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Do You Run A Business? Don’t Disregard the Costs of Noise

All around the world, there is a tug-of-war happening in consumers’ desires. On one side, the pandemic is still happening, and people want to stay at home where it’s calm and quiet to avoid infection — plus, after years of lockdowns, they’re comfortable that way. On the other side, many people are sick of being cooped up and want to go out, be loud, and enjoy the world again. To match that, many businesses (especially entertainment venues and food and drink manufacturers) have ramped up production, with clubs opening later and factories churning harder to meet the demand. From a business standpoint, it’s a time of volatility, with no clear pattern for what to expect from consumers and governments — but ultimately it’s better to meet demand than fall short. But there’s one cost to pushing for that goal that many businesses may not be factoring in: noise. Noise complaints against factories and venues are a leading cause of fines and licensing penalties that can greatly impact a business’s revenue if not mitigated early. So how can you, as a business manager, do that? Let’s look at a few ways.


Diageo is the world’s second-largest alcoholic beverages manufacturer. They own brands like Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Bundaberg Rum, and many more. Distilling, it turns out, can be a noisy business: large shipping trucks transporting heavy glass, cans, and organic materials; boiling liquids and high-pressure gases moving through complex piping structures; large numbers of workers coming and going at all hours; traditionally out-of-date buildings not designed with noise mitigation in mind. At just one of its historic Guinness breweries in St. James’ Gate, Dublin, Diageo invested over €1.4 million (AUD $2.05m) in an effort to lower nighttime noise that had impacted the surrounding community and led to complaints to Dublin’s Environmental Protection Agency. Measurements from EPA inspectors had found the factory’s noise above 54 decibels between the hours of 10pm and 7am — with decibels being measured on a logarithmic scale, that’s twice as loud as the regulation maximum of 45 decibels.

In their efforts to resolve this, Diageo spent €993,000 (AUD $1.5m) on reducing noise pollution from their 260-year-old brewery, including sound dampers, restricting traffic at certain times and switching to electric instead of diesel-powered shutters. The company had also engaged acoustic experts and had apportioned a further €452,000 (AUD $663,000) to continue the efforts to address noise issues at the site. Despite all this, Diageo was still charged €22,000 (AUD $32,000+) after pleading guilty to two counts of noise pollution — for them, that’s a pittance, but had a micr