Speaking exclusively to edie, Michael Dickstein said that the planet’s climate and resource challenges have become so vast that no one company or organisation can solve them alone.

The need for partnerships on an international, national and local level, is therefore one of the driving forces of Heineken’s environmental strategy, Dickstein explained.

“It’s not about putting a big bag of money on the table – it’s about sharing knowledge and experience, and making sure that our partners and us have a complementary agenda,” Dickstein said.

“The challenges we are facing are so comprehensive that it’s difficult for one player to achieve the solution for everything. We have an extended agenda and by working together we want to achieve things that we can’t do alone.”

As a case in point, the Dutch brewer – Europe’s largest – recently partnered with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to work on a range of industry-wide sustainability issues. 

Together, the two organisations are focusing on water stewardship initiatives in water-stressed countries; also aiming to improve sustainable sourcing of raw materials and identify renewable energy sources for breweries in Africa.

Heineken is also a member of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform, which works to improve sustainability standards for supply chains, by creating self-assessment materials for farmers.


One of Dickstein’s key responsibilities is making sure that these partnerships are delivering outcomes that Heineken couldn’t achieve alone. Dickstein told edie there are key criteria that any potential partners have to meet.

“Firstly, the project has to match up to things we are doing,” he said. “If I reached out to our stakeholders and told them we were engaging in sustainable coffee, they would raise their eyebrows, and say ‘why are you doing that? That’s not what Heineken is famous for’.

“Similarly, we were invited to join an initiative against the plastic soup in the Pacific Ocean – a great initiative and on a personal level I support this a lot. But when you look at our packaging, which is glass, steel and aluminium and hard steel for the kegs, there is no major connection there. So the relationship should help make an impact in the things we are already doing.

“The second condition is that the partners can help us achieve something that we couldn’t do alone.”

Paris and beyond

Dickstein believes Heineken’s ambitious sustainability plan is ahead of the curve, but the rest of the world is set to catch up in the wake of the Paris climate talks in December.

He concluded: “You have seen important commitment from the bigger countries already and I’m confident that an agreement will be achieved that will change the world for the better.

“However, the real work starts after COP21, and putting any agreement into action on a day-to-day basis; making sure it isn’t just something written on paper.

“The most important thing is that this information is in the hands of people making day-to-day decisions in our brands. It’s a business tool not a sustainability tool.” 

Michael Dickstein at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum

Heineken’s director of global sustainable development Michael Dickstein is among the expert speakers at edie’s ninth annual Sustainability Leaders Forum which takes place on 19 November at the Hotel Russel in London. 

Dickstein will be presenting a talk on the topic: ‘Moving from stakeholder engagement to partnerships‘.

Find out more about the Forum and register to attend here.

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