MillerCoors slashes water use by 15 billion gallons

US brewers MillerCoors used 15bn fewer gallons of water across its value chain in 2016, as new farming and irrigation systems and wet weather reduced the firm's water consumption by almost 17%.

MillerCoors reduced its water use by the equivalent of more than 500m kegs of beer. Testing new innovations at Showcase Barley Farms in Idaho and Colorado, the company utilised techniques such as precision irrigation, soil improvements and companion cropping to reduce water used by 16.9%. A relatively wet 2016 also accounted for the reduced consumption of water.

“When it comes to water savings at our breweries and across our agricultural system, 2016 was a banner year at MillerCoors,” the company’s director of community affairs Karina Diehl said. “We’re proud of the water efficiencies achieved at our breweries by our passionate and innovative employees, and we are proud of our long-standing partnerships with our growers.

“These partnerships span multiple generations and are a driving force behind using less water in 2016. While this was a unique year, we are committed to developing innovative ways to use less water across our system for years to come.”

The latest reductions put MillerCoors closer to key 2020 goals. MillerCoors’ 2016 sustainability report outlines that the company delivered a restorative benefit of approximately 137 million gallons of water in 2015, equating to more than 19% of the company’s local water resource. As of 2016, MillerCoors has restored 262 million gallons of water, equivalent to almost 37% of the 2020 target.

Suppliers account for 90% of the company’s water footprint, and MillerCoors has established a 2020 goal to restore a volume of water equal to the volume of water consumed by breweries located in water-stressed areas. Water stewardship goals are also in place across all key barley-growing regions.

Best practice from suppliers, many of which are found at the Showcase farms, are shared throughout the company’s barley programme, helping more suppliers comply with MillerCoors standards.

In 2016, MillerCoors launched the Grower Portal, a digital platform that gathers information that can enhance water savings. Eventually, this platform will allow growers to share data and promote the desired best practice.

MillerCoors will also work with Molson Coors, the brewers that completed acquisition of full ownership of MillerCoors in October, to develop new 2025 Global Goals. The acquisition made Molson Coors the third largest brewer by enterprise value.

Water woes

Businesses have already been warned about the risks associated with neglecting water stewardship. A report from CDP in 2016 found that companies are not adequately preparing for a water-scarce world, noting that more than 2,200 water risks could materialise in the next six years.

The warning was accompanied by financial figures from CDP, which found that water risks fuelled by climate change cost the private sector £11.3bn in the last 12 months.

Fortunately, multinational banking group ING claims that there is value in water stewardship. Research found that the adaptation of circular economy methods in water-stressed regions could save 412 billion cubic metres of water each year, the equivalent to 11% of annual global water demand.

Matt Mace

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