World's biggest brewer AB InBev unwraps 100,000 ton packaging pledge

AB InBev's will optimize its plants to cut energy and water usage

Anheuser-Busch InBev's (AB InBev) new environmental commitments include an ambitious pledge to reduce use of packaging materials by 100,000 tons annually by 2017, but the bulk of its new commitments will not result in overall reductions for energy and water use or greenhouse gas emissions.

The world's largest brewer said it aimed to reach the goals (shared across 24 countries) by the end of 2017, with results benchmarked against a 2012 baseline, although the cuts will not involve a real terms reduction (aside from packaging) since for energy use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions, they are linked to per hectoliter (hl) of production.

The first goals involve reducing water risks and improving water management in the brewer's key barley growing regions, in partnership with local stakeholders; A second goal seeks watershed protection measures in all facilities located in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Mexico, Peru and the US.

AB InBev will also seek to cut its water usage to 3.2 hectoliters (hl) of water per hl of production (equivalent to 5,400 Olympic-sized swimming pools in one year) and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across production sites by 10%, with a 15% reduction per hectoliter targeted for China.

To put this target into context, Bert Share, AB InBev director beer & better world, told that at the end of 2012, AB InBev achieved a "leading-edge" global water use ratio of 3.5 hl/hl.

How will AB InBev cut energy and water use?

Cuts of 10% for global energy use per hectoliter are also targeted, and asked how the brewer would accomplish this pledge, along with its bid to cut water usage, Share said: "We have standardized how our breweries and soft drink facilities manage their energy usage, which we were able to accomplish through our Voyager Plant Optimization (VPO) brewery operation management system.

"VPO includes best practice sharing, key performance indicators, regular reporting and a set of good operating practices that covers every aspect of natural resource use. Holding ourselves accountable is part of our VPO system and our culture," he added.

"By the end of 2012, about 95% of our breweries and soft drink facilities throughout the world were VPO-certified."

AB InBev is also bidding to reduce use of packaging materials by 100,000 tons, equivalent to the weight of around 250,000 full cans of beer.

So how precisely will AB InBev meet this target? For instance, will it involve light-weighting glass or reducing secondary packaging use? "We will take a variety of measures across our major packages: Glass, metals, PET and secondary packaging," Share said.

The seventh, and final, pledge sees AB InBev commit to reaching a 70% average of eco-friendly cooler purchases annually.

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