Michel Doukeris, our CEO since July 2021, wants to make AB InBev even more inclusive, sustainable, and inspiring for our consumers, customers, colleagues and communities. He joined AB InBev in 1996 and held several roles in Latin America, APAC and our global headquarters in New York before assuming leadership of Anheuser-Busch and the North America business in 2018.
A leader who is passionate about our brands and has big dreams for the future, Michel has a proven track record of putting consumers first and driving organic growth strategies that are rooted in innovation and data and technology. He also recognizes that building a company for the future requires leadership in the economic recovery, sustainability and inclusion and diversity.
We sat down with Michel to learn more about what motivates him and his vision for the company.
After 25 years at our company, what is it about AB InBev that inspires you the most?
AB InBev inspires me because we dream big, we are a company of owners, we believe in simplicity.
Since the start of my career at AB InBev, I’ve seen our people consistently strive to be the best at what they do. Over the past few months, I have met with hundreds of our colleagues from around the world, and I’ve left each meeting more energized and inspired to lead us into the future. The dedication of our colleagues has been – and will continue to be – key to our success.
I’m always seeking inspiration from outside of our company as well. I’m a firm believer in integrating best practices from experts in their respective fields. The tech industry is a constant source of inspiration for our in-house data and technology capabilities, such as our B2B and DTC platforms, enabling us to stay on top of trends and advance our digital transformation journey.
What are your priorities as CEO for this year and in the long-term?
First, we must meet the moment and build on our current momentum. Our business, and the broader beer category, have proven resilient and reliable in times of crisis. While the operating environment remains challenging, we will continue to prioritize business continuity, deliver on our customer and consumer-centric approach, and support our customers, partners and communities through the recovery so we can safely return to the “together moments” that are at the heart of our business.
Secondly, we will continue to invest in, and accelerate, what is already working. This includes category development, premiumization, health and wellness, Beyond Beer and our digital transformation journey with our B2B and direct-to-consumer efforts.
Finally, we are confident in the future growth prospects for our business and the beer category. We have an amazing platform to drive growth and value creation, and great teams around the world to help deliver on our commercial strategy in 2021 and beyond.
Can you expand on digital transformation as an area of opportunity?
We have one objective in our digital transformation journey: to enable our commercial strategy. This will improve our capabilities and accelerate our flywheel.
Our digital platforms transform the way our company operates and enable us to be the best at serving and partnering with our customers who are the gateway to our consumers. There are two key areas we are investing in: B2B, through our global B2B platform BEES, and direct-to-consumer (DTC) with platforms such as Zé Delivery, Tienda Cerca, Modelorama in Latin America and Perfect Draft in Europe.
How will your ESG (environmental, social and governance) agenda integrate with these opportunities?
Our business relies on thriving communities as the vast majority of our products are grown, brewed and sold locally. Being a leader in ESG is one of my priorities and it means inspiring our colleagues and stakeholders to advance key initiatives and relying on partnerships to help drive our efforts forward.
For example, in smart drinking, a recent analysis by the Business for Impact initiative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business shows that we, at AB InBev, have been successful in bringing together public health and corporate leaders to work collaboratively toward the common goal of reducing harmful drinking. We embed smart drinking in everything we do, from the way we market to our innovation pipeline.
Sustainability is core to our business strategy and a key driver of innovation. In our 100+ Accelerator program, for example, we identify and partner with innovative start-ups to address sustainability challenges. We have recruited corporate partners Unilever, Coca-Cola and Colgate-Palmolive to be part of this initiative. Together, we can drive change at scale. The appointment of Ezgi Barcenas as our dedicated Chief Sustainability Officer, reinforces our commitment to further accelerate a broader ESG agenda and achieve our 2025 sustainability goals.
Tell me about what inclusion and diversity mean to you as CEO and to the people of AB InBev.
Our diverse workforce, representing more than 100 nationalities in more than 50 markets, puts us in a better position to understand and serve the needs of our customers, consumers, partners and our communities.
As a company of owners, we are all responsible for fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace where everyone feels they belong. I’m personally invested in ensuring that this is part of our day-to-day as the Chair of our Global Diversity & Inclusion Council, where we collaborate on and champion our D&I initiatives. I’m especially proud of our inclusion in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, as well as our award-winning Quilmes Rewatch campaign to support women’s soccer in Argentina, and the Carling Black Label #NOEXCUSES initiative to take action to combat violence against women in South Africa. These are powerful examples of our commitment to advancing equality.
We are also working closely with our partners and our communities to create new opportunities for inclusivity that will make a positive and lasting impact. In Bolivia, our Paceña brand is helping women entrepreneurs achieve economic empowerment, by offering investment and financing options to women franchisees of local Tiendas Ya! Stores. And across South America, we are providing business skills training and access to affordable financial products to over 80,000 women small retailers to improve their incomes and livelihoods.
What kind of leader are you?
I’m a beer guy and a family man who loves simplicity. I’m proud to be a champion of AB InBev’s culture and heritage who is passionate about our brands and our people.
As a leader, I’ve learned that building a culture where everyone feels empowered to share ideas drives strong results. When I think about the time I’ve spent in Brazil, China and the U.S., our biggest successes were a result of listening, collaborating and sharing our best ideas. That’s how, for example, we built the ‘High End Company’ in China from scratch, an innovative and transformational route-to-market initiative, which was then expanded to 22 countries. It’s how we are leading innovation in the category in the U.S. with brands such as Bud Light Seltzer and Cutwater. It’s how we will meet the opportunities and challenges ahead – as one team united by a common goal -, to create a future with more cheers.