Bringing People Together For Sustainable Cities
For the more than 150,000 colleagues of Anheuser-Busch InBev, dreaming bigger and achieving more is a way of life. But we also know that we cannot achieve our dream on our own. Reflecting the positive role beer plays in bringing people together and recognizing the growing need for collective action to address the world’s challenges, we aim to be the Best Beer Company Bringing People Together for a Better World.
From the neighborhood pubs of Belgium to the superstores of the United States, from the river basins of Brazil to the rural schools of China — and in many other countries around the globe — we are working side by side with a wide variety of stakeholders to achieve our Better World goals — promoting responsible drinking, protecting the environment, and improving our communities.
The way we integrate our work and set targets that are shared across departments ensures collective achievement of our company goals and makes us unique. The increasing importance we place on collaboration beyond our brewery walls is also embedded in our targets. Ultimately, all of this drives our performance and delivers results. Our sustainability work in China demonstrates these results.
Corporate Water Stewardship to Support Urban Infrastructure
Rapid urbanization and population growth continues to increase water demand and pollution in many countries around the world. For example, China has 20% of the world’s population, but only 7% of its fresh water. Collective action and robust corporate water stewardship, however, can affect real change. Businesses have an increasing role to play in alleviating the impact of rapid urbanization and making cities more sustainable.
As the leading global brewer making products whose key ingredient is water, AB InBev has a vested interest in preserving and protecting water resources. The company’s reclaimed water project at our Wuhan, China, brewery is a key example of corporate water stewardship making a significant impact. Conserving water, reclaiming water, reusing cooling water and investing in green infrastructure can help meet the growing demands and drive sustainable development of healthier, livable cities.
Lack of clean water is one of the most critical issues facing China. Although corporate water stewardship is still at an early stage of development in China, the private sector relies heavily on water and is increasingly recognizing the pressing water crisis.
Businesses have a role to play in helping protect shared resources by improving efficiency within their walls, encouraging responsible practices in their supply chain and collaborating with governments to develop water governance initiatives. As water scarcity and pollution are most acute at the local level, engaging with local government officials, businesses and communities in a collective manner can help cope with scarcity and pollution and secure future water supply.
At Anheuser-Busch InBev, we embed water stewardship into daily activities, from tying employee compensation to water reductions within our operations, to working to improve local watershed health and water management in our agricultural supply chain. Additionally, we have not only established a 2017 global water use ratio target 9.6% lower than our leading-edge 2012 baseline, but also committed to working with governments, communities and NGOs on watershed protection measures.
Our brewery in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei Province, has consistently improved its water efficiency. With a reduction of 60% since 2009, Wuhan’s usage as of September 2014 is only 2.75 hectoliters of water per hectoliter of production. In addition, in 2010, the brewery expanded its efforts and began providing reclaimed water to the local community and the nearby industrial park for use in washrooms, landscaping and firefighting so that water has another use before being returned to the watershed. In partnership with the Wuhan Municipal Government, with an investment of RMB 10.2 million (1.67 million USD) to date, we have purchased water-purifying equipment and helped build approximately 3 kilometers of pipeline to connect the brewery to the local community and the industrial park.
Four years later, our growing partnership with local authorities and the community remains critical, especially considering a recent pollution scare in Wuhan earlier this year when excessive levels of chemical pollutants were found in Wuhan’s major water source, the Hanjiang River, cutting off supply to more than 300,000 residents. As more companies engage in environmentally responsible business practices and collective action, progress can be made in reducing pollution.
Our water conservation program in Wuhan was cited as one of the Top 10 Green Business projects in 2011 by China Business News Weekly. Today, we process 10,000 hectoliters of water per day, saving more than 3.5 million hectoliters of fresh water annually. The reclaimed water from our brewery is currently used for firefighting, watering public areas and for bathrooms in the community center, as well as in and around the Huangjingkou industrial park for the waterfall feature, and for washing industrial vehicles, rinsing recycled bottles, cleaning the streets, and watering the landscape. With a capacity to treat and save 40,000 hectoliters of water per day, we are working to provide, in due course, free recycled water to the Huiminyuan community, the biggest government-subsidized housing community in Hanyang, one of the 13 districts of Wuhan.
The unparalleled scale of industrialization, coupled with the rapid growth of cities in China, is putting an unprecedented strain on urban infrastructure such as water, electricity, and transport. The private sector, with its expertise and reach, can help mitigate these existing and potential risks. Our AB InBev Wuhan Brewery is a model for water stewardship and collective action. Reclaiming industrial water for city use can provide a reliable non-potable water source, especially in water-stressed areas. If backed by supportive policies, more companies can take advantage of advances in water treatment technologies and promote the reuse of reclaimed water before discharge to the watershed. This shift from water management to water stewardship is increasingly crucial for companies to help create livable cities.