SAB’s sustainability managers share their insights on how one of South Africa’s biggest businesses embeds sustainability at the heart of its operations.
To sustainably brew the world’s best beers, the South African Breweries (SAB) has to be closely tied to the natural environment and surrounding communities. From water security to land rehabilitation, to the raw materials needed for packaging, to waste management, and the energy needed to help it all come together – sustainability lies at the heart of this operation.
Although beer is traditionally a man’s product brewed in a male-dominated industry, it takes two women to drive SAB towards its ambitious sustainability goals.
Meet Alyssa Jooste and Raesibe Dlamini. This remarkable duo form the vanguard of SAB’s sustainability ambitions. Both Sustainability Managers for the African market, Alyssa dedicates her passion to water and agriculture, Raesibe’s attention is firmly placed on circular packaging, climate action and partnerships.
As SAB reaches new sustainable heights, there is much to learn from the two women who drive this success. Both Alyssa and Raesibe provided answers to some perpetually pertinent sustainability questions relating to the brewing industry, and business as a whole.
Why is sustainability an important concept?
Alyssa: As a water scarce country, with energy supply limitations and an urgent need for economic development, working together towards sustainable development is becoming more critical.
In order to strive towards a greener future fostered around the wellbeing of all who inhabit our land, collaborative efforts and shifts in mindsets and behaviours are fundamental. Private, public and Non-governmental organisation sectors are all vital to conserve natural resources for generations to come, by embedding circular economies across supply chains, the restoration of biodiversity in water source areas, and supporting self-sufficient and self-sustaining farming communities.
Why is sustainability important in the brewing industry?
Raesibe: The brewing carbon footprint is significant and requires innovative and sustainable interventions to be reduced. However, this is a long-term play and the reduction can’t happen overnight.
Our breweries produce tons of co-product, which can be repurposed into other types of consumer products for a more circular local supply.
Lastly, final products are transported to our depots and customers which impacts our carbon footprint. We look to reduce our emissions from logistics and transportation through route optimisation to reduce fuel usage and the use of alternative fuel vehicles.
What are some of the important practices in sustainability that can be vital in unlocking opportunities, for the industry?
Understanding your operations carbon footprint, is the first step towards a sustainable future. It is only through the understanding of the overall environmental impact of your operations that informed decisions can be made, for the betterment and prosperity of the environment and its people. Thereafter, the monitoring and evaluation of initiatives needs to be continuously reviewed for visibility and assessment of actions and interventions.
In addition, many missed opportunities arise from not recognising the power and potential of collaboration and partnerships. With a wealth of knowledge and technical experience in our country, our shared sustainability challenges can be resolved through open engagement and commitment to an outcome far greater than our individual needs.
This requires all sectors to actively participate in impactful partnerships, for the long run and with a shared vision.
Raesibe: Regulatory and policy interventions lie at the heart of sustainable change. It enables corporates and businesses to actively find solutions to the most pressing challenges and encourages the development of building circular economies.
The extended producer responsibility (EPR) regulations (recently introduced in South Africa) empower producers to actively think about their packaging selection, leading to increased recyclability and less virgin packaging use.
It is only through regulations like these that industries are compelled to change, and additional funding can be provided to the waste value chain – which further enhances our country’s sustainability ambitions.
How do you define innovation within sustainability?
Innovation and Sustainability work hand-in-hand and have the potential to transform industries.
SAB prides itself on the many experts within our operations, who seek continuous improvement in product development, breeding of new crop varieties, soil health practices, optimal brewing processes and efficient equipment and water utilisation.
We work with innovative Partners, leveraging our SAB Foundation and SAB Thrive Fund programs to support and empower local SMME’s leading the way towards innovative sustainability solutions. We also seek open innovation that provides impactful means of creating circular economies from returnable glass to hard-to-recycle plastic, spent grain, yeast and hops by-products.
Raesibe: Innovation in sustainability is key because the future is dependent on finding innovative, affordable, and sustainable solutions that can fundamentally change how our business powers our production, logistics and more.
Innovation within sustainability also encourages us to engage with our consumers via brands. Castle Lite (switch to renewable energy) and Corona (net zero plastic footprint) are examples of brands that have taken innovation and sustainability seriously through consumer awareness.
We also engage frequently with our suppliers on their sustainability practices, it’s a journey not a destination. As a business, it’s important that we understand what sustainability practices our suppliers have in place and what plans do they have for innovation