Top Commitment

Makiko Ono - President & Chief Executive Officer Suntory Beverage & Food Limited

The world today faces a wide range of environmental and social issues, including water shortages and flooding from heavy rains due to climate change, biodiversity loss, environmental pollution from waste, poverty, and human rights violations. As Suntory Beverage & Food conducts business activities drawing on nature’s gifts such as water and agricultural crops, we believe that sustainability initiatives to protect and nurture nature are an essential to our business operations. The bounty of nature is not infinite. That is why I believe that utilizing and recycling the resources nature provides is vital. We do our business, providing products and services while engaging deeply with all stakeholders across our entire value chain, including business partners, suppliers, and communities. This is all about fostering human connections. Accordingly, we treat respect for human rights, promotion of diversity, and talent development as key themes in our business activities, aspiring to take part in building a world that inspires the brilliance of life.

In 2022, I was serving as Managing Executive Officer of Suntory Holding’s Sustainability Management Division, which drives sustainability initiatives across the Suntory Group. At that time, I felt that each of our seven key focus areas — water, greenhouse gases, containers and packaging, human rights, raw ingredients, health, and enriching life — had the potential to impact society more broadly and strongly by engaging all stakeholders of our business, indeed, our entire industry, in activities, rather than our individual company acting alone. Going forward, Suntory Beverage & Food will continue to work with diverse stakeholders to help build a sustainable world.

Here, I will introduce three sustainability initiatives that we are particularly focused on.

Water: The Starting Point for Suntory’s Sustainability Initiatives

Water is the most important resource for our business. We prioritize efforts to use it responsibly, return it to nature, and even restore it, aiming to actively lead the industry in this field.

To make careful use of precious water resources, we thoroughly practice the 3Rs when it comes to water, Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling water at all of our plants. We also classify the water used in manufacturing processes into five grades according to cleanliness level, such as cooling water and cleaning water, and we reuse it in stages from applications requiring higher grades to those where lower grades suffice, achieving industry-leading standards.

Looking ahead to the future, our Natural Water Sanctuary initiative seeks to return water to nature and nurture forest capacity to recharge water resources there. Our goal for this effort, which aims to improve the function of forests for recharging water resources, is to give back 100%+ of the water used at over half of our plants back to their respective water sources by 2030.

Specifically, using the expertise of the Suntory Institute for Water Science, we identify water recharge areas around each plant. We then sign mid- to long-term agreements with local governments and forest owners in those areas to work on forest maintenance. Through these efforts, we will restore more than double the amount of groundwater pumped up for use at our plants in Japan. We have rolled out this initiative at 22 locations across 15 prefectures in Japan and are also gradually expanding it globally, including in Spain, Indonesia, and France.

We also provide Suntory Mizuiku — Education Program for Nature and Water, designed to help children appreciate the wonder of nature, realize the importance of water and the forests that nurture groundwater, and inspire them to think about what they can each do for water sustainability. This program, unique to Suntory, has been deployed not only in Japan but also other parts of Asia as well as Europe and Oceania, and over 420,000 children have participated.

Helping to Build a Circular Economy as a Leader in Pet Bottle Sustainability

For us as a beverage company, initiatives in the area of packaging and containers, particularly PET bottles, are crucial if we want to help build a carbon-neutral world where resources are recycled. If appropriately sorted and collected, PET bottles can be seen not as a garbage but as a resource that can circulate in the economy. We aim to switch all PET bottles our company uses globally to either recycled materials or plant-based materials, achieving zero use of virgin petroleum-based materials by 2030.

To that end, we practice bottle-to-bottle horizontal recycling, where used PET bottles are turned into new ones. Through horizontal recycling, PET bottles can circulate repeatedly as resources, and CO2 emissions can be reduced by approximately 60% compared to using virgin petroleum-based materials. Suntory Beverage & Food has been engaged in these efforts for over 10 years. In 2012, we introduced the first 100% recycled PET bottles in Japan’s beverage industry, and we have continued to increase adoption of recycled PET. Through these efforts, we developed the world’s first F-to-P direct recycling technology that can further reduce CO2 emissions by eliminating certain steps in the recycling process. We are now using bottles recycled with this technology in the Japanese market. To expand horizontal recycling, we have concluded agreements with local governments, businesses, and other entities to allow us to recycle used PET bottles they collect into our products through bottle-to-bottle recycling. We are also ramping up consumer education and awareness activities on PET bottle recycling, including through classes at schools and TV commercials focused specifically on recycling. Thanks to these initiatives, approximately one out of every two PET bottles used for our Japanese beverage business is now made from 100% recycled PET.

We are also expanding these recycling technologies and resource circulation efforts cultivated in Japan to other countries. In the UK, France, and Ireland, we have introduced PET bottles made from 100% sustainable materials (100% recycled or plant-based materials) for some of our brand products. In 2022, Vietnam saw the introduction of our first 100% sustainable bottles in the Asian region outside of Japan.

Going forward, we will continue to strengthen initiatives to build a circular economy.

Creating a Strong Organization That Creates Innovation, with Diversity as Our Strength

Based on my career and experience working with people from many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds — and with diverse individual values — both in Japan and globally, I am convinced that diversity is an overwhelmingly strong asset for organizations, serving as a wellspring for creating richer value.

A project to revitalize the Oasis fruit drink brand, known and beloved throughout France, which I was involved in as a CEO of Suntory Beverage & Food France, demonstrated this clearly. To get the Oasis brand growing again, a team of Japanese and French colleagues collaboratively handled everything from product development to manufacturing and sales to refresh the brand and win it even more love from consumers.

First, to understand what our target customers — local families with children — were thinking, we visited households to speak with them directly. From those conversations, we learned that, despite their busy schedules, most people in France cherish family time together. With that insight, we shifted the brand concept to focus on family bonds, updating all aspects of the brand including recipe and packaging.

We made the extra effort by visiting consumers at home to see what their lives are like. We crossed organizational barriers to turn concepts into reality. We collaborated across the entire value chain, maintaining patient dialogue until reaching consensus. While work styles do differ dramatically from country to country, in all these things I was able to experience how we can come together around the same goal in cooperation, despite of — or perhaps I should say thanks to — our differences. I also believe we provided new value that won consumers’ hearts by learning from one another’s strengths — for instance Japanese team members’ field-oriented survey methods and expertise in teamwork, and French team members’ deep understanding of local consumers and know-how in systematizing processes — to produce synergies in an integrated effort.

Suntory Beverage & Food’s Board of Directors is also composed with an emphasis on diversity, including nationality, gender, and type of experience, ensuring that diverse opinions are incorporated into business decisions. At Suntory Beverage & Food, we respect each person’s individuality and intentions, and we provide support so no one has to fear failure. In this way, we will continue building a diversity-rich culture that keeps producing new innovations and ideas and keeps our organization strong.

In addition to the issues of water, resource circulation, and talent that I have highlighted above, in each of our seven key focus areas — including climate change, human rights, raw materials, health, and enriching life — we will strive to lead co-creation across and beyond our industry as we aspire to help build a world full of rich experiences for people, in harmony with nature.

December 2023
Makiko Ono
President & Chief Executive Officer
Suntory Beverage & Food Limited