Jack Daniels and Sustainability: Q&A with Suzette Carty

(Credit: Pixabay)

by | Oct 9, 2020

(Credit: Pixabay)

Jack Daniel’s has been embracing sustainability in its practices over the last several years. From water conservation to forest stewardship to zero waste initiatives, the company has proved that it takes is sustainability just as serious as its Tennessee whiskey.

Recently we caught up with Suzette Carty, senior manager of environmental sustainability at Jack Daniel’s, to learn more about the company’s new sustainability goals, and how they fit into the brand’s broader environmental mission.

Jack Daniel’s is converting excess shrink wrap from packaging into decking materials as part of its zero waste initiatives. Can you explain a bit more about how this happens? What is the process? How much shrink wrap are you preventing from ending up in landfills?

Jack Daniel’s sends its shrink wrap to a composite decking manufacturer, who recycles the materials for its manufacturing process. We send, on average, 36 tons per year for recycling, diverting this material from the landfill.

As we focus our entire operations on zero waste, we not only focus on recycling this used shrink wrap from materials sent to us on pallets, we also consider how much we use for our outgoing shipments, ensuring we use only what is needed to protect our products during transportation. Having a zero waste mindset across all aspects of our production process has allowed us to be a zero waste to landfill operation at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery for many years.

Another of the company’s initiatives is upcycling sugar maple charcoal used for filtering into smoking pellets for barbecues. Can you tell me more about this? What amount of charcoal does Jack Daniel’s use and are you saying all of this is repurposed and prevented from a life in a landfill?

(Suzette Carty, senior manager of environmental sustainability for Jack Daniel’s)

Jack Daniel’s sells its spent charcoal from the charcoal mellowing process to a manufacturer of smoking pellets, which allows for this sugar maple charcoal to be utilized beyond its initial purpose of mellowing of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. On average 160 tons per year are sent to pellet manufacturers for re-use. Spent charcoal not sent for making smoking pellets is burned in our wood-fired boilers to produce steam for production processes in making Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.

Does Jack Daniel’s distillery use any power generated from renewable energy? If so, please explain. If not, is it in future plans?

In 2018 Brown Forman Corporation (the parent company of Jack Daniel’s) committed to renewable energy by investing in a 30 MW wind power purchase agreement. This project, which came online in April of this year, allows us to not only generate wind power, but also gain new renewable energy credits to offset the greenhouse gas emissions from electricity usage at its US facilities.

This investment allows Jack Daniel’s to completely offset its greenhouse gas emissions from electricity usage. We continue to explore future options that will allow Jack Daniel’s to further use renewable sources in our operations.

Has the company looked at the footprint of its suppliers? How are you encouraging sustainability across your supply chain?

We recently completed an assessment of the carbon footprint of our supply chain, with a goal of understanding the largest environmental impact areas. Now that we know where to focus our efforts, we will continue to develop collaborative opportunities and work with our suppliers to lower the environmental footprint of our products throughout their life cycle. This summer we hosted a Sustainable Packaging Dialog, which included key packaging supply chain partners, and look forward to developing opportunities together that drive innovation on sustainability in our packaging.

Are there future goals for sustainability? If so, please explain.

Yes, in fact we are in the process of establishing new goals for the next phase of our sustainability journey. These goals are guided by where science tells us we need to focus to reduce our impact and the scale at which we must act. We’ve embedded sustainability into the way we make Jack Daniel’s for a long time, and will continue to elevate our efforts as we learn more. This includes extending our commitments beyond operations to our supply chain, and we look forward to sharing more in the new year when these goals are launched.

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