Behind the Bar The Business of the Bar

Running a Green Distillery Is Way Harder Than You Think

Waste is an unfortunate, though totally natural, part of the distillation process. Besides the obvious culprits like electricity and packaging, there are also leftover grains in the production of gin and vodka, which can be turned into cattle feed, and spent agave parts in the tequila-making process that can be used as fertilizer.

In the case of rum, the production of wastewater, a byproduct of distillation, is a major concern. In Puerto Rico, Bacardi is a pioneer in turning that wastewater into energy, which it then uses to fuel the distillery’s boilers to produce steam.

The process reduces the facility’s oil consumption by 40 percent. It’s also part of a commitment to sustainability that reaches all the way back to the origins of the company more than 150 years ago, when founder Don Facundo Bacardí Massó stepped up to the Spanish government’s challenge to reduce surplus amounts of molasses in Cuba, leading to the creation of BACARDÍ rum.

“Our challenge is to have zero impact on the environment,” says Maestro Maximo de Ron Juan Piñera, who has been working for the company for more than 30 years. “We’re working toward that, and we’re pleased to take care of the environment.”

Running a green distillery goes well beyond wastewater, however. Piñera points to three other areas the company focuses on to remain as sustainable as possible.

Sourcing: Bacardi works with companies that have environmental programs of their own. This extends to both raw materials and packaging. It holds its suppliers accountable to labor standards, human rights, health, safety, environmental protection and business integrity before working with them.

Packaging: Bacardi has continually worked to reduce the quantity and weight of its packaging, reducing it by 10 percent globally in 2017. The company is also exploring recycled fibers for its cartons.

Operations: At its distilleries, Bacardi has reduced its water consumption by 55 percent, with certain sites retaining zero landfill waste. “The goal is to have all of our sites creating no landfill waste by 2022,” says Piñera.

If history is any indication, that goal could very well become a reality.