Patrón Spirits: Giving Sustainability a Shot

Patrón Tequila is probably best known as being the world’s number one ultra-premium tequila.  With a company started just a little over two decades ago, Patrón has built a strong following in the spirits industry. But what is not as well known are efforts the Patrón Spirits International has put towards sustainability.

Patrón Chief Operating Officer, John McDonnell, described some of the company’s sustainability efforts during a spotlight session at the Fortune Brainstorm Green Conference 2011.

Tequila is made from the blue agave plant.  The spirit making process is quite intensive.  For every gallon of tequila, there are 18 gallons of liquid waste.  Before, the liquid waste went through sewage treatment and/or the liquid was released to the ground.

But that has all changed.  Patrón has installed Mexico’s first reverse osmosis plant.  With the new process, it reduces 70% of the sewage waste.  The liquid waste generates recycled water that is used for the facilities’ cooling towers, cleaning, and irrigating the Hacienda’s gardens.

The remaining 30% of the waste is put into Patrón’s compost area.  This is mixed with the leftover agave tissue, called “bagasse” to create compost.  The compost is then used to fertilize the agave fields that will in turn create the source for more tequila.  How’s that for systems thinking!  (On a side note, compost is also given free to the surrounding town to use on football fields and gardens.)

That’s just the tequila making process.  What about the packaging?  No two bottles are alike, not because all bottles are made from recycled glass, but because all bottles are hand blown.  Shipping boxes are also made from recycled material.

There are some companies whose sheer purpose is eco products and services.  The whole essence of the company’s identity is based on the environmental effort.

There are other established companies whose purpose is to deliver the best product or service in their space possible, but incorporate sustainability efforts as a best business practice.  With the latter, a company’s identity is based on the product or service they produce, not the environmental effort.  Patrón fits into this description.

This is why the Patrón sustainability effort was pleasantly surprising.  A quick glimpse at  Patrón’s website will yield little evidence of their amazing sustainability work.  I actually think that this is a good thing.  I’d rather see companies taking bold action towards sustainability, rather than just talking about it or using it as a marketing play.

Patrón has lifted my sustainability spirits, has it lifted yours?

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.