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Report Watch: Is Bacardi Ignoring the Strategic Importance of Health and Safety?

By Melissa J. Anderson

Recently, Bacardi Spirits released its 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report. Bacardi, the largest owned spirits company in the world, is based in Bermuda, employs 6,000 individuals, and has a global reach in terms of production and sales.

In the report, Bacardi discusses its efforts toward sustainability and responsible sourcing. For example, the company has recently installed wind turbines to power its Puerto Rico production plant. And it is working with the Better Sugarcane Initiative (as a member of its Management Committee) to “help raise production standards and improve conditions in the sugarcane industry.”

But the report also details significant work in improving employee engagement. For example, it has recently launched its ONE Bacardi initiative, which, according to the report will help align global employees around a a cores set of values and strategies.

In the report Séamus E. McBride, President and CEO of Bacardi, said, “Being “ONE Bacardi” is fundamental to our future success and sustainability as a company.”

ONE Bacardi is the first step in a business transformation the company is undertaking. In doing so, the company is emphasizing the importance of employees and leadership in the company’s growth. The initiative is a huge part of the report. The company is becoming more global, and the initiative is designed to unite employees across different regions to become more strategically aligned with the company’s goals.

A major part of ONE Bacardi is a commitment to leadership and development training of high performing individuals – and this commitment is admirable. But how does the company’s “people strategy” refer to the rest of its workforce?

Where Does Health and Safety Come Into Play?

According to Bacardi, the company is facing tougher regulations when it comes to environmental, health, and safety rules. The report says:

“So the key challenge we face is one of increasing expectations from customers and consumers and, on their behalf, regulators, who are concerned about a broader range of areas. …Greater stringency on EHS performance also affects our suppliers because we need them to meet higher standards.”

The company goes a long way to discuss EHS concerns and and the impact of regulations in this area… before even getting to the numbers regarding progress. The only way the company measures health and safety is through its lost time accident rate, and according to the report, the rate last year was 5.6 accidents per million worked hours, a 16% improvement over 2009. The company also says it has noted an increase in absences, although it attributes this to better reporting.

Judging from the report, the company regards health and safety as more of a regulatory issue, rather than a strategic one. It would be interesting to see how Bacardi’s employee engagement ratings are compared with other companies in the spirits industry.

If the company is so focused improving the productivity and commitment of employees across the globe, shouldn’t it consider improving health and safety as something it wants to do, rather than something it has to do? Until that happens, ONE Bacardi will still be seen as a branding campaign, rather than a path to real action.

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