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#SB14London: Heineken Reveals Secrets of Successful Intersection of Sustainability and Marketing

Kirsten Barnhoorn and Michael Dickstein | Image credit: Meritxell Taboada Zamora

Michael Dickstein, Global Sustainable Development Director at Heineken International, and Kirsten Barnhoorn, Heineken’s former global sustainability leader, led this interactive Q&A session following Dickstein’s morning plenary presentation.

The first question coming from the audience was: “How was Heineken able to convince marketers to look into sustainability issues?”

Barnhoorn answered by explaining that everything started from the company’s carbon footprint analysis. Initially, Heineken focused on the footprint of its breweries, but discovered the biggest environmental impact was represented by the CO2 emissions coming from refrigerators — when it comes to beer, cooling is obviously essential, but this was the major contributor to the company’s total carbon footprint.


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She encouraged then the team to focus on this new area — it was a small step, but the overall impact was big: Since this focus-shift, Heineken installed green fridges and reduced the energy consumption by 40 percent against the baseline set in 2010.

The second question: “How can we make sustainability efficient for the brand?”

Barnhoorn brought up Heineken’s effort to use the power of its brand to encourage responsible consumer consumption.

Dickstein showed the audience Heineken’s “IT (SM)ALL ADDS UP” campaign, which aims to inspire marketers to consider sustainability. Risk mitigation and waste reduction make a positive impact but also higher profits in the long term — he said marketers are surely open to listen to sustainability issues when it comes to profit.

Another question regarded “cause-related marketing” and Michael explained why Heineken chose to focus on brand identity instead. Charity programs are good but are often not connected to the brand. When brand identity comes first, it has the power to influence consumers and make a positive impact.

The “Dance more, drink slow” campaign is an example of how the company used its brand to send a strong and positive message to (especially) young consumers. The company played an active role in supporting the reduction of risky drinking and its approach encouraged responsible attitudes to alcohol while discouraging its abuse.

During the session the panelists also played the film Heineken uses to showcase the positive impact its sustainability initiatives are making around the world. All these stories show why sustainability matters and tell consumers what there is behind every drop of Heineken: water consumption reduction, recycling, eco-friendly packaging, responsible drinking — because at the end of the day, “every drop counts.”


Veronica is a social entrepreneur and Founder of Bridge For Good, a social entrepreneurship project aiming to facilitate collaboration between the private sector and the third sector. She also collaborates as blogger and researcher for CSR International and… [Read more about Veronica Recanati]