Child labour: a problem that we all must fight

According to The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, nearly 1 in 10 children are subjected to child labour worldwide, and almost half of them are in hazardous work that is detrimental to their health and development. In the least developed countries, the situation is worse, more than one in four children are subjected to child labour.

The main reason for child labour is poverty, when the families have financial challenges because the caregiver falls ill, loses their job or the money isn´t enough for the basic needs. It compromises the physical, mental, social, or educational development of children and it can lead to bigger consequences like slavery and sexual or economic exploitation.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the percentage of children and adolescents in child labour decreased from 10.8% in 2008 to 7,3% in 2016, says the International Labour Organization, ILO, in its technical note in 2020. However, there are still around 10.5 million children and adolescents in child labour, an alarming number that could be higher after the pandemic.

As a society, we must be aware of our direct and indirect responsibility for child labour. The companies are committed to verifying the working conditions of all those who intervene in our business chain, and as consumers, we must choose the products of companies that are responsible and contribute to the community.

Buen Vato is against child labor, all illegal practices, and unfavorable conditions for workers. We vowed to only work with producers who share our values, ensuring their working conditions of the required modern humanitarian standards. We have invested over 1700 hours, over four years, helping Buen Vatos´ distillery in Mexico (Destilería La Santa Rosa) understand the code of conduct and still meet with them every week to ensure standards are being maintained.

Improvements include contracts for all workers and a labour union plan, onsite doctor visits, contractual human rights policies, and ongoing guidance on ethical business practices. “We’re very proud of the CSR projects we’re involved in within Mexico, which improve the lives of the employees and their families,” explains Mayra Zapata, Buen Vato co-founder and CSR manager.

 

References:

International Labour Organization, ILO. “Impact on the labour market and income in Latin America and the Caribbean”, 2020.

What about the water footprint?

Water as a renewable resource is one of the great concerns today, mainly for two reasons: we cannot live without it and it is in crisis, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) warns that water scarcity affects more than 40% of people and this risk is projected to rise.

When it comes to water, the figures for the environmental impact of the food industry change drastically. The EAT-Lancet Commission states that 70% of all global water withdrawals are used for food production. But not all foods used the same amount of freshwater in their production. A good indicator to know how much water is used for a given product is the water footprint. In their article Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers, J. Poore and T. Nemecek show that milk requires as much as 623 liters of freshwater per liter of the finished product meanwhile 1 kg of apples takes 180 liters of freshwater. Researchers gave us the numbers; it is our turn to act and make educated choices.

Tequila is not an exemption from water-intensive production. The Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) in collaboration with the Mario Molina Centre concluded that to produce 1 liter of Tequila 40% alc. Vol. is required 15 liters of fresh water on average. However, the impact on the freshwater resource does not end in consumption. According to the article Tequila vinasses: generation and full-scale treatment processes, during the distillation process, a high pollutant by-product is created, namely vinasse. Vinasse (Figure 1) is characterized by high levels of organic and inorganic matter, high temperature (90 °C), and low pH (3.0–4.5), which causes deterioration of the limited freshwater availability in Mexico. Therefore, it is frightening that 10-12 L of polluted water (vinasses) are generated for each liter of Tequila and 80% of the vinasse produced in the Tequila Industry is thrown away without making sure the parameters are like those found in the natural water bodies. (Figure 2).

Figure 1 Storage Vinasse after the distillation process.

Figure 2 Vinasse placed in the environment will move to near water bodies and finally, nature.

The Tequila Industry should propose actions on both freshwater consumption and vinasse production. As a Tequila lover, understanding the water footprint of Tequila can help to find the Tequila that has the least possible negative impact on the environment, by proposing a solution to clean (treat) vinasse to return it to water bodies without endangering local life.

Buen Vato focus to reduce the carbon footprint as much as possible. We work closely with the producer to implement actions that aim to reduce the vinasse problem, by making them safe for life in the surrounding areas. All this considered, Buen Vato is here to redefine the way Tequila is made.

References

Willett, J. Rockström, B. Loken, M. Springmann, T. Lang, S. Vermeulen and e. al., “Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems”, The LANCET commissions, vol. 393, no. 10170, pp. 447-492, 2019.

Poore and T. Nemecek, “Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers”, Science, vol. 360, pp. 987-992, 2018.

Mario Molina Center; CRT, “Sustainability Strategy for the Agave-Tequila Production Chain”, Mario Molina Center, 2016.

López-López, G. Davila-Vazquez, E. León-Becerril and e. al., “Tequila vinasses: generation and full scale treatment processes”, Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology, 2010.

Carbon emission in the Tequila industry: something we have to think about

Severe storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires are some of the effects of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is the scientific group assembled by the United Nations (UN), GHG emissions continue to rise, due to the lack of ambitious plans to reduce them.

Currently, as reported by NASA, the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), an important GHG, are above levels that have not been seen since 3 million years ago when sea levels were higher enough to inundate today’s major cities around the world. Consequently, the global temperature has increased by 1.01 °C since pre-industrial time (1880) and the UN’s scientific group has established that it will reach 1.5 °C if we do not move to a low-carbon economy and society.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed with these facts and think that it is nothing left to do. It is possible that the alcoholic beverage category poses major environmental challenges at global and local levels because while the impact of alcohol consumption on health is well studied, knowledge about the environmental impact of alcohol is limited.

The study Climate impact of alcohol consumption in Sweden says that alcoholic beverages production generates GHG emissions in the range of 0.73 to 2.38 kg CO2e/L (carbon dioxide equivalent per liter). Wine has the highest impact per liter (2.38 kg CO2e/L), followed by spirits (2.07 kg CO2e /L), and emissions from beer are lower (0.73-0.81 kg CO2e/L). This work also highlights the major contributors to the carbon footprint of alcoholic beverages, which are highly dependent on the category. For instance, whereas the brewery process accounts for 2/5 of total emissions from beer production, feedstock and packaging are the major contributors to liquor and wine production. Emissions from packaging in wine and liquor are particularly higher due to the preference for personalized heavy glass bottles.

Despite differences in carbon footprint, large carbon footprint reductions are evident across all alcoholic beverage types; however, realizing this potential may require tailoring solutions and sustainable actions for the different alcoholic beverages. The Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) in collaboration with the Mario Molina Centre developed sustainable actions for the Tequila Industry, considering the greatest contributors to the GHG emissions. On average, Tequila at 40% alcohol volume produces 3 kg CO2e/L (2.5 if the transport is not considered, as in the Swedish work). However, feedstock does not play an important role here as it only contributes to 1/10 of the total GHG emissions. On the other hand, the processing of feedstock and packaging is the major contributor, accounting for approximately 2/5 and 1/5 respectively. The use of fossil fuels (mainly fuel oil) and heavy glass bottles are the causes behind those high contributions.

To sum things up, all our consumer choices have an environmental impact, one bigger than others. Therefore, it is necessary to know the carbon footprint of products to make educated choices.

The Tequila Industry should be focused on feedstock processing and packaging that experts approved to be most important to reduce the environmental impact. As a Tequila lover, understanding the carbon footprint of Tequila can help to find the Tequila that has the least possible negative impact on the environment, by using low-carbon fuels and lighter packaging solutions.

It is clear for Buen Vato where to focus to reduce the carbon footprint as much as possible. The paperboard bottle is one of the actions that we implemented to do so, reducing the carbon footprint up to 86%, compared to a conventional glass bottle. Besides, we work closely with the producer to implement actions in the production of the Tequila shortly. All this considered, Buen Vato is here to redefine the way Tequila is made.

References:

NASA, 2022. [Online]. Available: https://climate.nasa.gov/

Hallström, N. Håkansson, A. Åkesson, A. Wolk and U. Sonesson, “Climate impact of alcohol consumption in Sweden”, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 201, pp. 287-294, 2018.

Mario Molina Center; CRT, “Sustainability Strategy for the Agave-Tequila Production Chain”, Mario Molina Center, 2016.