Don’t treat water risk in isolation, warns SABMiller chief

A joined up approach to water, food and energy is critical if big business is to safeguard against future risks in water security, according to SABMiller chief executive Alan Clark.

The boss behind one of the world’s leading breweries highlighted the pressing issue in the company’s latest sustainable development report, and said his company was now taking steps to collaborate with governments across the world to address the problem.

As part of this work, SABMiller will be actively encouraging governments to set resource policy in an integrated way to maximise both economic and social value.

“Water security risk cannot be tackled in isolation, it needs to be addressed alongside food and energy security with businesses, governments and civil society working in partnership to develop practical, local solutions,” Clark stated.

He said that water scarcity was “already becoming a reality” for some of SABMiller’s breweries, and that the company had worked hard to improve water efficiency within its operations – last year saw an 8% improvement, while fossil fuel emissions per hectolitre of lager produced fell by 10%.

“From a 2008 baseline we’re on track to meet our goals of reducing water use by 25% by 2015 and to halve our on-site fossil fuel emissions by 2020 [per hectolitre of lager],” Clark added.

According to the 2013 World Economic Forum Global Risks Report, water supply is now one of the top five global risks in terms of likelihood and impact.

SABMiller relies on large quantities of high quality water to make its beer and since 2008, it claims its water efficiency has improved by 20%.

According to the company’s director of supply chain Tony van Kralingen, this progress has been driven by stretching targets at brewery level which are benchmarked globally each month.

“Breweries have clear accountability. This year we introduced a ‘user pays’ philosophy, which assigns responsibility for resource efficiency within a brewery at each step of the manufacturing process from brewery to packaging,” he explained.

SABMiller has also invested heavily in technology to create more innovative production processes – this has helped reduced waste through reuse and energy recovery of the by-products such as rice husks and spent grain.

Maxine Perella

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