AB InBev places climate-science into communities with new 2025 goals

EXCLUSIVE: Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) is linking science-based climate goals with a "moral" belief that it should be influencing the communities it operates in, after announcing new climate, water and supply chain goals for 2025.

The world’s largest brewer has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025 against a 2017 baseline. The emissions target headlines a new package of commitments that aims to ensure that 100% of direct farmers are “skilled, connected and financially-empowered”, all packaging is returnable or made from “majority-recycled” content and that all communities in high-stress water areas have measurably improved access to, and quality of, water.

The 25% carbon reduction has been submitted through the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTI), and covers scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

As a brewer, water is a critical goal for AB InBev, and the company is committed to working with communities, as well as WWF and The Nature Conservancy, to build resiliency and improve access to clean and safe water.

Speaking exclusively to edie, AB InBev’s chief sustainability & procurement officer, Tony Milikin, noted how the company was willing to work with the industry to build better metrics for water stewardship and help communities living in water-stressed areas.

“We can compete like hell in the market, but outside of it we have the same problems and should work together on the same solutions,” Milikin told edie.

“Around 10% of our water use is from inside the factory, so there’s a responsibility for us to be involved with the communities. About a quarter of our beer is brewed in water-restricted areas so it’s not only a business issue for us but also a moral one.”

Research from CDP suggests that 63% of cities see future risks relating to water supply, many of which will be exacerbated by climate change. Almost 85% of cities in Asia and Oceania are concerned about “serious risks”, and these concerns only fall slightly in Africa (80%) and Latin America (75%).

Operating in more than 50 countries, AB InBev was one of 74 companies placed on CDP’s A list for water reporting last year, and the company has reduced water use to 3.09hl/hl on average across more than 200 breweries. By 2025, it is envisioned that AB InBev’s average will fall to 2.8 hl/hl. In fact, AB InBev has recorded water savings of 20 billion litres in five years, enough to fill more than 7,800 Olympic swimming pools.

Communicating to communities

Milikin noted that it was time for the company to “spread its wings” when it came to communicating its work to communities, and steps have already been taken with iconic brands. The brewer owns numerous beer brands including Budweiser and Stella Artois, the latter of which is involved in the “Buy a Lady a Drink” programme in partnership with Water.org.

The partnership aims to tackle the global water crisis and has provided clean water to nearly 800,000 people in developing regions. It has since been extended to provide for 3.5 billion people by 2020.

Mexican beer brand Corona is being used to communicate a commitment to packaging, which revolves around a partnership with Parley for the Oceans to protect 100 islands against rising marine plastic pollution by 2020.

Finally, AB InBev is placing a renewable electricity label on any Budweiser beer that has been brewed using 100% renewable electricity. From Spring 2018, beers sold in the US will be equipped with the renewable electricity symbol to signify that the country is the first where beer will be brewed from solely renewable sources.

AB InBev has already saved £46.5m in the past four years through energy-efficiency improvements, and is launching a new innovation programme aimed at solving more than 100 sustainability challenges by 2025.

The 100+ Sustainability Accelerator, powered by ZX Ventures, will run annual “boot camps” for start-ups to test and scale solutions that can help AB InBev deliver its ambitious strategy.

Ab InBev’s vice-president of smart value creation, Gregory Belt, added: “We’ll run the first 10 challenges in June. The goals are extremely ambitious, and we know we can’t achieve them alone and innovation will help us deliver. The technical team have been running accelerators for years, but we’re applying our expertise through a sustainability lens for the first time.”

Matt Mace

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