Enhancing business through sustainability

The global dream at AB InBev is to bring people together for a better world.

PHOTO_David_Hauxwell.png

The global dream at AB InBev is to bring people together for a better world. In the company’s Africa Zone, the dream is to create a model company, one that grows a lot, uses its resources wisely, one that everybody loves to work for and that makes a real difference in society. This dream underpins all the work the company does.

“We all know that the world has limited resources and we believe that it is our responsibility to do what we can to ensure that we use these resources in a sustainable and responsible manner. Contributing meaningfully in the sustainability space not only makes sense for us as a company, whose products are made using natural resources, but also allows us to continue supporting the communities within which we operate. When these communities thrive, so do we as a business,” says David Hauxwell, the Vice-President of Procurement and Sustainability, AB InBev Africa.

What is the key sustainability vision for the organisation?

To demonstrate our commitment to bringing people together for a better world, AB InBev has launched its global sustainability goals that we aim to achieve by 2025. Our goals are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals that were launched in 2015, supporting the global efforts of several stakeholders to achieve the ambition of “end(ing) poverty, protect(ing) the planet and ensure(ing) that all people enjoy peace and prosperity”. We know that as the world’s leading brewer and a big contributor to the economies of the countries in which we operate, it is imperative that we embed sustainability into our business strategy. In Africa, we have added a fifth sustainability goal that aims to reduce unemployment, one of the continent’s greatest challenges.

What opportunities, risks and challenges are associated with sustainability?

At AB InBev, we believe there are long-term benefits for both society and our own efficiency by going green. It is common sense to seek a world that is cleaner and more environmentally friendly, and to create an atmosphere and economy that are conducive to doing business. To do this, we have integrated sustainability into our business. It is important that we invest more resources to enhance existing sustainability initiatives while also expanding into areas that historically were not part of our focus. We can complement this work with budding entrepreneurs and technology to make the existing approach more impactful. To achieve our objectives, it is important we take a multi-stakeholder approach—collaborating across areas of expertise, including with the government—to identify sustainability gaps within each market aligned with our goals. An example of this is working to embed the practice of sorting waste at source within countries where this is not common.

What are the AB InBev pillars of sustainability in Africa?

Smart agriculture

Agriculture is the very building block of civilisation. It provides food for our growing population and creates economic and employment opportunities. In line with AB InBev’s focus on sustainable agriculture, we aim to make a marked difference in the number of growers we are supporting by not only improving the yields and profitability of the crops they produce for beer production, but also increasing the production of food crops that are important to communities.

We have robust research and development (R&D) programmes and grower programmes in many of the African countries that we operate in. We are focusing on local sourcing, which means we must ensure that farmers are well trained in best practices and have the appropriate financial support. We are also investing in technology solutions that benefit farmers. Recently, we have implemented a financial blockchain solution for our Cassava farmers in Zambia and we are rolling this out to our Ugandan barley farmers in 2019.

Water stewardship

When we consider the basic ingredients of beer, it is easy to forget that it is comprised of 95% water. Over the years, we have always looked to reduce water consumption and usage at our breweries, however, we are now looking more externally. We have gone through a comprehensive water risk assessment and know what communities are under stress. We have made several infrastructure investments, some of which have been collaborative efforts between the private sector and the government, to bring about a positive change. In the City of Tshwane, we have invested in rehabilitating natural springs and this has helped to put more water back into the municipal water system for the benefit of the community.

Climate action (renewables and carbon)

Africa’s access to wind and solar energy makes renewable energy a logical base on which to firmly establish a stronger renewable industry. However, effecting this change requires a shift in both the mindset of the public and a push for positive changes in regulation and legislation, which are crucial for the success of renewable future sources. In the meantime, we can do several small projects such as onsite renewable energy initiatives. For example, in South Africa and Ghana, we are in the process of putting power purchase agreements in place for all of our Breweries and several of our distribution centres (depots) to maximise the current allowable energy that can be generated according to regulations.

In South Africa, we are in the process of moving to electric forklifts and transforming our truck fleet from diesel to compressed and liquefied natural gas. Even more exciting are the electric truck pilots we are performing in the United States, Brazil and China. These pilots will allow us to move faster to a future electric truck solution in Africa.

Circular packaging

Reduce, reuse and recycle are the three core components of effective sustainability. Presently, 90% of our beer volume is sold in returnable glass. However, where we do leave non-returnable packaging, we are looking to educate the consumer and put in place formal waste collection schemes. Not only will this offer relief to the environment but it will also create formal job opportunities. In Thembisa, east of Johannesburg, and in Zambia, we have launched waste collection programmes, developing entrepreneurs and professionalising waste collection as a new business, which can generate returns for communities and be profitable.

Entrepreneurship

Creating jobs and supporting entrepreneurship is another important part of our commitment to tangible improvement and a sustainable future for all the communities in which we operate. One priority is to localise as much of our spend as possible. But to do so, we need to support existing and new suppliers for success. Therefore, we have developed the most comprehensive entrepreneurship platform which includes: SAB KickStart, focusing on youth businesses; the SAB Foundation, benefiting people living with disabilities and people living in rural areas; SAB Lerumo, targeting African women-owned businesses; and our own supplier development platforms that include SAB Thrive and SAB Accelerator.

Why is it important to implement sustainability across the business?

A lot of work has been done on sustainability across all of our business units. We now seek to amplify our efforts to accomplish much more. We aim not only to achieve our goals but also to surpass many of them. We have the scale, the people and perhaps most importantly, the determination to make a real difference in society and in the communities in which we operate. We know we cannot do it alone. We look forward to engaging more with the consumers, government and communities to assess how we can always improve and deliver on the challenges.

What advice do you have for other companies looking to successfully implement a sustainability strategy?

Everyone within an organisation is accountable for delivering social change through sustainable measures.

Sustainability cannot be a department or just a title. It needs to become infectious within an organisation. Sustainability occurs in all areas of the business and is not just related to the consumption of resources. Every day, everyone must realise that it is their job as well, and not just somebody else’s.

What is your personal sustainability philosophy?

Sustainability does not need to be emotional for individuals or companies. You do not need to cite conflicting science, reports and opinions—sustainability is common sense. The sum of many small initiatives will lead to very impactful outcomes, and it is important that we do these smaller initiatives in combination with the larger projects.

We are looking at a brighter future when sustainability becomes a normal part of life and the business cycle. I am encouraged by the open conversations on sustainability globally and the new technology and businesses being set up to tackle the challenges we face. 

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