Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito spoke to just-drinks this week, as the group released its third round of sustainability targets

Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito spoke to just-drinks this week, as the group released its third round of sustainability targets

Earlier this week, Anheuser-Busch InBev unveiled its latest set of sustainability targets, with 2025 set as the deadline for the brewer to achieve its aims. In the second part of our subsequent interview with group CEO Carlos Brito, we look at what shareholders are telling him about the role of sustainability. We also discuss some of the latest pledges and consider how A-B InBev hopes to engage with consumers on sustainability.

just-drinks: What signs are you getting from A-B InBev shareholders that sustainability is something that matters to them?

Carlos Brito: More people are connecting with the fact that sustainability is our business, because of what we do. And, more people are connecting with the fact that we should work to supply things locally as opposed to importing.

Our sustainability targets have always been about our everyday actions. We haven't pledged to plant trees or get involved with things about our oceans, because that's not our business. Our business is about packaging, it's about water, it's about agriculture and it's about broader climate change. Those are the commitments we have.

j-d: Let's look at one your pledges for 2025 - 100% of A-B InBev's products will be in packaging that is in returnable or majority-recycled content.

CB: We have a big advantage here. Close to half of our global volumes are sold in returnable packages. Returning bottles has eight times less impact on our carbon footprint than one-way packaging.

j-d: If the company has that advantage, then, why will we have to wait until 2025 for you to hit 100%?

CB: We're at 46% of our volumes in returnable packaging today - when you look at our one-way packaging, glass is at 29%. Most of our one-way glass is in the US, where the availability of recycled cullet is sometimes limited. We want to increase the supply of that kind of cullet. 

Our aluminium commitment is to go from 51% recycled content today to 70%.

"To manufacture a glass bottle from basic silica and sand takes 100 units of energy. To manufacture that same bottle from recycled glass takes 40

Let's say that, to manufacture a glass bottle from basic silica and sand, it takes 100 units of energy. To manufacture that same bottle from recycled glass takes 40. For aluminium, the figures are similar.

If you can get the garbage collection to be more efficient and communities to understand that if they recycled their bottles and their plastic and their metal, then there's a big advantage for everybody.

j-d: How do you get consumers to engage in these efforts? Is that within your responsibility?

CB: We try to use our brands to get consumers to engage. The renewable energy flag for us will be carried globally by Budweiser, our global flagship brand. Beginning in April in the US, 100% of Budweiser will be produced with 100% renewable energy.

The symbol that we created in January - it's a battery with 100% - will be there on the Budweiser packaging. We're then going to do the same in all of Budweiser's markets around the world. Stella Artois has a campaign in its fifth year in conjunction with water.org, to provide access to water for communities with no access. When a consumer buys a Stella Artois chalice, they provide five years of clean water to a household. That's how consumers participate.

So, brands are one way to engage consumers and to affect change. The other way is, and Brazil today is a good example of this: The business used to be much more in returnables. Today, it has decreased a bit, it's still more than 50%, but it used to be 70%. Today, because of the country's economic crisis, consumers are going back to old habits. Returnables are back, big time. You have to get consumers to understand that this is better not only for their pockets, but also for their kids and the next generation.

Look at China today: One of the biggest pressures on the Chinese Government is pollution. For China's residents, they're feeling that their lives are much better than they were 20 years ago, but today their water and their air is really bad. They'll want their kid to have somewhere better to live. So, pollution is beginning to click with consumers, even in places where communication is controlled. 

All this is raising awareness of what it should be like, compared to what it is today. Our brands are pushing that message.

j-d: Beyond your 2025 goals, what's your definition of sustainability success?

A lot of people think of innovation in other areas but, in sustainability, there's much to be said about coming up with new ideas

CB: It's to get people to work together, to get our consumers to think differently and to get more innovation towards this area. A lot of people think of innovation in other areas but, in sustainability, there's much to be said about coming up with new ideas - innovation could make a big gain here.

Of course, we want too hit our targets; we've done it in the last two waves. To do that, we need to come to a level where people cooperate more.

To me, that's what success looks like.

To read part one of just-drinks' interview with Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito, click here