Un café con… Laura Santiago, Manager Internacional de sostenibilidad en BEAM-SUNTORY

Laura Santiago is International Sustainability Manager for Suppliers at Beam Suntory.

A forestry engineer from the Polytechnic University of Madrid, she has extensive experience in sustainability and social responsibility consultancy for large corporations such as Garrigues, where she also taught at the Garrigues Study Centre.

After her extensive stage in corporate consulting, Laura landed at Beam Suntory, where she has been working in sustainability for suppliers for three years.

Empack: Laura, tell us a bit more about yourself and your day-to-day life at Beam-Suntory.

Laura: Three years ago I joined Beam Suntory’s Sustainability Centre of Excellence, where I am now responsible for the integration of sustainability strategy in the supply chain, one of the main challenges for our companies.

At Beam Suntory we have a clear sustainability roadmap, and an important part of my job is to engage our suppliers in meeting our own common challenges.

Having analysed our carbon footprint, it is clear to us that the weight of our suppliers is key to our decarbonisation process. In my day-to-day work, I work with procurement teams to help suppliers grow with us, adopt sustainability commitments aligned with Beam Suntory’s and, ultimately, report on their achievements.

Empack: After years of experience in sustainability, what are the biggest challenges you have faced or which project in your professional career do you particularly remember and why?

Laura: We are at a time when the need to be sustainable is crucial. Without going any further, the international community has set ambitious but vital targets if we are to secure the future of the coming decades.

At Beam Suntory, we not only take these targets on board, but we go one step further to achieve even more demanding results. We achieve this through our Growing for Good vision, which, coupled with our Proof Positive strategy, makes it possible to achieve our goals.

As the challenge has been enormous, let me give you two examples to try to illustrate it better: between 2016 and 2022 we have saved 75% of emissions at our Valverde facilities and 35% at our Palazuelos de Eresma facilities. If we extrapolate this to the global targets, what we have achieved in just 6 years is a sign of the firm commitment acquired by our company and the very good work of all the departments involved.

Specifically, we have achieved this thanks to the installation of photovoltaic panels to underpin our self-consumption, the purchase of green credits of biomass origin for electricity, as well as the installation of a new mechanical recompression evaporator in the distillery. Although these actions required considerable investment for the company, in terms of both financial and human capital, the results of the work in this area have been particularly profound and highly satisfactory.

Empack: Do you have any practical advice for companies in the food packaging sector to reduce their carbon footprint?

Laura: I know that the industry is increasingly committed to minimising the impact of its packaging as much as possible. This is an area where we are not competing, but rather joining forces, as this is an issue that affects all of us and transcends to future generations. That is why we are all working together to find solutions.

Sometimes there can be a temptation not to fall behind, but I think it is essential to take it step by step, set realistic objectives and add up to the capacity that each one of us has. A good piece of advice can be to measure the starting point and the current situation of the company in order to establish those objectives with a real impact.

For example, at Beam Suntory in 2022 we completed a global project designed to determine the recyclability of our own brand portfolio, which concluded that 88% of our packaging is recyclable. In addition, in 2023 we published a Sustainable Packaging Design Guide with the aim of incorporating sustainability from the initial packaging design stage. Two initiatives that put us on the spot and shed light on where we could improve and how.

Fotografía_Laura Santiago

Empack: What do you think are the greatest advantages of having trade fairs like Empack, which has been held for more than 15 editions, for our industrial fabric and the food industry in particular?

Laura: There is something I especially like about this type of events in general and Empack in particular: a group of companies get together, we talk closely, share concerns and success stories, and then we have a coffee.

This reminds us that companies are made up of people and how people act is how companies have to act. Getting together and learning from each other means adding up and, what’s more, it is for the benefit of society because, from the conclusions and lessons learned at each event, ideas sometimes emerge that make us all grow.

I would like to take advantage of this coffee to thank Empack for its fundamental work for all those companies that work with packaging and that want it to reach the next level for the benefit of society and the planet.

Empack: After all these years of experience, what would you say to young talents who are starting out in the world of work, especially in positions related to sustainability?

Laura: I would tell them that the future is theirs. Our generation has set the goals and has started working to achieve them, but the road to sustainability requires the commitment of many generations to bear fruit.

My advice is, therefore, that they should not give up, that the work must be intergenerational and must be part of a chain. I see in them a particularly committed generation whose purchasing, membership and acquisition decisions are absolutely marked by the values of the brands. With educated, committed and sustainably aware young people, I am convinced that the near future is in good hands.

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