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Anheuser Busch InBev's Big Push to Reduce Water Usage

leonkaye headshotWords by Leon Kaye
Energy & Environment

This week Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) released its 2010 Global Citizenship Report.  The report is timely, considering the greater attention businesses devote to water, a resource that is most critical for AB InBev’s long-term success.  With 114,000 people employed in 23 countries, the beer brewing and beverage giant has a huge impact on environmental and social issues around the world.  The company also can influence kindred companies both large and small to take a second look at how their supply chain and operations affect the communities in which they conduct business.

AB InBev’s 57-page report covers topics across the sphere of corporate social responsibility (CSR).  The company’s management and employees have tackled drought, water efficiency, responsible drinking (the original social responsibility), volunteerism, and workplace inclusion.

Beer is fast becoming the beverage of choice across the demographic and economic spectrums, and various brands are closely identified with national consciousness from Kosovo to Korea.  With four of the top 10 selling brands across the globe, and a portofilio that includes Argentina’s Quilmes, China’s Harbin, and Brazil’s Brahma, AB InBev has worked on many initiatives, including the following:


  • Responsible Drinking:  Old bad habits stubbornly refuse to disappear, but give AB InBev credit for trying (to discourage both drunk driving and class action lawsuits in America).  The company has spent at least US$875 million on responsible drinking initiatives since 1982, collaborated with at least 1100 law enforcement agencies, and coordinated 254,000 safe ride home programs with bars and restaurants.  Not even a giant like AB InBev could compete against the blaring vuvuzelas at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but the company did train 9000 servers in Johannesburg on handling imbibing spectators at large stadiums.

  • Water Efficiency:  The consumption of water is the bogeyman for beverage companies.  Most breweries use four to five liters of water for every liter of beer that is processed.  AB InBev is set to attain a 3.5 water to beer ratio by the end of 2012.  Currently the ratio is about 4.04, down from a 5.03 water to beer ratio in 2007.

  • Recycling and Waste:  AB InBev claims that is recycles 99% of waste and byproducts that are a result of its overall beer production.  In Brazil, for example, the company gained almost US$500 million in revenues thanks to the increased collection of recyclable materials, recycled over 770,000 pounds (350,000 kilos) of plastic, and gathered 2500 tons of total materials that were eventually recycled.

  • Employee Engagement:  Training is often axed during economic downturns, but AB InBev went against the grain.  The company increased the annual number of employee training hours 60% to 1.6 million hours in 2010.  In turn they stay:  AB InBev  employees have an average tenure of 8.8 years.

AB InBev’s Global Citizenship Report is heavy on detail and light on marketing spin.  The vast majority of Global Reporting Initiative guidelines are followed, and AB InBev is a strong example of how to responsibly use a most stressed resource, water.  Watch beverage companies lead, not follow, when it comes to CSR-related issues in the coming years.

Author's note: If you missed our Editor in Chief, Jen Boynton's, Green Beer series, it's never too late.  She spent hours interviewing beer entrepreneurs.  The articles are best read with a cold one.

Editor's note: to learn more about GRI methodology, check out the GRI Certification in Sustainability Reporting coming to San Francisco in June

Leon Kaye is the Editor of GreenGoPost.com and contributes to The Guardian Sustainable Business; you can follow him on Twitter.

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye, Executive Editor, has written for Triple Pundit since 2010. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media, and the Editor in Chief of CR Magazine. His previous work can be found at The GuardianSustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas.

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