Drop the C: Heineken outlines science-based targets ambition

Brewer Heineken has today (12 February) unveiled a new sustainability strategy that commits to ramping up renewable energy production, piloting an internal carbon price and setting science-based targets across distribution, cooling and packaging.

Heineken’s “Drop the C” programme aims to increase the brewer’s share of renewable thermal electricity used in production from 14% currently to 70% by 2030. According to the company, which has reduced emissions by 41% since 2008, the new procurement process would create an 80% reduction in carbon emissions against the 2008 base year.

The Dutch company revealed that it would also set new emission goals for distribution and cooling. For the first time, Heineken will also set an emissions target for its packaging. All three targets will be externally verified by the Science Based Targets initiative.  

Heineken’s chief executive Jean-François van Boxmeer said: “With all the good progress made in reducing our CO2 emissions, now is the right time to set ourselves new targets. When I visit our breweries, I want to see that we are brewing with real green energy and that we are not achieving our reduction targets by buying unbundled certificates.

“Beyond production, distribution and cooling, we are also going to take a close look at our packaging, because it represents a significant portion of our carbon footprint. Packaging is an area where reductions will be harder to achieve because we simply cannot do this alone. We invite our business partners and others to work with us to reduce emissions across our business.”

The company had already reached its 2020 emission targets for production and will combine onsite reduction methods with green energy procurement that isn’t from unbundled certificates, which rely on attestations by sellers that it is in fact renewable.

Thermal fermentation

Heineken has made progress in its renewables target, by sourcing solar and wind energy. Its Massafra brewery in Italy, for example, is one of the largest solar breweries globally – with a capacity of 3.3MW.

However, Heineken accounts for thermal energy in its energy use and progress here is more complex. The current energy mix split for Heineken is 70% thermal and 30% electricity, but just 7% of the thermal energy – which it uses to heat boilers – is from biomass and biogas. In comparison, 29% of the company’s global electricity use is from renewable sources.

Renewable thermal energy is often self-produced and there are few commercial solutions available. The fact that Heineken operates across Africa, Asia and Latin America, where technology is not readily available, adds to the challenge.

Fortunately, Heineken has blueprints in place to improve the thermal and renewable performance of its breweries. The Göss brewery in Austria produces 1.4 million bottles of Austria’s Gösser lager every day and is powered entirely by renewable and re-usable energy sources including hydropower, solar PV, waste heat from a neighbouring sawmill, and biogas generated via an innovative spent grain fermentation process. The brewery is also carbon-neutral.

As part of the new 2030 targets, Heineken will continue to promote reforestation projects in Mexico, Spain and Indonesia to offset emissions and support water preservation. Internally, Heineken will pilot Carbon Shadow Pricing to drive investment into sustainable and low-carbon innovations.

Matt Mace

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