Ethical Performance
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Brewer to cut its water use

December 2008

One of the world’s largest beer makers has promised to reduce its water consumption throughout its global operations.

SABMiller has said it will cut water use by a quarter per litre of beer by 2015, saving about 20 billion litres every year during that period – enough to fill 8000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The company, which is listed in London and Johannesburg and owns brands such as Castle, Grolsch, Miller Lite and Peroni, said the target would be ‘extremely challenging but achievable’ and that it hoped to set a benchmark for other brewers.

SABMiller is committed to reducing consumption to an average of 3.5 litres per litre of beer. Its present figure is 4.6 litres, while the brewing industry average is five.

The importance of water in corporate responsibility programmes has risen rapidly during the past year, especially among food and beverage companies (EP9, issue 10, p1). SABMiller was a founding signatory of the United Nations Water Mandate in July 2007, along with Coca-Cola, Levi Strauss and Nestlé. Signatories agree to become leaders in cutting water use in their direct operations and supply chains, and to participate in watershed management in local communities.

Andy Wales, SABMiller’s head of sustainable development, said the group would adopt a five-pronged strategy. This will involve:
  helping farmers who provide ingredients to cut water use
  changing attitudes among staff at manufacturing plants
  re-using waste water
  investigating new technologies to recycle water within plants
  providing communities near plants with treated waste water and clean water through community programmes.

SABMiller’s South African subsidiary recently began a ‘water-footprinting project’ in partnership with the conservation body WWF. The project calculates how much water is used at every stage of production and the proportion of local water resources that this represents. In addition, it will make its experts available to assist farmers in becoming more water-efficient.

SABMiller, which has a $21billion (£14.2bn) annual turnover, is one of the largest bottlers of Coca-Cola products as well as being a leading brewer.

SABMiller | Global | Water

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