A Resilient World

Resilient world

Under this sustainable development imperative, SAB endeavours to secure shared water resources for the business and local communities. SAB is strengthening its social investment water projects, particularly to contribute towards community water security. SAB continues to support and participate in the Strategic Water Partnership, as we believe that it is only through collective action and effective partnerships that we will secure this critical resource.

SAB aims to reduce its water use to 2.89 litres per litre of beer by 2020 within our manufacturing process and implement programmes to mitigate shared risks for our key crops such as hops and barley. We have conducted intensive research into the manufacturing process and have deduced that 90% of the water used during the process is lost during agriculture of the raw materials.

In South Africa, water is currently high on the public agenda. Commentators have made serious predictions of imminent systems collapse and water shortages. According to the National Water Resource Strategy, South Africa will face a supply-demand deficit of -17% by 2030 under current efficiency levels.

SAB needs to be prepared for this challenging situation. As a leading corporate citizen SAB is continuously developing strategies for identifying water risks. Investors are also becoming more interested in understanding water risks and implications for the future competitiveness of corporations.

By its nature, brewing is a water-intensive process. SAB’s business case for securing water is based on:

  • Securing adequate supply to brew beer into the future
  • Ensure good quality water for our operations
  • Maintain the integrity of the country’s water architecture
  • Respond to changing concerns of investors, customers and regulators
  • Maintain our licence to operate at local level
  • Manage the future cost of water

Our Strategy

Our water strategy is a comprehensive and risk-based approach guided by the 5 ‘R’s’ –  pRotect, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Redistribute. Our water game plan focuses on four strategic thrusts: in the brewery, in the supply chain, in communities and water governance.

In the brewery

The first area where we can make a difference is in our brewery operations, which are within our control. Our efforts here are concentrated on using less water to make more beer and to manage our effluent standards.

In the supply chain

SAB has begun engaging its major suppliers on understanding their water use, efficiency and risks they face. We believe there is potential for collaborative efforts with our suppliers to develop and implement joint strategies and plans for a secure water future.

Precision Irrigation
SAB has developed, in partnership with the University of the Free State (UFS), a world-first scientific alternative and effective method of barley irrigation used to lower the crop’s total water footprint and increase its sustainability.

The Precision Irrigation Programme, run as a pilot in the Northern Cape barley irrigation area of Douglas, has yielded a 48% or 19.2-million hectolitre water saving in its first year of operation on the pilot farmers’ winter crop, covering 1 491 hectares of land.  The programme has since been expanded to over 12 822 hectares in the Province.

Around 100 small-scale and 180 commercial barley farmers in the Northern Cape region are now benefiting from Precision Irrigation and have reported positive financial returns as a result of more efficient water use during the growing season. Farmers have lower production costs and need less electricity to sustain the irrigation process.

Precision Irrigation is a water-scheduling computer programme based on scientific and biological principles and calculates the exact amount of water needed to produce high quality, optimum crop yields in different soil types. Extensive in-field and glasshouse research was conducted by Frikkie Lubbe, SAB Agriculturist, over a period of three years as part of his PhD with UFS, in order to come to the precise water quantity required for optimal irrigation of barley.

Water governance

It is clear that the water challenges facing SAB are bigger than any one corporate can address on its own. Companies need to work together and partner with Government and other stakeholders to address the key issues facing the country such as potential municipal infrastructure failure (leading to supply disruptions for manufacturers and consumers) and the impact of increasingly polluted water resources. The Water Disclosure Report 2011, undertaken by the National Business Initiative and Carbon Disclosure Report, recommended that companies work together in partnership with other role players to solve pressing water issues. SAB has partnered with some key public and private stakeholders to address pertinent areas of water concern.

Water Futures Partnership: Corporate stewardship
This is a strategic alliance between SAB, the World Wildlife Fund South Africa (WWF-SA) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The partnership aims to assess and reduce shared water risks to strengthen water stewardship and governance in specific watersheds.

Strategic Water Partnership Network
The SWPN is an innovative public-private sector partnership announced by the Minister of Environment and Water Affairs, Edna Molewa, at COP17 during a session of the World Economic Forum on water as a key focus area of adapting to climate change in South Africa.

The SWPN is co-chaired by the Department of Environment and Water Affairs and SAB and partners include Eskom, Anglo American, Sasol, Coca-Cola and Nestle. The aim of the partnership is to combine efforts to close the water gap facing the country by 2030. The network is organised into three working groups responsible for Water Use Efficiency; Leakage Reduction and Supply Chain; and Agriculture and Effluent Partnerships, with secretariat support from the Nepad Business Foundation. Within these three groups, the SWPN is identifying projects, best practices and recommending strategies to overcome challenges to replicate projects and improve widespread adoption of water solutions. Along with external stakeholders, the network will explore practical examples of public-private strategies that have been implemented in India, Mexico and Jordan to transform their water sectors. These strategies aim to use water resources more efficiently, adapt to the impact of climate change and meet the needs of sustainable economic growth and social development.

Hop Farms Alien Vegetation Clearing
The South African Breweries Hop Farms (SABHF) and the World Wildlife Fund South Africa (WWF-SA) have begun an intensive alien vegetation clearing programme in the Outeniqua Mountain catchment areas of Waboomskraal and Herold in the Western Cape where a large number of hop producing farms are located.

The aim is to clear at least 2 800 hectares of alien species (2 200ha in Waboomskraal and 600ha in Herold), namely Hakea (hakea sericea) and Pine (Pinus sp.), which combined are causing water loss of between 13% and 20% per annum in neighbouring dams that are being starved of water run-off from the catchment areas.  These dams are a critical source of water for independent hop farmers in the area, as well as for SABHF which is dependent on them for irrigation purposes.

In addition to this water loss, the catchment areas are located in critical ecological corridors identified for promoting ecological integrity, connectivity and ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change, making the presence of alien vegetation there a further threat.

In addition to this, natural scientific occurrences further exacerbate the loss of water caused by alien vegetation in that rainfall in the Outeniqua area is orographic resulting in frontal rain clouds becoming trapped on the coastal side of the mountain and starving the catchment areas on the opposite ‘shaded’ area of water.

Water Neutral Project
SAB adheres to strict standards regarding discharging water at the end of the production cycle.

For the past two years the company has partnered with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the Working for Water Programme to initiate a novel water neutral scheme.

SAB aims to reduce its water consumption in the brewing process and then quantitatively offset the remaining water use by investing in projects that clear alien vegetation. This process releases similar volumes of water back into natural ecosystems. This project cleared sufficient alien vegetation to allow for the complete offset of water use at SAB’s Ibhayi Brewery in Port Elizabeth and its Newlands Brewery in Cape Town.

SAB Foundation
SAB Foundation annually runs the social innovation awards.  Over the last few years, there have been a number of water related innovations that have received start up capital.

Related Documents


Related articles

SAB and Rhodes University treat waste water for re-use

SAB in partnership with Rhodes University has successfully treated brewery waste-water to standards suitable for re-use in irrigation and other […]