Photo: SABMiller

Prospering through Partnerships

By Andy Wales, Director of Sustainable Development, SABMiller plc

Prospering through Partnerships

Around the world, most of our beers are brewed locally, often with local barley, maize or other crops – and always with local water – by local people, for local consumers. Our brands are also mostly local, with more than two hundred local beers brands which have grown from national or regional identities.

Beer is also one of the most sustainable consumer products. It offers a rare example of circular resource flows in a ‘one way’ world economy. Our breweries produce mainly organic waste, used primarily for animal feeds, and we increasingly use our waste water to generate renewable energy. Nearly half of our beer is sold in packs – kegs and returnable bottles – which are cleaned and reused over and over – often more than 40 times, making them dramatically more carbon efficient than disposable packs.

Being an integral part of local communities has always been at the heart of our business model. A good shared water supply has been a concern of our breweries right from their beginnings in South Africa, and we continue to work in partnership to secure water supplies together with local communities.

Using our skills to help the communities around us is also something we’ve always done. Going right back to 1911, we were the business that supplied free seeds to struggling South African farmers to stimulate the local barley industry. A hundred years later, we were the first business to use locally grown cassava in Mozambique to make beer, helping subsistence farmers to find a new market for their crops and support their families and local communities.

But today, society faces growing challenges, driven by demographic change, climate change and resource constraints – as well as exciting opportunities. To protect and grow our business, we need to step up our contribution to local communities even further. And we need to broaden the partnership approach we have developed to deliver for everyone.

To SABMiller that’s what sustainable development is all about. And that is what Prosper – our new sustainable development ambition – is all about.

We are calling it Prosper because shared prosperity is both the route to success for us as a business, and the core of our contribution to society. Because when our business does well, so do the local communities, economies and environment around us. When they prosper, so do we.

It’s a simple idea but one that is fundamental to our business success. We have kept the rigorous standards of each of our earlier Ten Priorities, but developed a more focused strategy to put sustainability at the core of our business.

We have thought hard about the world we want our business to be a part of, with prosperity at its heart:

  • A thriving world, where incomes and quality of life are growing
  • A sociable world, where our beers are developed, marketed, sold and consumed in a way that maximises individual and societal wellbeing.
  • A resilient world, where our businesses, local communities and ecosystems share uninterrupted access to safe, clean water.
  • A clean world where nothing goes to waste and emissions are dramatically lower.
  • A productive world where land is used responsibly, food supply is secure, biodiversity is protected and brewing crops can be accessed at reasonable prices.

We are setting some new, stretching targets in these areas. Under a thriving world, for example, we will, by 2020, directly support over half a million small enterprises to enhance their business growth and family livelihoods. Those small businesses employ at least 1.5 million people and a further 6 million of their family members will benefit. So in total 7.5 million people will be directly supported.

On climate change, we are proud of our 29% absolute cut in carbon emissions from our sites over the last six years. But we are shifting to the more difficult challenge of tackling emissions across our whole value chain – reducing the carbon footprint per litre of beer by 25% by 2020. We are pledging a similar step up in ambition on encouraging moderate and responsible drinking, on water security and on productive land.

These commitments are central to our business strategy. They are the right thing to do, and they are also in our business interests. In partnership, we can play a significant role in tackling shared risks, such as water scarcity, and in taking advantage of shared opportunities, such as increasing the productivity of agricultural land, sustainably. This is the future of business, and SABMiller wants to play a leading role.

Editor’s Note:

This blog was first published on the SABMiller Blog, and is reproduced with permission

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