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AB InBev Sustainability Report: Waste Down 55% in a Year

Anheuser-Busch InBev cut the amount of waste it sent to landfills by 54.8 percent year-on-year, from 104,946 metric tons in 2011 to 47,341 in 2012, according to its 2012 Global Citizenship Report.

The brewer says it managed this achievement even though its overall materials use increased slightly.

In the same period, the amount of materials AB InBev recycled and composted rose by 2.8 percent, from 5,937,251 to 6,102,819 metric tons, and materials used as fuel rose 27 percent, from 6,038 to 7,648 metric tons.

As the company announced last month, the changes brought its recycling rate to 99.2 percent for solid waste and byproducts – above its target 99 percent rate.

Last year three of its Brazilian factories recycled 2,450 tons of kieselguhr, also called diatomaceous earth, which the company uses to filter yeast and protein products out of its beer. The company turned the spent kieselguhr into 525,000 bricks. 

Report overview

The 71-page report is self-reported at GRI Level B.

The company has already revealed its major achievements on water, energy, carbon emissions and recycling, meeting targets against a 2009 baseline. These include reducing water use by 18.6 percent, to what the company says is a leading-edge rate of 3.5 hectoliters of water per hectoliter of production; decreasing carbon emissions by 15.7 percent; and increasing the company’s recycling rate to 99.2 percent for solid waste and byproducts.

AB InBev says that later this year it will announce a new set of challenging global environmental goals, pending a review of its first three-year cycle and consultation with stakeholders.

This year the company plans to pilot a lifecycle analysis tool to help it understand environmental impacts throughout its value chain. It expects that such a tool will play an important role in helping it shape and achieve future environmental and cost-savings goals. 

Packaging

AB InBev says it saved nearly 30,000 metric tons of forest products and more than 300 metric tons of aluminum in the US by reducing the thickness and amount of primary and secondary packaging, such as aluminum cans, boxes, partitions and cartons – although the timeframe for this reduction wasn’t clear.

The company saved 562 metric tons of aluminum in 2012 by slightly changing its can lid diameter in China. AB InBev is also rolling out an initiative to reduce the thickness of metal bottle crowns by over 21 percent, in Europe, North America and Latin America North.

In 2012, the company’s Brazil operations developed a 100 percent recycled PET bottle for its Guaraná Antarctica soft drink. The firm says that at its current production rate, the change to recycled PET is not only saving 2,100 tons of packaging materials and using 70 percent less energy, but also using 20 percent less water.

Water

The company cut relative water use at its beverage facilities 5.7 percent year-on-year, from 3.71 hl/hl in 2011 to 3.5 in 2012. On an absolute basis, water use fell 5 percent, from 1.45 billion to 1.377 billion hl.

The company draws 47.6 percent of its water from municipal sources, 34.8 percent from ground water, and 17.6 from surface water.

But agriculture accounts for about 95 percent of the water used to produce AB InBev beers, and the company has not reported any metrics for agricultural water use. Last year it conducted a water risk assessment of its global barley supply chain, which will provide a prioritized list of areas on which to focus, and the company aims to develop a long-term water strategy for its supply chain.

Wastewater

In 2012, about 73 percent of water not used in AB InBev’s products was returned to local watersheds, with 62 percent treated and released, while 11 percent evaporated into the atmosphere.

Since 2009, the company has built or upgraded 123 bio-treatment systems throughout its worldwide operations – 31 in 2012 alone – to minimize impacts on local watersheds. All its greenfield projects and plant expansions include new bio-treatment systems or upgrades of existing systems. Recovering bio-gas fuel from these systems is a company requirement (see also Energy, below).

In 2012, the company enhanced the bio-treatment system at its Planta Sur facility near Buenos Aires, by installing a membrane bioreactor (MBR). The MBR system is much more compact than the previous bio-treatment system and discharges essentially drinking-quality water, AB InBev says. The brewer plans to study the Planta Sur installation to gauge opportunities for future projects.

Also in 2012, AB InBev’s Maranhão, Brazil facility doubled its production output and significantly increased the capacity and efficiency of its bio-treatment system. Previously, the plant released treated effluent into area waterways. Now it pumps three million liters of treated water per day into a nearby settling pond for reuse by neighboring company Alumar, a major aluminum producer.

GHGs and energy

AB InBev’s absolute, direct and indirect GHG emissions fell 6.7 percent over the course of 2012, from 4.33 million to 4.04 million metric tons CO2e. This data encompasses beverage facilities and most vertical operations, including malt plants and packaging facilities.

AB InBev’s GHG intensity fell 4.8 percent year-on-year, from 9.36 to 8.91 kg CO2e per hl of product. Meanwhile its energy intensity fell 3.7 percent year-on-year, from 122 to 117.5 MJ per hl of product, and absolute energy consumption fell 3.2 percent, from 47.6 million to 46.1 million GJ. These metrics all refer to beverage facilities only. The energy consumption figures include on-site and purchased energy.

The company says its reduced energy consumption has saved the company about $82 million since 2009.

In 2012, renewables made up almost 6 percent of AB InBev’s global energy mix. The company is increasingly using bio-gas, produced from its organic waste, to help power operations. By the end of 2012, 38 of its bio-treatment installations had this bio-gas recovery and reuse capability, up from 27 in 2011.

The company also uses solar, wind and biomass. Its Brazil operations get nearly 30 percent of their thermal energy needs from renewable biomass and bio-gas. AB InBev plans to sell carbon credits from its registered renewable energy installations in Viamao, Brazil, and other parts of South America.

Scope 1 accounts for almost 61 percent of the firm’s emissions, and Scope 2 for about 39 percent. The company has begun to document some Scope 3 emissions from suppliers’ transportation and logistics activities.

Logistics

AB InBev hasn’t reported comprehensive data on logistics yet, but describes a few successful initiatives. In Brazil in 2009 it introduced a shared logistics program. Rather than return empty after delivering products to distribution centers, trucks now carry loads back from partner companies such as Sara Lee, Unilever and BRF Brazil Foods. Since 2009 this has saved 6.3 million liters of diesel and avoided 663 tons of carbon emissions, and the program continues to grow.

In the US in 2012, the company increased intermodal transportation to save 6.4 million liters of diesel fuel and prevent 17,000 metric tons of GHG.

And under the Dutch government-funded logistics program Lean and Green – now expanded to Belgium and Italy – AB InBev cut CO2e emissions by 9,905 metric tons in 2012. As part of the program, it has committed to a 25 percent CO2e emissions reduction over five years.

Other issues

In 2012, AB InBev paid $39,400 in environmental fines. The report did not say where these fines were incurred or what they were for.

The company uses its Voyager Plant Optimization (VPO) system to manage every aspect of brewery operations, including environmental performance. By the end of 2012, about 95 percent of its beverage plants throughout the world had been certified in accordance with its VPO requirements. Most of the plants that have not yet been certified are newly acquired or commissioned, and activities are underway to reach full compliance, the company says.

Click for coverage of AB InBev’s sustainability reports from 2012, 2011 and 2010.

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