PHOTO BY VICTOR PRADO
Anheuser-Busch hasn’t always had the cleanest environmental record; it’s not a shock that the world’s largest brewing company emits a lot of CO2. Over the years, however, the St. Louis–based giant has made progress toward reducing its carbon footprint. And in 2018, the company announced a series of sustainability goals to achieve by the year 2025; it’s already on track to have 100 percent of its purchased electricity come from renewable sources by 2021, and last year it reduced its water consumption by 128 million gallons through an internal competition among workers.
Leading Anheuser-Busch’s green charge is vice president of procurement and sustainability Ingrid De Ryck. Here, she tells Hemispheres how the company that’s famous for its Clydesdales is hoofing it toward a cleaner future.
What are Anheuser-Busch’s 2025 Sustainability Goals?
They go over four big things. The first one is renewable electricity and carbon reduction. Our target is to have 100 percent of our purchased electricity come from renewable sources and to reduce our CO2 emissions across the entire value chain by 25 percent. The second one is water stewardship. All of our facilities will need to engage in water efficiency efforts in 100 percent of our communities that are located in what we call high-stress areas. The third one is smart agriculture. Our target is to have 100 percent of our direct growers be highly skilled, connected, and financially empowered. And the fourth one is circular packaging, where all of our packaging will either be returnable or made from a majority recycled content.
Is it challenging to stay true to these sustainability values when you have to be mindful of the bottom line?
It is definitely challenging. It would be easier to achieve some of those goals if we said, “Lets just spend a bunch of money so that we can achieve them.” In the short term, we have to have those trade-offs.
Was there a moment when you realized this plan might really work?
On renewable electricity, when we crafted this goal internally we were thinking, I don’t even know where to begin. Our first deal was just a couple of percentage [points] of it, but if you build that understanding, you then see the path toward partnerships like the one we have with Enel Green Power [which has committed to providing 50 percent of Anheuser-Busch’s purchased renewable energy]. It takes a long time to get to a place that makes sense for both parties, but when we did that first agreement it was like, Oh yeah! It is possible! Big wins like that are essential to keep the momentum going, but also to build credibility with the external world.
What’s the case for a business of your size to adopt sustainable practices?
There are two main factors. One is efficiency. If we’re able to use our scale to improve the cost of sustainable initiatives, the entire market is going to invest. Those practices are going to be available to a lot more companies and consumers … And let’s look at the top line. There is plenty of research available that consumers are looking for brands with a purpose. For us, it’s about efficiency and providing purpose to our brand.
How Anheuser-Busch Is Making Beer Greener
Anheuser-Busch InBev’s share of global beer sales in 2017, per Euromonitor International
Planned reduction of CO2 emissions across the value chain by 2025
Purchased electricity coming from renewable sources by 2021
Zero-emission Tesla (40) and Nikola (800)
trucks the company has ordered
within the company’s U.S. breweries