Partnerships are key to tackling the world's greatest sustainability challenges, which is why we work with NGOs, local governments and businesses all over the world to drive forward progress.
More than just a key ingredient in our beer, water is a critical resource for the economic, social and environmental well-being of our communities. We brew our beers at the highest level of water efficiency and continually challenge ourselves to do even more. We are also focused on water outside our breweries. We have committed that by 2025, 100% of our communities in high stress areas will have measurably improved water availability and quality. That's why we've partnered with organizations such as The Nature Conservancy (TNC), catalyzing collective action to drive meaningful change.
TNC is a leading global non-profit that has worked to protect the world's lands and waters since 1951. We talked to Andrea Erickson-Quiroz, TNC's Acting Global Managing Director for Water, about some of our landmark projects together, countering climate change scepticism and the future technology that will change water conservation.
Why is water stewardship and security important?
Water touches every part of our lives, so it seems odd that we should have to even ask questions about water stewardship and security, but we do. Water flows under the consciousness of everything that's happening in our homes, our businesses and our communities. Yet somehow, it rarely rises above that consciousness. Water stewardship and security are both intertwined – they are concerned with how we care for water and how we know that resource is going to be in a good condition now, and in the future. Without them, we will not have water in the quantity, quality and timing that we need going forward. It's everybody's business. It's for all of us to think about the future of our water and what we should do to enable that future.
Is how we think about water changing?
There are still big hurdles in terms of bringing water to the top of the agenda, but it's becoming more present in top-level discussions. The World Economic Forum consistently rates water or water-related issues brought about by changes in precipitation and climate as a primary issue. One of the most important signals for me is that companies like AB InBev - leaders and innovators in this space - are truly committing to water as part of their Sustainability Goals, so that it becomes a C-Suite level issue. AB InBev can play a huge role in bringing this to the forefront with their industry peers. I also see dedicated people working on developing water systems understanding that they need others to be able solve these problems. Cross-collaboration is incredibly important as water security is both under invested and under resourced.
What have been some of your landmark projects with us?
AB InBev has been key to watershed restoration and river health projects in Latin and North America. In Latin America, you've helped us scale our work on water funds, supporting projects in multiple countries. Another big project has been our Green-Blue Water Coalition in Brazil, which perfectly demonstrates the collective power of a community of businesses coming together to raise the profile for the water issues we're facing, and together, offer solutions.
What are some of the specific challenges working in Latin and North America?
From the American West to São Paulo, there are very high levels of water stress, so many of the water fund projects focus on understanding the multiple layers underlying that problem. Another major issue is the intersection of agriculture and water – where there is agriculture there often comes deforestation, as well as water pollution. Water scarcity and quality as a result of a changing landscape are two key issues that we work to address with AB InBev.
How do you counter climate change scepticism?
I happen to sit in a conservative state in the US and getting into a profound conversation about the science of climate change is not as productive as asking ‘what are you doing different in your world today, why are you doing that and what else do you think is coming?'. In our role as conservationists and scientists, we need to help everyone move towards a better climate adapted future while doing everything we can to reduce emissions now. I'm very hopeful that we are close to the tipping point.
What future or current technology has the most potential to aid water conservation efforts?
We're at the edge of some exciting technologies and opportunities in big data and remote sensing for water. Today, you can look at a map and see every Starbucks on the planet, but you can't tell where that water came from to make your cup of coffee. There's currently no way of picking up on global data that tells us about the condition of water in real time, but agencies across the world are now looking at how to understand this through remote sensing. If we could make decisions based on live, real-time data versus long, expensive studies – that would be a huge breakthrough for the water sector. This could happen five years from now, but we have a way to go in terms of the science and actual application of it to be useable. Soon though, I believe we will be able to use some amazing tools.
Who will be some of the driving ‘change agents' over the next 10 years?
In issues of climate and water, I believe that Mayors in cities have an incredible role to play. They live outside the structures of federal processes and yet locally elected officials help set the policies for the vast majority of the world's GDP. As leaders, Mayors have the potential to set the vision for issues like climate responsibility to disadvantaged people, healthy environments with green space and the connection between cities and the rural areas around them. These municipal and local leaders have been incredibly powerful to date in these areas - especially water - which is often a local issue first and foremost. They're on the frontline solving these problems and give me great hope.
See more about the work we are doing with The Nature Conservancy by watching ‘Planting Nature' about The Mantiqueira Restoration Project in Brazil - internationally recognized for its successes in carrying out forest restoration and water conservation.