Opinion: Marketing & Access

Guiding Principles for Responsible Retailing of Beverage Alcohol

Retailers play a critical role in minimizing alcohol-related harm. By enforcing applicable laws and best practices at the point of sale, they represent the face of the industry toward consumers and have the opportunity to help solve problems, influence the choices consumers make, and contribute to their local economy and community.

Around the world there are many challenges to enforcing national or local laws related to alcohol sales. For example in Peru, until very recently, a minor could go to a grocery store and buy a bottle of rum by just saying that the bottle was for his or her father. In Bolivia, semi-clandestine bars serve liquor outside of legal hours to patrons who are already intoxicated.

The retail world is a complex environment. Different types of ownership and retail outlets and differences in practices and licensing coexist around the world. Thus, creative and tailored solutions are needed to engage retailers that do not necessarily fit into a traditional commercial model of alcohol sales.

The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) and its predecessor, ICAP, has a long history of collaboration with a variety of stakeholders such as industry, governments, public health entities, and civil society worldwide to actively engage retailers in implementing responsible retailing practices. Retailers are also key partners in our efforts.

Through IARD, the world’s largest producers of beer, wine, and spirits have developed the Guiding Principles for Responsible Retailing of Beverage Alcohol, a resource that has been designed to be adapted to different local contexts and circumstances, while observing relevant local legislation. Furthermore, this guide provides examples of best practices worldwide, providing vendors of beverage alcohol with concrete ways to address the issue of responsible alcohol retail.

The Guiding Principles increase awareness and knowledge about best retailing practices in four key areas:

  • enforcement of legal purchase age laws,
  • minimizing binge drinking at retail establishments,
  • implementing activities to promote road safety,
  • and, improving characteristics of the retail environment to promote responsible consumption.

By establishing the Guiding Principles, IARD’s goal is to help retailers to establish responsible business practices and guide consumers to choose responsibility—ultimately reducing alcohol-related harm around the world.


The often sweet taste of Ready-to-Drinks, combined with attractive packaging, has led critics to charge that the drinks appeal to underage youth—as well as young drinkers of a legal age who may be prone to overconsumption. A second key concern is of a “training wheel effect”—the fear that, after drinking RTDs, underage youth will consume beverages with higher alcohol content with increasing frequency.

Challenges in Responsible Retailing

Both on-premise and off-premise alcohol retailers experience challenges in responsible retailing. Rigorous law enforcement increases risk to retailers, on-premise retailers find themselves responsible for the behavior of customers before they arrive. Employee training is key to ensuring responsible retailing.

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