The Portman Group was established in 1989 by the UK's leading alcohol producers. Its role was to promote responsible drinking; to help prevent alcohol misuse; and to foster a balanced understanding of alcohol-related issues. The name derives from the fact that the early meetings to launch the organisation took place at the Guinness offices in Portman Square, London.
In 1996, the Portman Group took on the additional role of encouraging responsible marketing when, in response to fierce criticism of 'alcopops', it launched its Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Merchandising of Alcoholic Drinks. The Code has since been expanded to cover other forms of promotion, including websites, sponsorship, branded merchandise and sampling, and is widely credited with raising standards of marketing responsibility across the industry.
In 2004, the Portman Group established a website www.drinkaware.co.uk, which gave comprehensive advice to the public on responsible drinking. Since then, the site has been widely promoted by the industry on drinks packaging and advertisements, leading to it becoming the primary source of sensible drinking information for consumers.
From 1989 until 2006, the Portman Group ran educational campaigns to raise public awareness of sensible drinking advice and the dangers of alcohol misuse. At the end of 2006, however, the Portman Group transferred all its educational funding and resources to a new charity, The Drinkaware Trust, in a ground-breaking initiative to tackle alcohol misuse. This meant that the Portman Group could concentrate on standards practised by the alcohol producers in areas such as labelling, marketing and social responsibility.
The Portman Group is funded by ten member companies who represent every sector of drinks production and collectively account for more than half the UK alcohol market.
They recognise that they have both a responsibility and a major business interest in reducing the harmful use of alcohol and have pioneered a number of innovative initiatives to educate the public about responsible drinking. These include unit labelling, the widespread promotion of responsible drinking messages and bringing about the creation of Drinkaware, an independent charity, which is now the main source of consumer information on responsible drinking. Portman Group members continue to provide significant funding for Drinkaware’s education and campaigning work.
The Portman Group believes that a targeted approach with a focus on education and prevention is more effective than blanket controls in tackling alcohol misuse. Alcohol harm reduction measures should target the minority who misuse alcohol rather than the majority who enjoy a drink responsibly.
The following values and beliefs underpin the Portman Group’s work:
- The drinks industry has a legitimate and important role to play in combating alcohol misuse
- Enlightened corporate social responsibility is good for business
- The consumption of alcohol in moderation (as defined by the government’s guidelines in the UK) is compatible with a healthy lifestyle
- Effective alcohol policy balances legislation, self-regulation and personal responsibility