Georgetown University Case Study Analysis: How AB InBev Contributes to the Reduction of Harmful Alcohol Use

The Business for Impact initiative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in the United States recently released an in-depth case study on the current status of Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev)’s Global Smart Drinking Goals (GSDGs). This is a ten-year voluntary initiative by AB InBev to reduce harmful use of alcohol. The GSDGs began in 2015 and will run until 2025. The report is an assessment of AB InBev’s progress during the first five years.  

Within the report, titled AB InBev and Smart Drinking: An Analysis of How the World’s Largest Beer Company Contributes to the Reduction of Harmful Alcohol Use, Georgetown recognises AB InBev as an industry leader for its pioneering efforts to promote “Smart Drinking” through investments in excess of a quarter-billion dollars since 2015.  

The findings suggest that businesses can play a role in addressing global social challenges, when there is commitment from the top, understanding the need to embed smart drinking into the commercial strategy as recommended by public health experts, and a willingness to go beyond traditional corporate philanthropy to create shared value for both business and society.  

Specifically, AB InBev’s Global Smart Drinking Goals initiative has been successful in bringing together public health and corporate leaders to work collaboratively toward the common goal of reducing harmful drinking. This, in opinion of the Georgetown case study authors, is a first-of-its-kind initiative that holds promise as a model of shared value creation. The case study provides in-depth analysis of AB InBev’s progress toward achieving the GSDGs, highlighting both successes and challenges.  

The report also identifies areas for improvement needed to increase the impact of the GSDGs initiative as it enters its second phase.  

For instance, Georgetown recommends that AB InBev explore additional ways to embed its Smart Drinking proposition in its commercial execution, particularly in relation to social norms marketing.  It also recommends extending its current measurement and evaluation efforts to determine if the results are sustainable in the longer term.     

Bill Novelli, founder of Business for Impact at Georgetown University and case study co-author stated that AB InBev’s approach is unique in that both the commercial and philanthropic sides of the business are engaged in achieving sustainable development goals – from diversifying products to include no- and lower-alcohol choices, to leveraging the corporate brands to promote social marketing messages geared to change problem behaviors and shift societal attitudes so that ‘smart drinking’ is the norm.” 

We are encouraged that our GSDGs are on the right track and there is more that we can do. The recommendations of the Georgetown case study will help AB InBev have an even more impactful Smart Drinking programme around the globe.  Our business depends upon the communities we serve, and reducing harmful drinking is an integral part of our company’s future.