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AB InBev sets climate, water goals to keep fizz in beer sales

Alister Doyle

21 Mar 2018

By Alister Doyle (Reuters) | 21 March 2018

OSLO (Reuters) – Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, said on Wednesday it would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by a quarter by 2025 and help thousands of farmers cope with disruptions to water supplies stoked by global warming.

The Belgium-based brewer also said it would make all its packaging either returnable or from mainly recycled materials by 2025 and was on track to achieve a goal set in 2017 to get all the electricity it buys from renewable sources by 2025.

“It’s a win-win … It’s good for business and good for the environment”, chief executive Carlos Brito told Reuters of the new sustainability goals. He declined to estimate the total cost of the measures or the impact on earnings.

Brito said AB InBev, whose beers include Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois, was vulnerable to environmental changes since it relied on barley, malt, hops, wheat, rice and other products grown by 50,000 farmers in dozens of nations.

“If the environment has a problem, we have a problem,” he said in a telephone interview from New York of disruptions such as heatwaves, droughts, floods and storms linked to climate change.

“If we were a supplier of smartphones we would make them in one location and ship around the world,” he said.

Many companies are setting tougher environmental goals after almost 200 nations signed up for the 2015 Paris climate agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump, who doubts climate change has a human cause, plans to pull the United States out of the deal and instead promote fossil fuels.

AB InBev plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2025, to the equivalent of 37.93 kg (83.62 lb) of carbon dioxide to produce a hectolitre of beer from 50.57 kg in 2017.

Brito said the new goals for 2025 would include suppliers and wholesalers – beyond the company’s previous environmental targets that focused on the company’s core operations.

The firm aims to cut water use, including by “restoring watersheds in areas that need it most, and improving water availability and quality for our communities,” it said. It would work to ensure all farmers had needed skills by 2025. 

AB InBev was one of 74 companies on an “A list” for water reporting in 2017 from the independent London-based CDP, which monitors environmental performance by thousands of companies.

It got a “B” for reporting on climate change in 2017 after an “A minus” in 2016.

The firm will seek new ideas by scientists and entrepreneurs for everything from plastics recycling to better soil management in a project called the “100+ Sustainability Accelerator”.

Brito doubted that climate change would mean an ever hotter world that would boost beer sales by making people thirstier.

“Some places will likely get warmer, some will get colder,” he said, adding ever more people drink beer indoors at home where temperatures are steadier than outside.

Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Mark Potter
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