“Our desire is to play a positive role in society and a leading role in our industry in building a sustainable future,” says Jean-François van Boxmeer, CEO of Heineken International, the brewing business that was established more than 140 years ago.

Today, the company – whose 200 brands include Newcastle Brown Ale, Strongbow and John Smiths – employs some 75,000 people across the world. And it is a firm keen to take its impacts seriously. According to the website, “being green is an overarching, all inclusive concept, not simply another word for environmental credentials. It means sustainability across all aspects of our business – not just the environment”.

So, what has been achieved? Well, last April, the Brewing a Better Future programme kicked off in earnest, aiming to integrate better the long-term ideals of the company. It’s a ten-year programme, launched a decade after its very first sustainability agenda was devised in 2000.

It sets clear targets, examines new ways of doing things and centres on three core areas. Firstly, it is about continuous improvement of its environmental impacts. Among the ambitions is a goal to cut direct and indirect CO2 emissions by an impressive 40% by 2020. To start, all replacement fridges issued to customers will now use efficiency technology. It also wants to reduce its water use by at least 25% in the same time frame.

The second trance of the programme is about empowering staff and local communities. Last year it invested a further €10M (to a total of €20M) in the Heineken Africa Foundation, which is channelling up to €1M a year into local community projects. There is a 2020 target to expand the local sourcing of raw materials in Africa to 60%, and as part of this the company will ensure that all employees and their families have access to basic healthcare. This will be backed up by the introduction of a new employee rights policy. Lastly, Brewing a Better Future wants to maintain a positive role of beer in society in general by strengthening its approach to responsible consumption.

To support the programme there have been internal changes, including the addition of sustainability and people-based annual incentives for senior management performance. By 2015, all operating companies will have to compile their own local sustainability report.

“This programme is a key part of our ambition to be a proud, independent, leading brewer. The actions we take as a result of our programmes will help to make us a better, stronger and more competitive company,” adds van Boxmeer.

It is a journey that began in 2000. And via initiatives like the UN Global Compact and the UN Water Mandate – and now its own Brewing a Better Future – Heineken hopes that by taking sustainability issues seriously, it will continue to be ranked as one of the leading international brewers.


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