudly on the tangible difference we have already made. Working with hundreds of organizations, we have reached over half a billion people with messages around underage drinking; and engaged 1.5 million people to ensure alcohol is only sold to adults.

The 11 producers also ran an average of 347 drink driving programs per year from 2014-2017, to reduce drinking and driving in dozens of countries, and 99 percent of digital advertising by all of our brands is compliant with our aim to only target audiences where at least 70 percent of viewers are of legal purchase age.

But we cannot act alone. Innovative partnerships with retailers, government departments, health agencies, and nongovernmental organizations have been instrumental to the progress we have made. We have achieved a great deal working together and laid strong foundations for the work ahead, but we recognize there is a lot more to do.

Deeper partnership between the industry and governments, the development sector and consumers, are the only way we can achieve positive change in every part of the world. We hope you will join us in creating a world without harmful drinking.

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About the author

  • Ivan menezes%2520%25281%2529

    Ivan Menezes

    Ivan Menezes joined Diageo in 1997 and held various senior management positions with Guinness and then Diageo until 2004 when he was appointed president of Diageo Venture Markets. Prior to his appointment as COO in March 2012, Menezes was president and CEO of Diageo North America for eight years. During this period he was also made chairman, Asia Pacific from October 2008 and chairman, Latin America & the Caribbean from July 2011. In September 2017, he became chair of the CEO Group at the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, a global not-for-profit organization dedicated to addressing harmful drinking and promoting responsible drinking.