In 2010, Anheuser-Busch InBev publicly announced a set of three-year global environmental goals: An evaluation of the progress
By Washington Dutra, Vice President Technical, Anheuser-Busch InBev
Setting ambitious environmental goals that promote sustainability, performance and profitability is a common practice at global companies. But, every company uses different strategies to tackle its goals. As we strive to achieve ours, we’re learning more about how to make progress even as targets become harder to reach.
At Anheuser-Busch InBev, our approach to delivering on environmental performance prioritizes engagement at all levels complemented by a disciplined management system. This combination energizes and incentivizes our whole organization to make progress – even when our breweries face very different local conditions.
What compels us to make a difference is a shared belief that every difficult achievement begins with a dream; and ours is to be the Best Beer Company in a Better World.
Setting Clear Direction: Water Efficiency
Our Better World commitment includes learning how to do more with less. As our business expands and our water needs grow, we have had to find innovative ways to become more efficient. Because water is the life blood of our operations and critical throughout the entire supply chain, it is clear to see how sustainability and business success are inextricably linked. AB InBev employees know this and are our most demanding stakeholders. Every colleague – from the bottling line to the board – is accountable for the success of our breweries and communities where we live and work.
Achieving a big dream also requires setting clear goals. After all, dreams have to be stretched but achievable. In 2010, AB InBev publicly announced a set of three-year global environmental goals:
- A leading-edge water use target of 3.5 hectoliters of water per hectoliter of production
- A 10% reduction in both energy use and carbon emissions per hectoliter of production
- A 99% recycling rate
We plan to successfully reach these goals by the end of 2012 and continue to report our progress (our 2011 Citizenship Report will be published this April -- see 2010 Report).
Evaluating Our Environmental Commitments
Today, we are more than two-thirds of the way to meeting our water use goal. Our average water use in 2011 was 3.71 hectoliters per hectoliter of production, which represents a 13.7% reduction against our 2009 baseline. Several of our breweries are already below this target and others are striving to use water as efficiently as possible.
As every brewery works to meet their individual targets, we’ve learned that having a common global process speeds innovation and allows for creative collaboration. AB InBev’s operational management system – called Voyager Plant Optimization or VPO – forms the backbone of our efforts to reduce our draw on natural resources. This system sets environmental goals alongside quality, safety and efficiency targets. It assigns clear responsibility for ensuring that reductions are achieved.
Incentivizing Global Engagement
We aim for VPO targets by sharing best practices and measuring monthly progress in order to make adjustments. If facilities run into difficulties, an improvement task force quickly comes together to problem-solve and execute solutions from a portfolio of global best practices.
Often, big changes come from a mix of operational and behavioral changes. For instance, implementing low-expense innovations that maintain high-quality standards – like reusing reclaimed water for general cleaning and utilities, combined with continual monitoring and review of all areas where water can be lost during the production process. In the Ningbo, China brewery, these methods resulted in a water use ratio of 2.99 hectoliters of water per each hectoliter of production.
We've found along the way that another powerful way to create change is by incentivizing a culture of collaboration and ever-higher expectations.
AB InBev has celebrated the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Environment Day (WED) for the last three years as a way to recognize our achievements globally and challenge ourselves to do even more.
In 2011, more than 60,000 employees led 700 projects in 21 countries. Watershed restoration projects, river clean-ups and water conservation education campaigns are part of our efforts, but so are activities with our retail and supply partners and even an internal contest among our breweries. The contest not only reinforces our cross-border collaboration but also serves to identify and create a library of the best operational practices.
Expanding our Reach: Supplier Responsibility
Our supply chain is a more challenging area for us, but we’re working on ways to measure and reduce our impact.
Agricultural production is by far the largest draw on water resources. We're picking away slowly but surely by working with over 10,000 barley farmers in the United States, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, China and Russia to help them get the best results during the barley growing season. We’re also actively engaged in barley seed research to create higher-quality varieties that produce better yields, while using less water and tolerating drought and other extreme weather conditions.
Similarly, we're building public engagement in protecting our watersheds.
For example in Brazil, where we’ve launched the CYAN Movement – a campaign involving community partners and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to draw attention to water issues and how the industry can help preserve and recover watersheds. As part of this initiative, the CYAN Bank – a partnership with São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro water utilities – is rewarding consumers for reducing their home water use. Consumers earn “points” for water saved and redeem these for discounts from online retailers.
And the results have been positive. In its first year, CYAN Bank clients conserved more than 80 million liters of water and the bank’s website averaged 35,000 visitors per month.
While we are making an impact, we realize that there is a lot more we can do to enhance business performance through sustainability initiatives. Beer is a natural product, so conserving natural resources goes hand-in-hand with brewing – it’s core to who we are, what we do and to our ability to succeed.
We're determined to continually innovate, search for solutions and drive efficiencies in our operations that prioritize the protection of our environment and society.
About Washington Dutra
Washington Dutra, AB InBev’s VP Technical, began his career 32 years ago at AmBev as a maintenance technician in a brewery and soft drink plant. He went on to hold several positions at various breweries and at AmBev’s headquarters, such as Zone Brewery Support Director at AmBev, Plant Manager of two sites and Regional Director (BOPs). Prior to his current role, he was Senior Vice President Supply for Sun Interbrew Russia.
Currently based in the New York Office, Dutra’s global responsibilities include overseeing safety, packaging, environment, energy and fluids, engineering, maintenance and global Capex.