SAB creates a sustainable future with a sustainable value chain
Planet earth has quickly become every corporation’s most important stakeholder. The need to put planet before profit is now more than a simple business philosophy, it is essential to the bottom line and needs to be filtered through to every touch point of the supply chain.
It is this this evolution that has led Global brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev to create its sustainability goals for 2025 which includes water stewardship, circular packaging and climate action. Introduced in March 2018, the goals aim for holistic environmental and social impact and drive transformational change across the entire value chain.
Forming part of this commitment, the global brewer recently celebrated its Corona beer brand becoming the first global beverage brand to achieve a net zero plastic footprint, meaning the brand recovers more plastic from the environment than it releases into the world.
Achieving this milestone comes after an extensive external assessment of Corona’s global operations against the 3RI Corporate Plastic Stewardship Guidelines by South Pole, a leading climate solutions provider. The assessment measured Corona’s remaining plastic usage throughout the brand’s products and distribution logistics processes. It also followed the Verra Plastic Waste Reduction Standard to calculate the impact of Corona’s mitigation activities, including a major investment in Mexico Recicla, a recycling facility in Mexico. Thanks to these mitigation efforts, Corona now recovers more plastic than its plastic footprint.
This is an incredible global achievement, but in South Africa, what is AB-InBev’s South African Breweries (SAB) doing to keep up the environmental momentum?
According to Corporate Brand Director at SAB, Sphe Vundla, it starts by embracing a circular economy – i.e. where raw materials, components and products lose their value as little as possible through recycling and environmentally-friendly and reusable product designs.
“Responsibility for our product goes far beyond the last sip. We’re constantly looking for ways to increase the recycled materials in our packaging, to increase recycling rates around the world through the recovery and reuse of materials, to reduce the amount of material we use in our packaging, and to educate consumers on the importance of recycling.”
Vundla says SAB is proud of what the Corona brand has achieved and that it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the circular impact of SAB’s South African operations.
SAB has been working with glass and can manufacturers for decades to increase the recycled content of the packaging it procures, and supporting post-consumer packaging waste programmes to increase the supply of recycled packaging material.
“Circular packaging not only presents an important sustainability business opportunity, it also makes sound business sense. Our strategy is to expand existing opportunities and create new ones for recycled packaging. We also believe that this has the potential to create new jobs to uplift the economy,” says Vundla.
“As a brand born at the beach and deeply connected with nature, Corona has a responsibility to do all it can to be an ally to our environment and our oceans, said Thomas Lawrence, Corona Africa Marketing Manager. Becoming the first global beverage brand with a net zero plastic footprint is the latest in Corona’s broader ambition to help protect the world’s oceans and beaches from plastic pollution”.
As for the packaging that can’t be reused. SAB has subscribed to the Extended Producer Responsibility mandate by the South African government to ensure that it is part of the solution in reducing packaging waste sent to the country’s landfills.
Beyond the packaging, Vundla says, “Our efforts need to span the entire value chain to ensure that every touchpoint is geared towards a greener and more sustainable future.”
From reusable packaging to renewable energy, SAB has demonstrated its commitment to energy management through one of its most popular brands, Castle Lite. “Through Castle Lite, we were able to isolate a test case for switching to brewing using only renewable energy. This not only helps us ease the already strained national grid, but reduces our carbon dioxide emissions impact at the same time,” says Vundla.
Another material essential to the manufacturing of beer is, of course, water. As South Africa is a naturally water-scarce country, the need to preserve this most precious natural resource is paramount.
Through its Ibhayi Brewery and the Project Eden Water Conservation Park (another SAB sustainability initiative that involved the construction of an artificial wetland), is developing a commercial 2000m2 drip irrigation system that will help a local Business sustainably grow spinach in raised beds using wastewater generated in the brewing process.
“The philosophy of reuse is one that is no benefit communities around our operations. Our waste water is being turned into crops, which is fuelling small businesses in our communities. This is the power of circular and sustainable thinking,” says Vundla.
From manufacture to distribution, from electricity to waste management, SAB provides corporate South Africa with the perfect case study for an environmentally conscious value chain befitting a contemporary operating environment.
“You can’t change the world if you don’t strive to change your whole self. The same is true with business. Change needs to be evident at every level. Something we are proudly on our way to achieving as a group. This is not a business imperative, it’s a planet imperative and we all need to be on the front line of this fight for our future,” concludes Vundla.