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Heineken, UNIDO Team Up to Drive Sustainability Efforts in Water-Scarce Developing Markets

Heineken's Sol bottling plant in Mexico | Image credit: The Manufacturer

Heineken last week announced plans to team up with The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as part of a new sustainability initiative to support environmental and social growth movements in the developing world.

The core focus of the partnership will be water stewardship and conservation, especially in those areas classified as being “water-scarce” — communities vulnerable to the range of issues that come alongside drought. The initiative will primarily concentrate on Heineken breweries in Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Tunisia, which currently fall into this category. The brewer anticipates that the program will directly help it to deliver its earlier commitment to reduce water consumption in these countries to 3.3 hectoliters of water per hectoliter of product (3.3hl/hl).

Michael Dickstein,
Director of Global
Sustainable Development,
speaker at
Sustainable Brands 2015
San Diego

Beyond water stewardship, the partnership has two additional components: Firstly, the initiative will further explore opportunities to grow Heineken’s Supplier Development Programme to a wider range of countries across Africa. This goal ties in strongly with the company’s commitment to source 60 percent of its raw materials locally for each of its breweries, thereby improving the livelihoods of small communities and stimulating job and economic growth. At present, Heineken runs its development program in nine countries (covering more than 100,000 farmer families across Africa); however, alongside UNIDO, it wants to expand this further.

The third aspect of the collaboration will be focused on renewable energy growth and community inclusion. The partners will conduct a feasibility study to identify available renewable energy sources to supply their African breweries, providing both environmental benefits and a more attractive balance sheet. The study will also investigate the potential to redirect any excess energy generation into local communities.

"We look forward to working with Heineken to transform the ambitious goals that we have jointly set into concrete actions,” commented Li Yong, Director General of UNIDO. “Ultimately, we want to improve the lives of people in developing countries and make a meaningful contribution to inclusive and sustainable development while, at the same time, creating flourishing markets that foster business opportunities."

Sean O'Neill, Chief Corporate Relations Officer of Heineken, said: "This international partnership with UNIDO will help us deliver the commitments that lie at the heart of our Brewing a Better World philosophy. More important, it supports our desire to create an approach to inclusive growth across all of our stakeholders."

As well as contributing to local communities, the new partnership will help to increase Heineken’s renewable energy provision globally. Last year the company announced it had doubled its renewable energy generation, increasing the percentage of renewable electricity it uses in its global operations from 9.3 percent in 2012 to 18 percent, to a total of 358,100,000 kWh.

The initiative’s focus on water stewardship and localized supplier development will also help the company reach its 2020 sustainability goals. Its sustainability report last year showed good progress; it had increased its sourcing of local raw materials to 42 percent (with a 60 percent goal by 2020) and decreased its water usage to 4.1hl/hl (targeting 3.3hl/hl by 2020). With the support of UNIDO, Heineken hopes it can move even closer to those targets this year. 

Hannah Ritchie is a graduate in Environmental Geoscience from the University of Edinburgh. She is now working towards an MSc in Carbon Management, with an interest developing a fair and equal model for working towards a sustainable future across the… [Read more about Hannah Ritchie]

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