World's largest brewer saves £50m through sustainability strategy
The world's largest brewer has saved $60m (£46.5m) in the past four years through energy-efficiency improvements, while also passing key water stewardship and carbon reduction targets.
Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) published its 2016 Better World sustainability report on Tuesday (2 May), revealing that all but one of its eight key environmental targets had been met or surpassed in the last 12 months.
Attempting to reduce emissions and water use against 2012 baselines, AB InBev has generated water savings equivalent to more than 55 billion 12oz beer cans and saved $60m through the implementation of energy-efficiency technologies and initiatives.
“In 2016, we made progress on our Better World strategy, having now achieved all but one of our 2017 Environmental Goals and advancing our Global Smart Drinking Goals, the latter were launched in 2015,” AB InBev’s chief executive Carlos Brito said.
“However, we know that we have to, and can, do more. In 2015, the UN launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Expectations of business are high and we welcome the challenge to step up and collaborate in addressing these global challenges.”
The company’s Better World strategy was updated in October 2016 following the purchase of SABMiller. In an attempt to align its environmental strategy with the expansion of its business, AB InBev agreed to purchase 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025 as part of its commitment to the Climate Group's RE100 initiative.
Drink to that
Like SABMiller, AB InBev has aligned its sustainability strategy to the SDGs, focusing on water, carbon and human rights goals as a result. In regard to water use, the Belgium-based brewer has surpassed a “leading-edge” goal to reduce global water consumption to below 3.2 hectolitres (hl) per hl of production, reaching a 3.14hl/hl reading in 2016.
Reductions were attributed to onsite water efficiency and risk management, while watershed protection measures have been implemented by 100% of the firm’s facilities, another key target, and an increase of 14% compared to 2015.
The eight key regions that AB InBev works in, including South America and the US, are improving water management through a variety of programmes and employee engagement measures.
The brewer owns numerous beer brands including Budweiser and Stella Artois, the latter of which continued its “Buy a Lady a Drink” programme in partnership with Water.org. The partnership aims to tackled the global water crisis and has provided clean water to nearly 800,000 people in developing regions. It has since been extended to provide for 3.5 billion people by 2020.
The brewer reached a 10% reduction in global energy use in 2016. Since 2012, energy use has fallen from 129Mj/hl to 116Mj/hl. AB InBev has recorded a 23% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per hectolitre of production in the last four years, surpassing the 10% target it had aimed for.
The only target that the brewer is yet to reach is a 15% emissions reduction in logistics operations per hectolitre sold - the 2013 baseline figure of 3.62kg CO2e/hl has been reduced by more than 12%. One of the measures utilised to record this reduction is the use of an autonomous truck to deliver Budweiser across a 120-mile route in Colorado.
A 70% target to ensure that all coolers are “eco-friendly” currently sits at 96%. These have been coupled with energy-efficient LED lighting and energy-saving controllers as part of the $60m saving.
AB InBev reduced its packaging material by 36,000 tonnes in 2016, exceeding a 100,000-tonne reduction target one year early. In total, packaging has been reduced by 126,000 tonnes and in 2016 alone, 36% of beer and soft drinks were sold in returnable bottles or kegs.
Regarding human rights and labour issues, AB InBev has worked with more than 4,500 growers to cultivate better quality barley yields at lower costs. In Latin America, a small retailer programme has helped more than 20,000 shopkeepers develop skill to improve business sustainability and quality of life.
"As the world’s largest brewer, we must pave the way for businesses to adopt a renewable future"
- Anna Tolley, AB InBev’s North Europe corporate & legal affairs director
If you look at the history of brewing, the key components of making a great-tasting beer have largely remained the same – using four base ingredients in a brewing process that has been successful and profitable for hundreds of years.
What has changed, however, has been the scale on which beer is now brewed. This isn’t a unique issue to this industry. From FMCG, to extraction and automotive, businesses are becoming larger with inevitable environmental consequences. We are all too aware of the profound implications climate change has on our company, and for the communities where we live and work.
This month, AB InBev announced a major move towards tackling climate change. As the world’s largest brewer, we have committed to purchasing or generating 100% renewable energy across all our global operations. In total, this will shift six terrawatt hours of electricity annually to responsible sources – this is the same amount of energy produced in one year by 400-football pitches of solar panels. As part of our commitment, AB InBev also joined RE100, a global initiative of businesses that are committed to using 100% renewable electricity.
With this announcement, AB InBev has become the largest corporate direct purchaser of renewable electricity in the global consumer goods sector, reducing our operational carbon footprint by 30%. This builds on our long-standing company vision which is a ‘Better World’ where we strive to improve the world we live in in three ways: a cleaner world, growing world and healthier world. All of our activities, from our brand campaigns to our brewery operations, need to embody these three visions.
Whilst policy signals from governments may make it easier to drive progress towards low carbon pathways, the private sector remains one of the key sources of global emissions, which contribute to anthropogenic, accelerated global warming. Therefore, the private sector needs to be active in contributing to fair climate change policies that benefit both our stakeholders and the communities in which we operate.
We recognise that, as the world’s largest brewer and a top-five global FMCG company, we need to set the benchmark. We need to be that example to others – be it businesses, individuals or political stakeholders.
Despite recent signals in the global political arena that the focus on climate change could be slipping, AB InBev is open to engaging with governments and businesses alike around the world to identify opportunities to mitigate and adapt to climate change. We, alongside our other members in the RE100, are constructing the path for other companies to follow. We all need to drive positive change. Our futures depend on this and we welcome others to join us in creating a Better World for everyone.