Anheuser-Busch InBev seeks to transform the world’s most popular brew into the most environmentally friendly.
As the leading global brewer and one of the world’s top five consumer products companies, Anheuser- Busch InBev now wants to be the “Best Beer Company in a Better World.” This means generating the highest quality products, providing the best consumer experience and creating long-term value for shareholders. Even more, in the envisioned “Better World,” sustainability becomes a business imperative that guides our strategy, planning and actions.
As beer is produced with natural ingredients, stewardship of our land, air and, most especially, water are fundamental to the quality of our brands for the long term. We strive to use resources efficiently and reduce our impact on the environment by continually setting measurable goals to guide our efforts as an industry leader.
As part of our “Better World” plan, we recently announced ambitious three-year global environment goals. The agenda includes becoming the first global brewer to set a water usage goal of 3.5 hectoliters for each hectoliter of production for our plants by the end of 2012 – a target that will establish Anheuser-Busch InBev as the most water-efficient global brewer in the world. The new usage level will represent a 30 percent reduction per unit of production in our water usage worldwide since 2007 – the equivalent of 25,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. We have also committed to reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent and to achieving a 99 percent recycling and reuse rate by the end of 2012.
High-quality water is fundamental to our business. It is the principal ingredient in our beers and soft drinks and is also used in the brewing process for cleaning, cooling and steam production. As a global company, we can make a significant contribution by reducing our water usage in the communities in which we operate. As we do with all of our sustainability efforts, leveraging our new Voyager Plant Optimization (VPO) system in concert with setting ambitious, measurable goals provides a clear direction for how we will reach our goal of 3.5 hl/hl by the end of 2012.
Indeed, some of our breweries are already ahead of this target. Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Wernigerode brewery in Germany has already achieved a result of 3.09 hl/hl, thanks to a combination of strong management and communication coupled with simple but focused technical upgrades. VPO implementation ensured regular performance tracking and continuous monitoring of consumption levels which helped drive down consumption further. As a common practice, we also provide ongoing training sessions that help identify key environmental issues, ensure the economical use of resources, and fine-tune procedures (including leakage prevention processes).
Engineering solutions supplement behavioral changes and have included replacing vacuum pumps to incorporate a closed loop cooling system and continuous optimization of Cleaning in Place (CIP) processes. Together, these improvements have allowed the Wernigerode brewery to continually strive to “do better in a Better World” by setting an even more ambitious 2010 target: 2.90 hl/hl.
GLOBAL ENERGY PERFORMANCE
The VPO process has also had a positive impact on our global energy performance. Our strategy includes transitioning to renewable energy solutions, such as fueling our plants using local biomass or turning wastewater from the brewing process into methane. For instance, our Houston, Texas facility derives more than 70 percent of all its fuel needs from landfill and wastewater treatment methane. Essentially, the brewery has found a productive use for landfill methane that would otherwise have made its way into the atmosphere. And that’s very exciting. Experts believe methane is 21 times more powerful a contributor to global warming than CO2, so the environmental benefit of this process has significant impact.
Rigorous training is at the heart of VPO. It ensures that our global standards are being observed systematically. Our Viamao brewery in Brazil, for example, has replaced the regular fuel used to generate steam with renewable biomass fuel obtained from rice husks. This initiative was endorsed by the Government of Brazil as Anheuser-Busch InBev’s first Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project in line with the United Nations’ efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.
The Viamao brewery has received approval for the creation of certified emission reduction credits (CERS) that will confirm the reduction of 175,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions over a period of seven years. Similar efforts at other Brazilian breweries will mitigate another quarter of a million tons of CO2 emissions over the next five years. Today, 30 percent of all current thermal requirements for our Brazilian operations come from renewable resources.
REPURPOSING AND REDUCING WASTE
Our “Better World” efforts related to environmental efficiency continually explore innovative ways to reduce and repurpose waste. VPO has helped us create and develop secondary markets for byproducts, such as spent malt husks, as well as implement innovations to address wastewater treatment. We first began recycling spent brewers’ grain as cattle feed and food flavoring for human consumption more than a century ago at our St. Louis brewery. More recently, in 2007, our brewery in Halifax, Canada invested in enhancing spent grains and yeast collection systems. The project installed equipment that blended two byproduct materials, creating a commodity that could be sold as high-quality animal feed. That year, the brewery’s efforts provided local farmers with 18,000 tons of feed from material that would otherwise have been discarded. In 2009, the Halifax plant worked together with the byproducts supplier to source more customers, including local swine producers, for the spent yeast. This year, Anheuser-Busch InBev will open new wastewater treatment plants in three facilities in Russia: Klin, Omsk and Angarsk. The treatment plants will use a combination of anaerobic and aerobic biological processes to treat 100 percent of their water outflow. As part of its continued commitment to improving its environmental performance around the globe, Anheuser-Busch InBev has invested in outfitting these plants with the latest technology on the market. Globally, Anheuser-Busch InBev has already built or upgraded 14 wastewater treatment plants in 2009 and plans to construct or upgrade an additional 20 facilities by 2012.
Anheuser-Busch InBev’s ambition is to build a company for the long-term, with a legacy to be proud of – for the people who work for and with us, for future generations and the environment in which they live, and, above all, for our consumers, who we hope will always be as proud to choose our products as we are to create them. It is our responsibility to protect our long heritage that spans some 600 years and ensure that it continues well into the future.
Alfredo Forte is the global director, Environment, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the leading global brewer and one of the world’s top five consumer products companies. Headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, Anheuser-Busch InBev leverages the collective strength of approximately 116,000 people based in operations in 23 countries across the world. Visit: www.ab-inbev.com .