Responsible drinking: Diageo, the maker of Johnnie Walker and Lagavulin, wants us to drink better and not more

Gotta drink better, not more

The company has been a long-term, committed advocate of responsible drinking globally. Mei Ling Wong, general manager of Diageo Rare & Exceptional SEA, tells us more.

by : Hannah Choo

“Drink better, not more.” That’s a catchphrase you’d hear regularly at Diageo, the maker of Johnny Walker, Lagavulin and others. Since 2017, it’s been consistently invested in its role as an ambassador for responsible drinking, brewing programmes to encourage this move across the world, in hopes of creating a more positive role for alcohol in society. And late 2020, it launched The Balance Challenge, an augmented reality social media campaign to encourage people to swap booze for water, so as to raise money for WaterAid, an international non-profit focused on water, sanitation and hygiene. Believe it or not, these efforts are not lip service, but a credo. Mei Ling Wong, general manager of Diageo Rare & Exceptional SEA, tells us more.

How has Diageo’s efforts to promote responsible drinking paid off in Singapore?

Through educational programmes that promote awareness and behavioural change for more responsible drinking, Diageo has reached over 2.4 million people across the Asia-Pacific region. Our flagship responsible drinking programme, DRINKiQ, promotes moderation and help people become better informed and more aware of the choices they make when drinking alcohol

Why is drinking in moderation now so important to the brand?

ML: We take huge pride in our brands and we want people to drink better, not more. To that end, we want to empower people to make positive and responsible choices around alcohol intake, and we do that through a huge range of initiatives around the world, every year – The Balance Challenge was one of these.

It’s great that Diageo’s helping a non-profit like WaterAid. Why WaterAid, specifically?

ML: Water stewardship is a longstanding strategic priority for us, and we are focused on preserving this critical resource, particularly in water-stressed areas. We aim to achieve an overall positive water impact in our supply chains and beyond, which is why WaterAid is our global partner. We have worked together for over a decade helping support their efforts to provide access to water, sanitation and hygiene to three billion people globally without this most basic human right.

Getting the social and environmental equation right is a non-negotiable requisite to business success.

If we can be honest here, what do you think the competitive advantage of corporate philanthropy is?

ML: At Diageo, we focus on doing business the right way and our sustainability and corporate social responsibility goals are among the most ambitious in our industry. We aspire to grow the business while simultaneously driving positive impact wherever we live, work, source and sell. The long-term success of the company depends on the prosperity of the larger society we are all part of, and we are committed to working with communities and partners to create enduring value that benefits everyone.

Our partnership with WaterAid is part of Diageo’s 10-year sustainability plan, Society 2030: Spirit of Progress, and will underpin Diageo’s commitment to achieving Goal Six of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal Six aims to ensure everyone has clean water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030.

What else can we look forward to at Diageo this year? How else can we make this planet a better place?

ML: Getting the social and environmental equation right is a non-negotiable requisite to business success. Through Society 2030, we will help create a more sustainable and inclusive world. It includes 25 goals which are aligned to the SDGs, so we will be driving existing and new initiatives not only over the next year, but the next decade in order to promote positive drinking, champion diversity and inclusion, and pioneer grain-to-glass sustainability.

Lastly, what does tomorrow mean to you?

ML: To emerge stronger in a more sustainable and inclusive future, where businesses, people and community not just survive, but thrive.