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How SABMiller Is Furthering the SDGs to Help the World ‘Prosper’

Image credit: SABMiller

International brewing company SABMiller released its 2016 Sustainable Development Report this week, detailing cuts to environmental impacts and updates to its ‘Prosper’ sustainability ambition to align more closely with the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The strategy covers the “five shared imperatives” of creating a thriving, clean, sociable, productive and resilient world.

“Prosper was launched in 2014, after well over a year in development. At the same time that we were working on Prosper, leaders of countries, businesses and civil society organisations were developing the framework of the SDGs. In fact, we were involved in the process ourselves,” SABMiller’s Director of Sustainable Development Anna Swaithes wrote in a blog post.

“So we knew that to meet the expectations of our stakeholders, Prosper would need to be clearly relatable to the SDGs. We also understood that the SDGs provide a great framework for assessing risks and opportunities.”

Click to enlarge. | Image credit: SABMiller

Many of SABMiller’s targets were already generally aligned with the broad aims of the SDGs; the brewer’s ‘thriving’ imperative relates to improving livelihoods and quality of life, it’s ‘resilient’ imperative includes securing clean water, and so on. The company identified how 11 of the 17 goals relate to their five themes, and developed a framework to track its contribution to the SDGs. Throughout its latest sustainability report, SABMiller uses the framework to share stories of its various initiatives through which the business contributes strategically and operationally to the SDGs. Some initiatives address more than one of the goals, such as the Latin American road safety initiative (featured on page 14), which addresses two of the SDGs, and the Eagle lager initiative (featured on page 10), which addresses ten.

In terms of footprint reduction, SABMiller says it is on track to halve its on-site greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per hectolitre of lager between 2008 and 2020. In the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2016, the brewer’s fossil fuel emissions per hectolitre fell by 5.4 percent, or about 1.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). The company is also closing in on its larger goal to reduce its total carbon footprint by 25 percent by 2020 from 2010 levels; since 2010, SABMiller has reduced its value chain carbon footprint by 19 percent. This includes a 21 percent reduction in packaging emissions, a 15 percent reduction from trade refrigeration, and a 38 percent reduction from manufacturing.

Around 97 percent of the spent grain from SABMiller’s breweries is reused, mainly in the form of animal feed or as a renewable fuel. 89 percent of brewery waste was recycled over the company’s last fiscal year, and 40 of its breweries now have generators which run on biogas captured from waste water treatment plants. During the year, all of MillerCoors’ major breweries became landfill-free.

In accordance with Goal 6 to ensure access to water and sanitation for all by 2030, SABMiller revamped its water efficiency targets. In the past year, it achieved its original goal to reduce brewery water use by 25 percent and achieved an average efficiency ratio of 3.2 hectolitres of water per hectolitre of lager product (hl/hl), exceeding its 3.3 hl/hl goal ratio. At 25 of its breweries, average annual water efficiency is already below 3.0 hl/hl; the new target aims to make this ratio the average across all of SABMiller’s breweries.

“What excites me about the SDGs is that, for the first time, the world has an agreed set of development goals which apply to every single country and to every single sector. If we can all find a way to coordinate effectively, the delivery of the SDGs will improve the life of every person on the planet, and also make institutions in the public sector, the private sector and civil society more successful in achieving both individual and shared objectives,” Swaithes wrote.

“We made a very conscious choice to align Prosper to the SDGs and to our commercial objectives, and we have now chosen to report externally on our progress in the same way, using the SDGs. It is a common framework that everyone has signed up to and that everyone understands. Over time, it should bring a universal approach to assessing development impact.”

Hannah Furlong is an Editorial Assistant for Sustainable Brands, based in Canada. She is researching the circular economy as a Master's student in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo and holds a Bachelor's in Environment and Business Co-op. Hannah… [Read more about Hannah Furlong]

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