SAB’s Director of Communities, Heidi Bartis reaffirms SAB’s commitment to responsible consumption and calls on South Africans to come together and be responsible ahead of the Easter holiday season and review their harmful consumption behaviour for their future
31 March 2021: Ahead of the April holiday season, the South African Breweries (SAB) has reiterated its commitment to driving a culture of responsible consumption in South Africa that includes a myriad partnership with government and civil society on the issues of road safety, underage drinking, responsible trading and gender-based violence.
SAB’s Director of Communities, Heidi Bartis says that SAB’s intrinsic purpose has always been to bring people together for a better South Africa. “In these times of pandemic, we are rising to the challenge and share in the responsibility to save lives and livelihoods.”
Despite issues faced by the industry on a regulatory front, SAB and its partners have always maintained that they don’t have the luxury to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to harmful consumption.
Forming part of what SAB calls its Smart Drinking goals and articulated in its #RESPONSIBLETOGETHER campaign, the brewer has engaged in continuous efforts to better understand what changes need to be made to shift South Africans relationship with alcohol in a positive direction.
This effort has also been stepped up a gear, going into the Easter season to meet the demands of the day, while ensuring this messaging is a continuous drumbeat, backed by tangible results-driven programmes.
“To truly make this work and make RESPONSIBILITY a part of our consciousness, we need a concerted and collaborative effort between us, our industry peers, civil society and government to eliminate drink driving, tackle underage drinking as well as to encourage a healthier drinking culture. This will take efforts from numerous fronts and targeted on the specific core areas”
Eliminating drinking and driving
SAB is determined to stop drinking and driving on South African roads and help further reduce the number of drink-driving related injuries and deaths in the country. “We believe when you drive you should never drink, and we fully support the implementation of 0% breath alcohol content limit as already proposed by the Department of Transport.”
Aside from its extensive #NoneForTheRoad communications campaign in which SAB used its extensive fleet of trucks to communicate this message to even the most remote parts of the country, SAB has also continued to invest in Alcohol Evidence Centres (AECs).
Together with the Department of Transport and the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) the creation of AECs helps law enforcement to not only better test suspected drunk drivers and confirm their breath or blood alcohol limit, but also ensure that the evidence collected is admissible in court.
“This is part of a solutions-based approach,” says Bartis. “We plan to have 10 of these AECs full operational by the end of the year.”
Forming part of a major tourism hotspot, the next AEC, which will be located in Umdloti, KwaZulu-Natal, is almost complete and will be handed over to the Department of Transport in April 2021.
Tackling underage drinking
“It goes without saying that alcohol should never be sold to anyone under the age of 18,” says Bartis.
According to aware.org statistics, one in every two teenagers actively consumes alcohol in the average South African home. Bartis says SAB has continuously pushed marketing and communications campaigns year after year to discourage underage drinking from short films to social media campaigns to mentorship programmes.
“We also work together with the industry to ensure that traders are constantly reminded to follow proper processes when it comes to age verification processes as they are on the frontlines of this underage drinking epidemic.”
Through aware.org, SAB has helped apply pressure to would-be underage drinkers by propagating an Underage ID Verification Toolkit for use on digital and social media platforms, as well as in physical trade and retail environments. The toolkit was designed to demonstrate visible and voluntary compliance to not sell alcohol to minors and to alert the trade, retailers, adults/legal consumers and related parties to the law that applies in this regard.
“By supporting initiatives like these and ensuring all our products are labelled correctly with age-gated warnings, we can continue to do our part to reduce underage drinking in our society,” says Bartis.
Responsibility starts with trade
Going forward, and as the country prepares for a possible third wave going into Easter, Bartis believes that the alcohol industry can lead by example and avoid another ban. Although SAB has continuously engaged with and guided the liquor traders in both the informal and formal economy, she says, “We all need to be committed to helping foster a culture of smart drinking. If we are going to survive this next wave as an industry, we can only do so if we trade responsibly and lead by example.”
Through the Responsible Trading Programme, which has a particular focus on structurally changing the roles and perceptions of taverns in their surrounding communities. be Traders are guided to be our agents of change and are key small business pillars that can be used to drive economic recovery and job creation in the economy at a large.
In a time of Covid-19, Bartis says part of trading responsibly means adhering to all government-mandated regulations including trading restrictions, curfews, social distancing and hygiene precautions. “In the last year, we have done everything we can to educate and equip our traders with the knowledge and tools they needed to get this done.”
Going forward, SAB will continue to engage with industry and provide guidance and support wherever necessary through the appropriate channels and programmes. “It’s up to all of us, from the industry to its consumers to be responsible and build a society, and an economy, we can all be proud of. Smart drinking choices affect everyone and it starts at every level of the alcohol industry,” concludes Bartis.