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Symposium is first UK spirits distributor to gain B Corp status

Symposium Spirits has become the first UK spirits distributor to achieve B Corp certification – not just for the business, but for every brand in its portfolio.

James Hayman said the distillery has been using green energy since 2018

Symposium Spirits’ roster includes Hayman’s Gin, Respirited Vodka, Merser Rum, and Bush Rum.

The company spent two years documenting its operations to meet the B Corp standards and achieved a score of 89.2 points across the key pillars of governance, environment, workers, community and customers.

Symposium has been striving to reduce its carbon emissions; the company’s operational carbon emissions fell by 23% in 2023.

It has also set a limit on how much waste goes to landfill – a maximum of 10% – and hopes this will be zero by 2050.

Not only this, but Symposium has also focused on strategic charitable partnerships. It has made an effort to support its local community – both in the industry and causes outside of drinks – with each brand having a different charitable focus.

“We have been discussing sustainability for a long time,” said James Hayman, director at Symposium Spirits. “Our distillery has used green energy since 2018 and we have, for the past 15 years, been mindful of weight in glass.

“We worked on a project in 2012 to reduce weight from the Hayman’s bottle so much of the activity seen today is not new for us. We’ve been aware of B Corp for some time and explored it in some detail before Covid.

“We did pause it for a while and then started again in 2021. We haven’t had to change much – the bigger focus has been documenting what we do. As we are B Corp for the company, not just our brands – that took longer.”

Hayman noted that improving sustainability was not revolutionary for the firm, but a natural evolution.

He added: “It is a continuation of challenging what we do, and can we improve it? We now have a framework to help us evolve further through an environment management system.

“Other measures include a more structured approach to develop long-term relationships with local and industry-related charities and trade organisations. Hayman’s has also introduced regular workshops for hospitality and retail through its training academy.”

Below, The Spirits Business put additional questions to Hayman to learn more about how Symposium Spirits became the first UK spirits distributor to achieve B Corp status across its entire business.

Symposium Spirits’ B Corp status covers all the brands in the portfolio – how difficult was this to achieve? Can you explain some specific challenges this presented, and how you overcame them?

Symposium Spirits’ B Corp portfolio includes Hayman’s Gin

We are the first UK spirits distributor to be B Corp-certified, not just for our company but also for our brands. The greatest challenge was the decision to cover our company and brands to have the greatest impact – it was a much longer journey and we had to be patient that it would not happen overnight.

B Corp represents a holistic approach to sustainability – what does it mean to the company?

A family business with a 160-year unbroken lineage must be sustainable, otherwise we wouldn’t have made it this far. You have to plan for a long-term future – not just a five-year business cycle. It is an evolution and continuous conversation. Respirited Vodka is a very good example – it was voted the best-tasting vodka, which must be an equal priority, but it has been achieved in the most sustainable way possible within its own ecosystem and sustainable loop.

Last year you reduced your carbon emissions by 23%. How did you achieve this?

We moved to 100% electricity from renewable sources, which resulted in a 23% reduction in operational carbon emissions. That is fantastic and exceeds our annual target of reducing our operational scope 1-3 carbon emissions by 3% year on year.

Are you on track to reach your 2050 waste goal?

We are passionate about our reduce-waste mission across Symposium and our brands. The formalisation of our mission is to ensure we have a tangible impact that the whole team supports. We are making good progress with our 2050 goal and currently we are hopeful that we will achieve it – maybe even before 2050.

How important is looking after the people you work with to achieve that holistic approach to sustainable ways of working?

Hugely important – B Corp is a badge that demonstrates to your colleagues and team that you want to have a positive impact and that you will uphold those values in everything you do.

What advice would you give to other companies looking to follow in your footsteps and pursue B Corp status?

Go for it but be prepared to put in the time and effort. There are no quick fixes to becoming B Corp-certified – even if much of the work is already in place.

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