While it’s widely expected for companies to drive sustainability outcomes by setting specific, time-bound targets, reaching goals is a unique journey for every business. Innovation, investment and operational excellence all play a part in a successful outcome, but the most important factor is establishing a healthy culture of sustainability that integrates this mindset into every aspect of the business.
Our company recently announced that we have made significant improvements in our environmental performance over the past three years. This included reducing our energy usage by 12%, our greenhouse gas emissions by 15.7%, and reaching a leading-edge level of 3.5 hectoliters of water used for every hectoliter of beer made, an 18.6% reduction. All these efficiency gains were achieved largely without significant investment in sophisticated, new technology.
Like any company with global reach, our operations around the world face different local conditions. Challenges ranging from the age and capabilities of equipment, to the variety in quality and supply of natural resources, mean that implementing a “one-size-fits-all” solution is often impossible. The only silver bullet that can help a company achieve environmental targets is to instill a culture of environmental conservation into everything every employee does, every day. This concept is certainly not new, but it is also something that is much easier said than done. In our experience, ensuring that we incentivized and challenged our 118,000 colleagues to make changes wherever they could – large and small, in each of our more than 140 breweries and soft drink facilities – was the only way to reach our three-year targets. Along the way, we found some critical elements for establishing such a culture of sustainability:
1. Elevate sustainability initiatives to the same level as other business-critical functions
With employees around the world, it can be difficult to get everyone to prioritize sustainability initiatives. From the boardroom to the brewery floor, the expectation should be set that environmental performance will be emphasized equally alongside other business-critical functions. In this way, companies will be better able to get all colleagues on the same page – focused on achieving sustainability targets.
Developing an operational management system that sets environmental targets alongside those for quality, safety and efficiency can help to drive company-wide coordination. Our management system is called Voyager Plant Optimizations (VPO), and is customized for our operations. A company’s system should include policies, guidelines and procedures to help teams execute more efficiently, while still encouraging innovation and creative collaboration. VPO has helped align our entire organization and is the main reason we have achieved our environmental targets.