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July 30, 2009

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Diageo delivers responsible drinking messages

ALCOHOL is often an indispensable part of a good night out, but it comes with attendant risks if practiced irresponsibly.

One of the most serious risks is drink driving, instances of which are on the rise along with improving living standards and alcohol consumption in China.

Diageo, the world's leading premium drinks business, is hoping to reverse the trend.

"Alcohol is a special consumer product in that it can have negative effects on society if used irresponsibly," said Lu Haiqing, corporate relations director, Diageo China. "Diageo is committed to minimizing these effects and creating a healthy environment for the development of the alcohol industry."

Last week they kicked off their 2009 "Responsible Driving" road trip from Beijing. From July 24 to mid-September, locally recruited drivers will take turns to motor along the east coast, stopping at major cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou (Guangdong Province) to promote the message of responsible drinking.

The cars they drive will be plastered with posters discouraging drink driving and at each city stop photo exhibitions will be set up near crowded locations to raise awareness as part of a related "Alcohol and Society" campaign.

On Tuesday the campaign arrived in Shanghai, having passed through Tianjin and Jinan (Shandong Province).

In the crowded Wujiaochang area in Yangpu District, the first photo exhibition was launched and lasts for six days.

After Shanghai the exhibition and road trip will go to Ningbo (Zhejiang Province) and Guangzhou, plus some other as yet undecided cities.

In 2006 Diageo, with the Ministry of Commerce, jointly initiated the "Alcohol and Society" forum which provided an open platform for members of the industry to discuss key issues in healthy and sustainable development.

In 2007 the forum again hosted in-depth discussions, becoming a national platform for the whole industry to actively take on corporate social responsibility.

This year, said Lu, the involvement of ordinary drivers and public exhibitions takes the message directly to consumers.

"In a departure from conventional one-way communication through forums, this year we are delivering the responsible drinking message in more direct and creative ways. We want to educate people from the grassroots," said Lu.

The Shanghai exhibition features photos of Diageo's many years of corporate social responsibility programs in China. Many of these are related to preventing drink driving - such as the signs they put up on highways during Formula One racing season.

By leveraging photo and other multimedia tools, the exhibition delivers strong responsible drinking messages and encourages a more positive role for alcohol. Other programs are also featured, such as Diageo's efforts to provide water to earthquake-hit areas in Sichuan Province following the May 12 disaster.

But education and changing habits are a long-term undertaking to which Diageo is committed.

"We have been running responsible drinking campaigns for five years," said Lu. "Five years ago people may have said to their friends, 'just one drink won't hurt,' but there is significantly less of that now."


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