UN General Assembly 2021: Businesses are critical to driving global recovery — but we can't do it alone

Posted: September 20, 2021
UN General Assembly 2021: Businesses are critical to driving global recovery — but we can't do it alone

At AB InBev, we're driven by our purpose to bring people together for a better world. This mission has never been more relevant than today — and we know we can't get there unless we work together. That's why we're convening with global leaders at the 76th UN General Assembly (UNGA) to help address our world's most urgent challenges, and collaborate for a better, more equitable future.  

We are focusing our efforts where we can have the greatest impact. This means working with governments and partners to drive a strong and inclusive recovery, investing in environmental resilience, promoting Smart Drinking and supporting sustainable livelihoods across our value chain. We're leveraging the strengths of our business to help advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

No matter what stage they're in, we're showing up to help our communities recover, rebuild and restore, so we can all return safely to the ‘together moments' we care about most.  

See how we at AB InBev are contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals here.

Smarter Drinking for Stronger Communities

Beer is a significant source of enjoyment for millions of people who gather to celebrate life and enjoy the company of others. It is a major engine of economic activity and inclusion with strong positive ripple effects across all sectors, and it is also a strong ally of the global post-COVID recovery.  

However, harmful consumption remains a global challenge. We are encouraged by data from the World Health Organization (WHO) which shows that harmful consumption in the last decade decreased around the world. We want to accelerate that trend with actions and real solutions that support safe and responsible drinking – what we call Smart Drinking. 

“Our business depends upon the communities we serve, and promoting safe and responsible drinking is an integral part of our company's future,” said John Blood, Chief Legal and Corporate Affairs Officer. 

We established our Global Smart Drinking Goals in 2015 to support the WHO and UN SDGs targets to reduce the harmful consumption of alcohol globally. We have achieved significant milestones across our four goals. 

A Smart Drinking guidance label for Eagle Dark from Nile Breweries, our local brewer in Uganda. 

AB InBev launched the largest voluntary initiative ever undertaken by a beer, wine or spirits company globally to place effective guidance labels on our products. Now we are on track to have Smart Drinking guidance labels rolled out across 100% of our beer volume in the 27 countries where there is no government mandate. We're also making low-alcohol and no-alcohol choices available to more consumers. And across the world, our brands are using social norms marketing to influence consumers' behavior change and build more moderate consumption habits.  

We share the UN SDGs' ambitious target of halving the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes, and we also made road safety a key pillar of our Smart Drinking efforts. In fact, we're celebrating three years of partnering with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) to build a road safety toolkit that could be implemented by governments around the world. To date, we've implemented the toolkit in 23 countries, benefiting 11,000 people globally.  

A Business for Impact case study by Georgetown University McDonough School of Business recently evaluated progress toward our goals, and confirmed our approach is working. With clear avenues to improve and optimize, we're positioned to make significant contributions to addressing the harmful use of alcohol over the next five years and beyond. 

Driving sustainable change at scale

This year's UNGA calls us to “rebuild sustainability and respond to the needs of the planet”. As a global business, we know the effects of climate change impact our entire value chain and recognize the critical role we play in promoting a more sustainable future. Today, we're investing and innovating across our global footprint to build a climate-resilient business, drive sustainable, inclusive growth, and protect our planet's precious natural resources.  

Global scale, local impact  

AB InBev is the world's leading brewer with a truly global footprint. And with such strong connections in local economies, we're also in many ways a local business. 

“We are deeply rooted in the communities where we live and work, and we rely on a healthy environment, resilient supply chains and local economies,” said Ezgi Barcenas, Chief Sustainability Officer. “That makes sustainable and inclusive growth fundamental to our business success.” 

We're working with local farmers in our supply chain to implement soil health practices that contribute to healthy ecosystems. By capturing lessons learned from these programs, we can scale adoption of practices that improve farmers' resilience across our sourcing footprint. 

Our local connections are also enabling us to reduce the environmental impact of our products in the communities where we operate. We're developing packaging innovations that are reducing plastic usage and carbon emissions on the ground, as well as boosting recycling rates. We're also partnering with innovators and entrepreneurs to drive plastic reduction across the supply chain via the The Corona Plastic-Free Challenge. 

In June 2021 Corona achieved a net-zero plastic footprint globally, meaning the brand recovers more plastic than it releases into the environment.

Climate-resilient business, climate-ready communities 

We're future-proofing our business and the communities where we operate to address and mitigate the impact of climate change.  

Committed to driving the energy transition while supporting the recovery, our team at Anheuser-Busch made a $64 million investment in our Los Angeles brewery to support sustainable upgrades, including the largest solar installation of any brewery in the United States. Our brewery in Wuhan, China, will become AB InBev's first carbon-neutral brewery, while Anheuser-Busch announced that all its beer and seltzer brands are now brewed with 100% renewable electricity. And in Colombia, we're rolling out the country's largest fleet of electric cargo vehicles, estimated to reduce 15,600 tons of CO2 annually. 

This year Bavaria, our brewer in Colombia, will roll out 200 electric trucks as part of its sustainable mobility plan that aims to reduce carbon emissions by 25% by 2025.

Beyond our direct operations, a partnership between our technology and innovation hub Z-Tech, Ambev and the startup Lemon Energia is providing small retailers in Brazil with convenient access to renewable, clean energy. In Europe, our brewery in Leuven, Belgium is providing local farmers and community partners with access to millions of liters of purified water. 

To further accelerate action, AB InBev signed a $10.1 billion sustainability linked revolving credit facility earlier this year to incentivize progress across our 2025 Sustainability Goals. "Our business is closely tied to the natural environment, and it is imperative that we continue to strengthen our leadership in addressing the increasing threats of climate change,” said Chief Financial Officer Fernando Tennenbaum. 

Protecting natural ecosystems 

Water is at the heart of what we do: simply put – no water, no beer. More than that, water is a critical resource for the health and well-being of every community we serve. 

There isn't a one-size-fits all solution to building water resilience, so we apply a localized seven-step watershed management plan in water-stressed areas. In Brazil's Jaguari River basin, this process is already driving restoration across 160 hectares, increasing water availability and seasonal flow.  

To help protect an endangered Colombian watershed, miPáramo partners with local and smallholder farmers living in the buffer zone of the High Andean Wetland of Santurbán. 

We're supporting organizations that empower people in local communities to protect their water supply. Along with numerous local and international partners, our miPáramo project works with local farmers and communities to conserve the High Andean Wetland of Colombia, a region impacted by water insecurity. So far, the project has spread to 11 municipalities, protecting more than 5,200 hectares (12,800 acres) of forest.  

Driving inclusive growth  

We're committed to driving inclusive growth and ensuring that no one is left behind in the recovery from COVID-19. Empowering women as equal economic participants builds more resilient communities, which is why we have launched training programs to elevate women business owners. We're also working with women farmers to help improve productivity and profits that go right back into supporting their families and, in turn, their communities.  

AB InBev counts more than six million retailers among our most valued partners. These are mostly small businesses, owned by families and run by the female head of the household.

In developing economies, we're working with farmers to drive sustainable growth by rolling out blockchain technology that improves transparency and creates a digital economic identity, and in regions with underdeveloped agricultural sectors, we're working with governments to boost rural economies by launching products that create a market for local ingredients. Meanwhile, in South Africa, an innovative artificial watershed is turning our brewing leftovers into sustainable crops for local communities. 

Partnering for sustainable innovation  

The sustainability challenges our world faces are complex, and no one entity can solve them alone. We collaborate with governments, our suppliers, NGOs, universities and innovators to tackle the most pressing challenges and deliver systemic change — including via our 100+ Accelerator, which just welcomed 36 startups to its new cohort.  

Agronomists use our SmartBarley platform to help farmers improve productivity through data and analytics. Recently, we expanded the capabilities of the platform by integrating it with Sentera technology.

In agriculture, we have partnered with Sentera to provide better support to farmers in our supply chain through remote-sensing technology, which enables them to respond faster to weather events during the crop season, building resilience against the increasing impacts of climate change.  

To help scale sustainable practices, our Eclipse supplier collaboration platform is designed to develop and advance solutions to the shared issues faced across the value chain. To further support these efforts, we hosted our very first Sustainable Supply Chain Challenge in June, inviting six startups to pitch their best ideas for a sustainable and resilient supply chain. 

Showing up as part of the solution

Building a better, more inclusive and equal world is a task that can only be achieved when we work together. We're confident that by operating as a local company with global scale and a focus on inclusive sustainable growth, we can be part of the solution for communities around the world, and for current and future generations. We're excited to connect with peers, innovators, dreamers and change-makers at this critical event, and to build a roadmap toward a better world.  

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