Heineken couples sustainability and financial reporting as emissions tumble

A "firm belief" that business growth and sustainability go hand-in-hand has seen Heineken publish its latest sustainability report alongside a financial report for the first time, with the report highlighting rapid business expansion alongside a decrease in emissions.

Heineken’s latest sustainability report, released on Wednesday (22 February), reveals a 37% reduction in carbon emissions in production against 2008 levels, just short of the 40% target for 2020. When looking at absolute carbon reductions, a 5% reduction has been recorded in the same timeframe, despite Heineken growing its business volumes by 52%.

“This is the first year we have produced a joint annual and sustainability report,” Heineken’s chief executive Jean-François van Boxmeer said. “We feel strongly that our aim is to run the business sustainably throughout our operations. Disclosing the progress of Brewing a Better World together with our financial results is the right thing to do going forward.

“We are on track with most of our 2020 Brewing a Better World commitments and during 2017 we will define our 2030 ambitions in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and COP21.”

Brewers, in general, need to look for ways to cut at intensive water use in order to promote sustainability. Heineken hit its 2020 commitment to reduce specific water consumption in breweries by 25% last year. Ahead of the new targets that are being announced this year, the company revealed that water consumption has fallen by 28% per hectolitre of product since 2008.

Water consumption in breweries located in water-stressed areas also reached the 2020 target of 3.3 litres of water used per litre of beer produced. In partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Heineken is mobilising stakeholders on shared water issues, which aims to accelerate the deployment of water stewardship in water-stressed areas.

Lager than life

Outside of water use, the Brewing a Better World strategy has seen Heineken promote energy efficiency. The company invested in 125,000 “green fridges” to help customers reduce emissions by 46% per fridge since 2010, although the firm wants to achieve a 50% reduction by 2020.

In total, 60% of beverage production sites reduced energy consumption and 63% reduced water consumption. The company also has a target in place to reduce emissions from European and Americas distribution methods by 20% by 2020, which is projected to sit at 16% by the end of the year.

Heineken operates more than 165 facilities globally, which creates diverse and complex waste streams. Last year, the firm rolled-out the ‘zero waste’ programme to accelerate the number of facilities with a zero-waste-to-landfill status by 2020. The number of facilities that have reached this target is 71.

As well as using by-products, such as spent grains, as cattle feed, the company has embarked on numerous circular economy schemes aimed at reducing waste and enhancing the recyclability of its products.

Despite strong progress across key areas, the company must accelerate efforts for its sustainable sourcing commitment. A 2020 target has been set to ensure that 50% of the firm’s main ingredients comes from sustainable sources, but progress has been limited to 17% to date; although 49% of agricultural raw materials used in Africa and the Middle East have been sourced locally.

Reporting for duty

Heineken is no stranger to shaking up its sustainability reporting methods. The company’s US operations recently turned to gamification to share the success stories of the Brewing a Better World campaign.

The 2015 iteration of Heineken’s sustainability report was accompanied by a rap music video penned by Kevin ‘Blaxtar’ de Randamie. Blaxtar lucidly tells a tale of Heineken’s comprehensive approach to sustanability, rapping about how company growth can go hand-in-hand with water consumption and carbon emissions reductions.

Heineken recently claimed the Sustainability Reporting award at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Awards 2017, last month.


Matt Mace

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