How the Sustainable Development Goals are shaping corporate responsibility at SABMiller

International brewing company SABMiller has revealed annual cuts to key environmental footprints, after tweaking its "Prosper" sustainability initiative to align to the global targets established in the United Nation's (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The company’s latest sustainability report has highlighted the progress it has made in cutting water consumption and carbon emissions, while also incorporating relevant goals listed in the high-profile SDGs to create a holistic push to motivate suppliers across the globe.

SABMiller’s chief executive Alan Clark said: “Expectations of business are high, and we welcome the challenge for companies to step up and collaborate in addressing global challenges. Many of the SDGs align with our sustainable development strategy, Prosper, and present opportunities to strengthen our business as well as to contribute to society.

“Putting Prosper at the heart of our business enables us to drive growth and commercial results, while making a sustained and measurable difference to the communities and ecosystems in which we operate. As we travel around the business, we are proud to see how Prosper is being integrated into how we do business, from our sales teams engaging with small retailers, to our breweries reducing their environmental footprint, to brands putting sustainable development at the heart of their purpose and growth strategy.”

The Prosper initiative covers “five shared imperatives” that tailor themselves to creating meaningful contributions to the SDGs by creating a resilient, thriving, clean, sociable and productive world. These imperatives expand into SABMiller’s supply chain in order to target issues across areas such as Africa, in order to tackle poverty, water scarcity and food security while simultaneously reducing footprints.

Live well and prosper

For 2015, the Prosper initiative enabled SABMiller to reduce emissions per hectolitre of lager produced by 5.4% – around 1.7m tonnes – building on the absolute on-site CO2 reduction of 29% it established between 2008 and 2014. By 2020 the company aims to have halved emissions against the 2008 baseline.

The report revealed that since 2010, the company has reduced the carbon footprint per hectolitre of its supply chain by 19%, as it closes in on its 2020 target of reducing emissions by a quarter. In order to promote sustainability within supply chains, SABMiller has embarked on an innovation drive that has seen packaging emissions reduced by 21% – against the same baseline – while a further 15% reduction was achieved by boosting refrigeration techniques. In total, SABMiller announced a 37% reduction in on-site emissions from manufacturing.

With Goal Six of the SDGs targeting clean water and sanitation for all by 2030, SABMiller has revamped its water efficiency targets after achieving the original goal of reducing brewery water use by 25% last year. The new target will see them push towards an efficiency ratio of 3.0 hectolitres of water per hectolitre of lager (hl/hl) produced by 2020. For 2015 this efficiency ratio sits at 3.2hl/hl, although 25 breweries, largely across Europe, are already operating below the 3.0hl/hl target.  

In total, energy and water efficiency initiatives have generate $116m in annual savings, while 99.3% of SABMiller’s breweries across 30 across countries have completed intensive water risk assessments.

With Goal 12 of the SDGs targeting sustainable consumption of resources, SABMiller has also accelerated its resources drive in order to lower footprints and enhance reuse across its supply chains.

As of 2015, the company is sourcing more than 15% of its sugar cane from sustainable standards – with a 100% target established for 2020 – while around 97% of the spent grain from breweries is reused and sold as animal feed or renewable fuel. Biogas generators have been installed at 40% of the company’s breweries that run on waste water from treatment plants and 89% of brewery waste is recycled.

Matt Mace

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