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America’s Biggest Brewery Goes Green

This year has proved to be a challenging time for countless organizations across the U.S. While many small businesses didn’t have the capital to weather the storm of events that began in the spring, many big businesses struggled to adapt their models, as they operated under a rigid structure. Anheuser-Busch, (AB) parent company of favorite brands including Michelob Ultra, Stella Artois, and Budweiser, reacted to the global pandemic with surprising agility for an organization its size. With over 30,000 employees, they reshaped their distribution network, helped restaurants reopen safely in the United States, and worked to protect vital members of their supply chain.

Meanwhile, the global struggle has only reinforced AB’s efforts toward sustainability. Ezgi Barcenas, vice president of global sustainability for AB InBev, told GreenBiz, “I really feel like this global situation is a stress test for sustainable development, compelling all of us to think about it more holistically, more collaboratively, and to be more flexible and continue to work together to create value for our entire value chain.“ In 2018, Anheuser-Busch unveiled its  bold sustainability goals, and two years later, despite global turmoil, we are starting to see what the future has in store for big beer.

During the past couple of years we’ve heard a lot of sustainability pledges come from small, medium, and large-sized companies. When your local brewery installs solar panels it saves a ton of energy, but when a massive, multinational beverage conglomerate like Anheuser-Busch pledges to source 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources, we are talking about a truly colossal amount of kilowatts. In 2017, AB partnered with Enel Green Power, and became the “world’s largest purchaser of renewable energy in the consumer packaged goods sector.” Through these large purchases of renewable energy from wind and solar farms as well as investments in their own renewable energy, Anheuser-Busch is poised to brew with 100 percent wind and solar power by 2021 – four whole years earlier than they expected.

To reduce their carbon emissions in the supply chain, AB is trialing a variety of low and zero-emission vehicles. In 2015, the company switched 150 trucks from traditional diesel to compressed natural gas, and in 2020, they’ve converted 180 more trucks (30 percent of their vehicles) to renewable natural gas (RNG).

Renewable natural gas is an advanced biofuel and a clean-burning alternative to traditional fossil fuels. In addition to their investments in RNG, Anheuser-Busch ordered 800 Nikola hydrogen-electric trucks and 40 Class 8 Tesla electric trucks. The renewable fueled trucks will drive AB to their goal of reducing the carbon footprint of their entire value chain by 25 percent. In the years to come, they have plans to transition their entire fleet of trucks to renewable power, and they expect the shift to reduce carbon emissions by 18 percent or the equivalent emissions of 13,000 passenger vehicles. 

Operating 23 breweries and 23 agricultural packaging facilities, Anheuser-Busch is well aware of the importance water plays in their product. After all, beer is almost 95 percent water. So AB has pledged that 100 percent of their breweries and facilities will engage in water stewardship and efficiency efforts. With their plan to reduce water consumption by an extra 9 percent, they will save more than 740 million gallons of water. Anheuser-Busch is constantly looking for ways to save water, even holding a yearly water efficiency competition for its employees with prizes including two tickets to the Super Bowl.

AB’s volunteers worked with NGOs and removed over a million pounds of garbage from waterways and planted over 68,000 trees while ensuring water quality and drinking water access to high-stress communities. For the firefighters working day and night to contain the wildfires across the United States, Anheuser-Busch delivered 300,000 cans of clean water and donated 1.5 million dollars to local firehouses.

Since the 1980s Anheuser-Busch has worked to make their ingredients as clever and high quality as possible, even inventing their own pest and drought-resistant variety of barley. With barley, wheat, and other brewing ingredients coming from all over the US, and even the world, AB makes a constant effort to ensure their farmers are farming smart. About 98 percent of their barley comes from US farms, and Anheuser-Busch’s team of agronomists meet local farmers where they are either in person or online to go over the smartest and most efficient farming practices. 

These efforts towards maximum efficiency also come into play in their commitment to producing 100 percent circular packaging, meaning packaging that is made with recycled materials or can be completely recycled. A year after their climate pledge, AB announced that 12 of their flagship breweries had already achieved an almost 100 percent recycling rate. Around 70 percent of the materials they use in their cans are recycled, and through a new partnership with Rio Tinto, they plan to produce one million 100 percent recyclable cans of Michelob Ultra this year. According to Environmental + Energy Leader, Tinto’s low carbon aluminum could reduce carbon emissions from Budweiser’s can production by more than 30 percent. Plus, the cans are completely recyclable, so remember to toss the empties in the recycling bin.


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