Rum moves to sustainability

23 February, 2023

Despite the challenges posed by its production methods, the sugarcane spirit is serious about a commitment to a greener future.

If you were setting out to produce a spirit with a low environmental impact, you probably wouldn’t be choosing rum. Converting raw sugar into something fermentable requires a lot of energy and distillation is water intensive. On top of that, sugarcane needs plenty of space to grow, and when rum distilleries often find themselves in space-limited locations, like islands for instance, raw materials must be transported in.

The amorphous concept that is sustainability is steadily moving from a marketing buzzword into something more essential for brands to include in their operations and even with the challenges that face the rum industry, a growing number of producers are showing commitment in tackling them.

The Dominican Republic’s Ron Barceló was the first brand to receive the carbon neutral certification, with Licores de Guatemala, the producer of Zacapa and Ron Botran, also collecting the accolade in 2021.

But perhaps Flor de Caña is the global rum brand most synonymous with sustainable practices. The Nicaraguan brand is certified both carbon neutral and Fair Trade and distils with 100% renewable energy generated from biomass while capturing all CO2 emissions produced during fermentation.

“We believe companies have two choices, the first one is to grow sustainably and the second one is that there is no other choice,” says Mauricio Solórzano, global ambassador at Flor de Caña.

“Today consumers are more informed than ever, they will see through brands that market themselves as sustainable but aren’t really committed to it. Sustainability is not a destination but a journey, and it requires that we all do our share.

“Technology has allowed us to capture all CO2 emissions during fermentation and to generate 100% renewable energy.” According to Global Forest Watch, Nicaragua has undergone a 22% decrease in tree cover since the turn of the millennium, placing it among the countries most impacted by deforestation. In an effort to counter this, the brand began planting 50,000 trees a year back in 2005.

“Eighteen years ago, planting trees was probably underappreciated. Today we are 100% certain it was the correct thing to do,” says Solórzano.

“Trees play a key role in protecting wildlife, water resources and a healthy climate. We’ve now planted nearly 900,000 trees and plan to continue with this project for as long as we can with partners like One Tree Planted.”

Sustainability does not just mean having a positive environmental impact, but a social one too, and this is especially true in regions where access to education and healthcare aren’t always readily available to everyone. Since the early foundations of the brand, Flor de Caña has actively worked in the community, in fact, the brand’s current master distiller attended the school founded by the company.

“We founded a company school in 1913 to offer free education to the children of employees and then in 1958 a hospital to offer free healthcare to employees and their families,” says Solórzano.

“Over time, our focus on employees, environment and community really hasn’t changed. What’s happened is that we’ve been able to expand our efforts. For example, by working with sustainability partners like Fair Trade, we’ve been able to further impact our communities and improve their quality of life. So, we’ll continue challenging the status quo, raising the bar and looking for ways to have a deeper and more meaningful impact on the wellbeing of employees, the community and the environment.”

Digital Edition

Drinks International digital edition is available ahead of the printed magazine. Don’t miss out, make sure you subscribe today to access the digital edition and all archived editions of Drinks International as part of your subscription.


La'Mel Clarke

Service isn’t servitude: the skill of hosting

La’Mel Clarke, front of house at London’s Seed Library, looks at the forgotten art of hosting and why it deserves the same respect as bartending.