Ireland: Heineken, Pernod Ricard and Boortmalt join forces

The two drinks heavy weights Heineken and Pernot Ricard join forces In Ireland. The two companies have agreed on a three-year collaboration and knowledge-sharing to support sustainable malting barley farming. The Irish pilot project aims to help farmers adopting regenerative agricultural practices on their farms. The learning will be rolled our globally in the future.

The project will be carried out with a number of key players in the supply chain, including a selection of 15 participating farmers from across Carlow, Kildare, Laois and Wexford and partners Earthworm Foundation and Boortmalt.

Next to Guinness, Heineken is the leading beer brand in Ireland. The Dutch brewing secured a strong foothold in the Irish market by acquiring Murphy’s Brewery in 1983 and Beamish & Crawford in 2008.

The same is true for Pernod Ricard with the purchase of Irish Distillers in 1988. The new owner helped to develop Jameson Irish whiskey internationally to become the world’s best-selling Irish whiskey,

This pilot project of the partners is part of a global collaboration initiated by Heineken and Pernod Ricard on the resilience of agricultural raw materials. Learnings from the Irish study, including information on the environmental impact of the measures adopted, will be shared and leveraged by both companies to inform sustainability strategies for other raw materials.

The overarching aim of the initiative is to support each farm’s transition towards regenerative agriculture and share this knowledge with other farmers, ultimately with a view to improving the economic and climatic resilience of malting barley farming in Ireland.

The project will seek to improve soil health and carbon retention, increase biodiversity, improve water quality and improve the livelihoods of farmers through the adoption of a series of regenerative agricultural practices including minimizing soil disturbance, increasing crop diversity, increasing soil cover by maintaining living roots all year round and reducing chemical inputs.

As part of the project, Earthworm will measure various metrics in participating farms, such as soil cover, fertilizer usage, water infiltration and profitability. A report detailing the performance of each farm against defined indicators, as well as areas for improvement, will be shared with each farmer so the impact of the new farming practices can be assessed. An annual report will also be made publicly available to track progress, share learnings and best practice. A financial incentive will be provided to famers to support the cost of implementation and in-field experiments.

Commenting on the launch of the programme, Kathryn D’Arcy, Communications and Corporate Affairs Director at Irish Distillers said: “At Irish Distillers, we have a proud history of buying quality grain from Irish farmers to produce our whiskeys. In line with the Pernod Ricard 2030 Sustainability & Responsibility roadmap ‘Good Times from a Good Place’, we are committed to working in partnership with our suppliers to develop regenerative agricultural practices that enhance natural ecosystems and respond to the challenges of climate change.

Through the regenerative agriculture pilot programme for malting barley, we will support Ireland’s barley farmers as they strive to reduce carbon emissions while ensuring a sustainable supply for the future production of Irish whiskey. This is a global programme which is being piloted in Ireland and will run for three years. Along with our partners, we are keen to demonstrate the potential impact of the programme and assess its potential for roll out in other countries.”

Avril Collins, Corporate Affairs Director at Heineken Ireland added: “Heineken are one of the first global brewers to have made a pledge for net zero carbon emissions across the value chain by 2040 and working with the source of our main ingredients is key to understanding how we can reach this goal, as agriculture accounts for 33% of our global footprint. Over the past 2 years, Heineken have developed a global Low Carbon Farming program that focuses on carbon reduction. Pilots in this program in 2021 show an average 25% CO2 reduction and 40% increase in CO2 sequestration during the farming process. We are delighted that here in Ireland we are taking this initiative deeper to look at a number of parameters across soil health, water and biodiversity to fully understand the impact and where change can be made. We greatly appreciate that this journey requires many players to work together so we are delighted to be partnering with our peers in Irish Distillers.”

Speaking on behalf of Boortmalt, Chief Supply Chain & Sustainability Officer, Inge De Winne said: “At Boortmalt we are pleased to facilitate this initiative. It brings together the right partners to help support farmers improve their regenerative practices with the goal of reducing and even sequestering emissions in the soil. Having a long tradition of working very closely with farmers in Ireland, it is good to see this engagement extended to respected customers and 3rd parties. We look forward to the experience, the learnings and to sharing the findings and best practices.”

Speaking on behalf of Earthworm, Bastien Sachet, CEO of the Earthworm Foundation said: “We are very happy to partner with Heineken and Irish Distillers on this project. At Earthworm we believe that improving soil health is key to having a positive impact on climate and biodiversity. Switching to regenerative practice will ensure that farmers have healthier soils and can thrive economically while continuing to produce the raw materials our society needs. Through this project, the whole value chain from farmer to brand is joining forces around soil health to realize a common vision. We are excited to be a part of and contribute to this collaboration”

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