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Drinks manufacturer hailed for Net Zero efforts

16 November, 2023

A Sunderland soft drinks manufacturer has been praised for its 'outstanding efforts' to reduce its carbon footprint and support its local community.

Clearly Drinks has slashed its carbon footprint after investing significantly in new machinery and infrastructure upgrades at its 150,000st ft Southwick facility.

A new multi-million-pound canning line, eco-friendly LED lighting solutions and achieving 'zero waste to landfill' status are just a few of its many efforts which have seen it eliminate over 300 tonnes of CO2 from its operation in recent years.

A conscious effort to localise its supply chain has also contributed to this success, with the business now sourcing 95% of its ingredients and supplies from within the UK, as opposed to 60% just four years ago.

Expectations for its suppliers to bring down their emissions have also been set - be it embracing new, eco-friendly materials or modes of transport - to ensure the company is doing all it can to become a more environmentally sustainable business.

Chief executive Mick Howard, who joined the company in 2018 having spent over 30 years in senior leadership roles overseeing the operations of major brands across Africa and Europe including SAB Miller, has spearheaded the drive.

He said: "Over the last few years we've managed to evolve quite a comprehensive programme of initiatives to become a more environmentally sustainable business.

"Like most businesses, we originally started with carbon offset programmes, such as planting trees and investing in other projects, but for us as a business, what is far more tangible is to make significant progress in reducing our footprint rather than offsetting it.

"This has included partnering with an external provider who specialises in developing net zero, carbon management plans and has advised us on how to progress with that.

"It has also seen us invest in new machinery and infrastructure ahead of industry and government targets, eliminate waste to landfill and invest in new sustainable lighting, meaning we have been on the front foot irrespective of where legislation has driven us.

"Whereas other companies may see becoming sustainable as somewhat of a 'nice to do' activity, our sustainability plans spearhead our corporate agenda. It's at the forefront of everything we do and consists of initiatives with real substance that can be executed."

Founded in 1885, Clearly Drinks originally started life as Fenwick & Sons before rebranding to Villa Drinks, a name synonymous with the North East which is still remembered fondly by people across the region and who's iconic ghost sign adverts can still be seen on the gable ends of red-brick buildings across Tyne & Wear.

Today, the company employs over 100 people and remains deep-rooted in the community, creating apprenticeships for local people through its annual recruitment programme and supporting charities such as the Salvation Army, as well as maintaining a strong working relationship with Sunderland College.

"We're also keen to ensure our staff join us on this journey and realise the benefits to them as well as the business," Mick added.

"Be it providing internal training to help their understanding of the subject, becoming ISO 14001 accredited or becoming bronze accredited for carbon awareness training, which all of our management teams have now been through, we're bringing them on this journey with us.

"However, we're also conscious that we can and must still do a lot more. There's still a long way for us - and the industry - to go in order to achieve carbon neutrality and meet the targets we have outlined in our Net Zero Roadmap and we won't stop until we get there."

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, has played a key role in helping shape the city's Low Carbon Framework, which aims to help the city's employers play their part in making Sunderland a carbon neutral city by 2040 and hailed Clearly Drinks' 'outstanding efforts' to reduce its own carbon footprint. 

He said: "Clearly Drinks' commitment and approach to reducing its carbon footprint and supporting its staff is a blueprint that food and drink manufacturers the world over can follow.

"When we launched our Low Carbon Footprint in 2021, we urged businesses and the public to come together and help us tackle this crisis, and in Clearly Drinks we have a perfect example of the positive impact such collaboration can have.

"They're a real success story for the city."

 

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