Review of the Guinness 2016 Sustainability Report

Guinness Nigeria Plc recently released their Sustainability report for 2016. The report is titled ‘Sustainability: From Grain to Glass’ and gives details about Guinness Nigeria’s economic, social and environmental activities and impacts. It also detailed their social and environmental policies aimed at ensuring that their supplier relationships and their internal processes are aligned with their global sustainability strategy.


Upon reading the sustainability report, one of the first things that jump out at you is their initial emphasis on issues that are material to them (i.e. the issues that concern Guinness’ business the most). They rightly define these material issues according to three main criteria – alignment to company vision/purpose, potential impact to business operations, and perceptions of stakeholders. However, where they detailed the approach they used to defining material issues as seen by stakeholders, they are pretty silent on how the material issues were evaluated against company values and impact to business operations. Nevertheless, their materiality matrix showed that their biggest issue is water.

The next top five are agricultural sourcing, occupational health and safety, product quality and ingredients, ethics and integrity. Others lower down in the matrix were emissions, governance and accountability, energy, responsible marketing, tax, and social investment in communities. Despite this prioritization of the material issues (as per the materiality matrix), there is some disparity with the materiality issues referenced in other parts of the report, which leads to some confusion. Furthermore, no particular thought was given to the materiality prioritizations during the actual reporting of progress or impacts. For example, Guinness Nigeria has done so much with responsible marketing and it’s one of their strategic objectives. It however features pretty low in their materiality prioritization – they may wish to examine why.

Quantitative Measures

The second thing that jumps out as you read the report is how Guinness works to quantify both their social and environmental impacts. Given that the inability to quantify social and environmental impacts is a key challenge in sustainability reporting, this effort is highly commendable and makes the report that much more believable. The quantitative results are also reported when it’s not all rosy. For example, they still reported their energy consumption, emissions and waste-to-landfill despite the marginal increases experienced from 2015 levels. The transparency which this shows makes Guinness seem more trustworthy and willing to do what it takes to reach their goals. The quantitative results are reported in relative terms e.g. ‘relative water consumption’. It is unclear what relative means and a footnote to this effect would have been appreciated.

Furthermore, Guinness detailed a robust sustainable sourcing strategy, which is in line one of their biggest priority material issues – agricultural sourcing. Clearly, they expect social and environmental responsibilities from their suppliers and detail their framework to ensure this. As such, they would have added more value to their report by describing the extent to which they have actually applied this framework.

Activities and their Impacts

Reading the Guinness sustainability report will actually give you a sense of appreciation for the company. Being in the controversial alcohol industry, this is quite a feat. Some of the actual activities they have engaged in to increase their positive economic, social and environmental impacts are as follows:

Economic impacts:

  • Job creation for over 1,000 Nigerians, and an additional thousands of jobs supported along their supply chain (about 966 active vendors)
  • Tax contribution to Nigeria of about N13 billion in 2016 alone

Social Impacts

  • Individual projects and partnerships with organizations like Water Aid as well as Coca Cola Africa Foundation, OXFAM, and Water Health International to provide water and sanitation facilities to communities, e.g. Buruku in Benue, Ijebu Ode in Ogun, etc.
  • Drink – drive campaign with Federal Road Safety Commission (in Guinness production hub cities); Drink Diaries radio campaign during the festive seasons; Internal DrinkIQ campaigns to make employees responsible drinking ambassadors             
  • Launched an Age Verification Programme with 4 supermarket chains who have a total of 41 outlets in Lagos
  • Undergraduate scholarship for youth in host communities; Graduate skills training programme with the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (to 10 engineers); and Institute for Industrial Technology (IIT) scholarship for 10 candidates.
  • Contributions to charity (e.g. for IDP camps) through NGOs; support of awards like the 2015 The Future Awards Africa’s Prize in Agriculture; Set up of the Guinness Eye Center at Lagos University Teaching Hospital, etc. It is interesting to note that many such donations were done in collaboration with relevant not for profit organizations.
  • Relatively good gender balance with 26% female staff and a better than average 25% female board representation
  • Their internal zero harm programme for occupational safety
  • An independent whistle-blowing scheme

Environmental Impacts

The only environmental aspect Guinness Nigeria has consistently shown progress from 2013 to 2016 is in water. And this is particularly commendable as water is their greatest material issue, as seen in their materiality matrix. They have had mixed results in other environmental aspects such as energy, emission, and waste to landfill. Still, they have shown commendable reductions between 2013 and 2016, and even more remarkable reductions if you measure from 2007. For example, between 2013 and 2016, water use reduced 26%, waste to landfill reduced by 76%, energy reduced by 3%, emissions followed suite by 3.5%. Interestingly, despite their amazing work in waste-to-landfill, this is not expressly stated as being one of their key material aspects.

To improve their environmental impacts, Guinness Nigeria did the following:

  • Installed water guns to reduce water flow rate
  • Installed flow meters to collect water data
  • Treating waste water through an Effluent Treatment Plant before disposal
  • Monitoring the polluting power of their waste (e.g. measuring Biochemical Oxygen Demand) before disposal
  • Using gas-powered generators to reduce emissions as opposed to using diesel
  • Installed waste heat boilers in their generators
  • Using economizers in their boilers and compressors
  • Sort and collect reusable waste, and give these to their partner waste merchants – ‘ETP sludge’ reused for organic manure and food waste collected by farmers for animal feed
  • Recovering waste heat and reuse this as part of their energy for manufacturing
  • Recovering and recycling their waste labels, broken bottles (on packaging lines) and 90% of solid waste


In addition to the above, Guinness Nigeria talks extensively about how they have engaged their stakeholders, how they manage risks, and how they are governed. They also highlight the areas of the report that have been through assurance (by EY Nigeria).

Ultimately, Guinness Nigeria has done well and made some real progress in terms of their social and environmental impact. Overall, we are definitely pleased with the progress Guinness Nigeria has made, and are eager to see even more from them. 

This article was first seen on sustyvibes.