At Constellation Brands, our ambition is to protect our communities’ water resources by collaborating with leaders and organizations to support local watersheds and enable the restoration of water consumed by our operations. On World Water Day, we were pleased to announce a two-year commitment totaling $400,000 to The Nature Conservancy (TNC), in addition to our existing commitments, to help fund conservation projects focused on improving the quantity and quality of inflows to the Rio Grande, which supplies drinking and irrigation water for more than 6 million people and 2 million acres of land across the U.S. and Mexico1.
The contribution will be used to support conservation programs at TNC aimed at providing adequate and safe water supply for downstream users, including in communities near Constellation Brands' operations in Piedras Negras, Coahuila. A portion of the donation will be used to support expanding TNC’s Sustainable Agriculture Program to the Rio Grande Basin and help landowners with technical assistance and cost-share programs. The remaining contribution will support an ongoing Groundwater Protection Program focused on protecting the regional aquifer systems that feed into the Lower Rio Grande, which are critical to maintaining its health and resiliency.
To share more about how we engage with environmental leaders on local solutions to improve water security, we connected with sustainability leaders across Constellation Brands. Read on for insights from Matt McGinness, General Manager of Environmental Sustainability - Global Wine & Spirits; Nina Ilse Mayagoitia, VP of Communications - Mexico; Luis Julian Hernandez, Senior Director of Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) and Business Continuity Planning (BCP) - Mexico; and Amy Martin, VP of Corporate Reputation and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Question: Can you talk about Constellation Brands’ ambitions for water stewardship and share more on your approach to achieving the company’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals?
Amy: As an agriculture-based company, sustainability has been central to our operating practices for decades. That commitment has only amplified over the years with water stewardship at the forefront of our broader ESG strategy. Our ambition is for Constellation Brands to model water stewardship for our industry – not just by being good stewards of the water we use, but by doing our part to engage our neighbors on local water resiliency solutions.
As part of this effort, we continue to implement operating plans focused on water efficiency, watershed restoration, and water accessibility and quality that are focused on the needs of local communities where we live and work. But we know this work doesn’t happen alone. We believe protecting our communities’ watersheds requires proactive collaboration with key stakeholders, community leaders, and other organizations that share similar values and goals. That’s how we reach our target of restoring 1.1 billion gallons of water withdrawals by fiscal year 2025 – together.
One collaboration that we are excited about helping to advance our water stewardship strategy is with TNC. With their expertise and resources, we’ve been able to identify key water stewardship projects for Constellation to support that benefit the areas surrounding our operations. Last year, we committed $700,000 to supporting TNC’s Global Resilient Watersheds program and innovative dynamic water management programs – both specifically benefitting watersheds important to our winery operations and communities in California. This year, we’ve bolstered our support of their work with an additional $400,000 – this time, focused on conservation projects improving the quantity and quality of inflows to the Rio Grande, ultimately helping provide adequate and safe water supply for downstream users, including in Piedras Negras, Coahuila – a local community near where we operate in Mexico.
Question: What are some of the unique challenges your division has had to overcome to operate sustainably, and where do you see opportunities for improvement in the future?
Luis: In the Beer Division, we’ve invested considerable time in transforming our culture to ensure the way we operate includes acknowledgment of all impacts, risks, and opportunities related to sustainability and social responsibility, from the design to planning stages. This has been supported by leadership, and the organization as a whole is now able to discuss, learn, and improve how we manage our natural resources. Another challenge is balancing the environmental and social issues for each sustainability project we implement and execute. We believe there is no successful environmental project without considering the communities' social and economic needs.
Matt: One aspect that makes Wine & Spirits unique is that we own and operate a portion of our supply. This means that farming and agricultural practices that provide us with critical raw materials (grapes) are an intrinsic part of our operating model. Navigating mother nature's evolving weather patterns requires agility and innovation, as well as a conservative approach to how we consume precious natural resources to ensure we do our part to help maintain the overall health of our environment. Our Vineyard Teams have a long history of supporting sustainable land management practices and have been successful in navigating this changing landscape over time.
Moving forward, we’ll continue to operate with this proven agility and innovation as we navigate ongoing challenges as a result of climate change and water availability for agricultural, societal, and nature-based demands. We are actively engaged in more nature-based solutions within Wine & Spirits, such as reforestation, waterway rehabilitation, and groundwater restoration, and we continue to invest in efficiencies across our vineyards, like precision irrigation techniques. We are dedicated to introducing more energy-efficient farming practices at our vineyards and to investing in clean energy generation and sourcing from our operating facilities.
Question: How does Constellation ensure its sustainable practices carry through the supply chain, from production to packaging and distribution?
Matt: Our strategy focuses on all elements of our supply chain, including sustainable agricultural practices in our vineyards that target continuous improvement in water, soil, energy, pest, and biodiversity management, as well as energy and water optimization in our facilities and collaboration with our distributors to determine the most efficient route to market.
We are also focusing on inputs and materials, such as sustainable packaging attributes and how we contribute to end-of-life consumer waste streams. Our packaging focus areas include material optimization, such as light weighting bottles, removing capsules, increasing recyclability, and advocating for greater recycled content. These subtle but significant changes will enable Constellation Brands to make a positive impact on the environment while providing the exceptional quality consumers expect from the organization.
Luis: We started a dynamic process between EHS, ESG, CSR, and Procurement to determine our opportunities and synergies. From there, we were able to develop initiatives such as our plastic reduction (hi-cone) packaging project, and we will continue to work on similar strategies involving not only aluminum and glass, but also potential sustainability initiatives for agricultural raw materials.
Question: What are some of the projects Constellation is involved with in Mexico for the benefit of water-stressed communities?
Nina: Over the last 10 years, we have invested millions of dollars in technologies that support the efficiency of water use and reuse, as well as wastewater treatment. Every day, we strive to continue improving our technology.
As members of the community, we share the responsibility for caring for our environment and its resources. We began a project to renew the municipal water network and incorporate a well for the supply of the new network in the community of Zaragoza at the beginning of 2022, and with it, we can all have access to this resource. This initiative aims to preserve efficiency in the use of water among all users within the community, today and for the years to come.
Another one of our projects is in Coahuila. We developed a 10-year project with Pronatura Noroeste, one of the most important environmental organizations in the country, to help restore the Bravo Conchos Hydrological Region in the Serranía del Burro. We contribute to four main areas: ecological restoration, water recharge, ozone capture, and community development. In the Sonoran community of Obregón, we have worked collaboratively with the Yaqui River Irrigation District to build three dams along the Yaqui Valley irrigation canal to help improve water management efficiency, ensuring that this resource is not wasted.
Question: What mechanisms are in place for Constellation to report on progress in this space?
Amy: We have a robust data collection and reporting platform as well as internal process and controls that help us track our progress against our targets and formally report on them to our Board of Directors and external stakeholders. That tracking is bolstered by third-party validation on projects and metrics annually to confirm our replenishment volume by project.
We report on progress related to our water stewardship initiatives through a number of channels, including our annual ESG Impact Report, CDP Water Security Report, and the Sustainability section of our website.
Internally, we also conduct Annual Environmental Sustainability Awards which acknowledge the impressive environmentally responsible work being done across our facilities. As a part of these award submissions, participating facilities report on their specific projects and efforts related to water stewardship.
Question: How will Constellation ensure the long-term impact of this work for future generations?
Nina: Our commitment to the community is permanent, and we think of ourselves as part of the community. Our projects and initiatives are aimed at tackling challenges in the present with a focus on the future. We are working with allies, organizations, and experts to work together and share responsibility for making the best use of the resources.
We are adopting sustainable practices, investing in projects, engaging stakeholders, tracking and reporting sustainability metrics, and supporting sustainable development goals. By continuing to prioritize sustainability in our operations, we can create a more sustainable future for generations to come.
1 According to data from the International Boundary and Water Commission