Water is more than just a key ingredient in our products. It is a critical resource for the health and well-being of communities around the world.
This year, the United Nation’s theme for World Water Day is “Accelerating Change.” At AB InBev, we recognize that water is closely linked to many other sustainable development issues. As the world’s leading brewer, we are focused on being part of the solution to the growing water challenges across our communities and supply chain.
We aim to be as efficient as possible with the water used in our brewing processes. Between 2017 and 2022, we reduced water consumption by 14% and achieved a water efficiency ratio of 2.64 hectoliter/hectoliter across our sites globally last year, bringing us closer towards our goal of 2.5 hectoliter/hectoliter by 2025. We are equally committed to having a positive impact across the communities in which we operate, setting a goal to have measurable improvement in water availability and quality across 100% of our sites in high water risk areas.
Here are five examples of how we’re working to help accelerate change and achieve our goals through holistic, local solutions to a global crisis.
Driving water use efficiency within our operations
Within our operations we are working to drive water-use efficiency, responsible discharge and effluent re-use. In the water-scarce nation of South Africa, our local brewer South African Breweries (SAB) is leveraging green innovation to treat brewery waste streams and reuse water to irrigate a sustainable spinach crop for the local community.
The water has enough nutrients to grow spinach without additional fertilizer and irrigation. The spinach beds, in turn, reduce the water’s nutrient concentration so the water can be recovered and reused in the brewery. This novel system has created jobs, supported the production of spinach for local retailers and helped clean brewery effluent to support the watershed. This project supports the water use efficiency ratio of our brewery, and we estimate that it has supported the watershed with approximately 100,000 cubic meters of water each year. It is a project with many wins, and we are now piloting the approach in Tanzania.
Investing in shared water security and watershed health through partnerships
The Jaguari River basin is the water supply for most of the population in Jaguariuna, Brazil. Climate change, seasonal unpredictability of rainfall and loss of native vegetation have negatively impacted the overall availability of water.
Through the Bacias Jaguariuna water fund, we have partnered with public institutions, technical agencies and partners, including The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the City of Jaguariuna, Agência das Bacias PCJ, Embrapa and Brazil’s National Water Agency, to address these challenges. After conducting an initial assessment of the watershed, the water fund developed a Payment for Environmental Services program that helps to incentivize the adoption of conservation practices and also implemented watershed conservation and restoration projects to help increase water availability. Together with our partners the effort is conserving nearly 400 million liters of water annually.
Supporting water access in local communities
Our team in India is working to improve water accessibility and security in the communities around our breweries through long-term local watershed initiatives. An initiative with WaterAid India, International Crops Research Institute for The Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), LetsEndorse, Force and local authorities is supporting the construction of watershed structures like anicuts, which are small, sometimes temporary, dams developed using ancient masonry techniques, across four Indian states.
The initiative has restored 1.6 million hectoliters into groundwater. Along with activities around improving water availability and accessibility, the projects also provide training and awareness sessions on water-demand management.
Expanding water solutions across our value chain
Rice is a key ingredient for many of our beers, most notably Budweiser in the US. Since 2019, Anheuser-Busch and Indigo Ag, a US-based agricultural technology company, have partnered to help US rice farmers adopt industry-proven conservation practices and innovative irrigation methods, such as alternate wetting and drying (AWD).
Historically AWD can be expensive to implement, difficult to track and unsuitable for some fields. To allow more farmers to participate and to boost their revenue, we expanded our AWD program in 2022, conserving approximately 1.5 billion gallons of water (roughly 5.7 billion liters).
Broadening our impact through key partnerships
We continue to engage in global partnerships such as the Water Resilience Coalition, the 2030 Water Resources Group and the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER). We also regularly publish reports to share our experiences and learnings, such as Waterways To Resilience Nature-Based Solutions For Adaptation In Africa (in partnership with the World Wildlife Foundation) and A Recipe For Impact: Key Ingredients For Companies To Drive Measurable Impact In Watershed Health (in partnership with TNC).
Learn more about our progress and commitment to water stewardship in our 2022 Environmental, Social and Governance Report.