Unilever, Coca-Cola and Colgate-Palmolive join AB InBev's sustainability accelerator

Consumer goods giants Unilever, Coca-Cola and Colgate-Palmolive have agreed to fund and pilot innovations designed to improve supply chain sustainability through Anheuser-Busch InBev's (AB InBev) accelerator scheme.

Image: AB InBev

Image: AB InBev

Launched in 2018, the brewer’s 100+ Accelerator has supported 36 projects to date with more than $200m of funding. Key focus areas have included water efficiency and water stewardship; improving traceability; reducing pollution; increasing recycling rates and supporting renewable electricity generation and distribution.

It is hoped that the backing of the three new multinational corporations will help to increase these numbers, accelerating initial deployment and ongoing scaling, while also broadening the Accelerator’s reach.

AB InBev has described the support model for the new corporate members as “hands-on”. As well as funding the next cohort of successful applicants, they will test some of the technologies that have already been supported in their own supply chains, providing advice and technical support based on real-world performance to the startups.

Existing startup innovations include refillable packaging, grain upcycling processes, systems that track products across supply chains, second-life electric vehicle (EV) batteries and solar-thermal systems that can power processes at manufacturing plants.

AB InBev’s chief procurement, sustainability and circular ventures officer Tony Milikin said the collaborative efforts will “supercharge the adoption of sustainable solutions”.

“Sustainable business is smart business, and we are working to solve huge problems that no one company can handle alone,” Milikin said. “With our combined global reach, we can accelerate progress towards a more sustainable future.”

Startups hoping to receive support from the next cohort of funding under the programme have until 31 May to apply. Selected companies will then be announced in July. 

edie readers keen to follow developments in the wider clean tech space are encouraged to follow our monthly roundup of green innovations. The latest edition, published last week, includes paint that could tackle urban heating. Read it here. 

Progress to date

Each of the participating companies already has a significant global reach. AB InBev is the world’s largest brewer, with some 164,000 direct employees. Unilever, meanwhile, employs more than 149,000, and the figure stands at 700,000 for The Coca-Cola Company.

The brands are also well-known in the corporate sustainability space.

February saw AB InBev launching what it claims is the world's largest corporate sustainability-linked loan to date, priced at $10.1bn. Funding will be used to deliver against science-based emissions reduction goals, as well as water stewardship and sustainable packaging initiatives.  

Prior to that, Unilever unveiled a 2039 net-zero target, supported by a €1bn Climate and Nature fund. The details underpinning that long-term target are being put to a shareholder vote this month.

Sarah George  



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