Bringing People Together
For a Better World
More than just the critical ingredient in all of our products, water is a precious resource for the communities where we operate.
Most of the water used to make our products, more than 90 percent, goes into growing the barley and other agricultural inputs used in the brewing process. Some of our agricultural suppliers, as well as our beverage plants, are located in water-stressed regions.
As the world's leading brewer, we are in a unique position to help improve how fresh water is managed and set an example for reducing water risks. We do it by squeezing every last drop from our production … by helping our barley suppliers grow more with less … and by working with global and local stakeholders to improve water conditions at the watershed level.
As a signatory to the UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate and a member of its steering committee, AB InBev has integrated the Mandate's six core elements in our approach to water management: direct operations, supply chain and watershed management, collective action, public policy, community engagement and transparency.
AB InBev annually updates water risk assessments at our breweries and other manufacturing facilities throughout the world.
It is a two-step process. First we apply the World Resources Institute's (WRI) Aqueduct tool, a globally recognized water-risk assessment tool, and ask some high-level questions.
If this tool indicates that a particular facility may be at risk, we look much deeper into that facility, covering areas of physical, regulatory and reputation risk using our own custom-designed assessment tool that also requires action plans to manage and reduce risks.
To enhance our water risk assessment process even further, we have integrated it into our global management system, known as Voyager Plant Optimization (VPO) and our Supply Excellence Program. We regularly engage our experts throughout the company through technical meetings, quarterly conference calls and an annual water-risk workshop at our global environment and safety conference. We also engage with local water stakeholders to verify the risk and seek ways to partner on solutions.
We use the WRI Aqueduct tool and onsite assessments to verify water risks in our barley supply chain and meet with a variety of stakeholders to search for ways to improve water management and reduce risk for all users.
Barley Growers Programs and Pilots
AB InBev relies on independent farmers around the world to grow the barley we use to make our vast family of beers. We have a long-standing approach of partnering with our growers on improving crop management practices. Helping growers achieve the highest quality barley with the best yields and lowest costs mitigates our supply chain risk, reduces our growers' environmental footprint and improves the economics of producing barley.
We pursue an integrated and holistic approach to supporting our growers — investing in the development of improved varieties, providing access to high quality seeds and other quality inputs, and deploying skilled agronomists and field specialists that work with growers to strengthen crop management practices. Our team works directly with more than 20,000 barley growers worldwide, representing more than 1 million hectares of cultivated malt barley area across Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Mexico, Russia, the United States and Uruguay. In recent years, we have expanded our advanced breeding programs, taking our decades of experience in the United States and South America to a global scale in order to help increase yield, reduce disease risk and improve quality across our global barley regions.
We have conducted a robust water assessment in our key barley regions — identifying local water availability and water quality concerns, mapping relevant stakeholders for potential partnerships and developing locally tailored pilot initiatives that improve water management. Two key criteria of our pilots remain: the need for collaborative action with growers and other local stakeholders, and the scalability of the initiatives. In 2014, we developed and launched four high impact water management pilot projects, summarized below.
Barley Water Management Pilot Project — United States
In Idaho, we are working in partnership with local stakeholders to develop and promote an irrigation scheduler program called AgriMet. The program links local climate station data to a web and mobile application that enables growers to optimize their use of irrigation. In 2014, AB InBev funded the installation of six new AgriMet climate stations, coordinated three case studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology, and incorporated 25 growers into the pilot within our Idaho farming community.
Based on positive feedback and results, showing a 9% to 20% reduction in water use for participants, the pilot will be expanded to four additional AgriMet stations in Montana in 2015.
WPartners in helping deliver this impactful water-saving technology to the field include the regional U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service, University of Idaho and Washington State University.
Barley Water Management Pilot Project — China
In China, we executed large-scale irrigation trials in partnership with the state supported Gansu Academy of Agriculture Sciences (甘省科院), to identify optimal irrigation practices for select varieties in the province. Grower demonstrations were held throughout the season to discuss the trials, review results and promote best irrigation practices. Findings from the trials — assessing both the agronomic results and malt quality impact — will be communicated and reviewed with our growers and supporting scientific community, and we are underway with an expanded irrigation trial in 2015.
Barley Grower Pilot Projects — Mexico
In collaboration with the federal program MasAgro and industry association Centros Impulsor, among others, we are advancing the use of nitrogen sensors in the Bajio region to improve nitrogen use efficiency. This initiative builds on years of research and field trials that demonstrate the potential of this technology to reduce fertilizer applied on malting barley by 40%, while maintaining the same or better yield. Not only does this help increase malt barley profitability for our growers, but it also helps combat growing water quality concerns in the region. In 2014, we established demonstration trials and distributed sensors to growers and field technicians to trial and demonstrate the benefits of this technology. In 2015, we are expanding our promotion and training programs, while working through the collaboration to improve the market availability of the technology.
In the rain fed Altiplano and irrigated Bajio regions, we are collaborating with the development bank FIRA, Centros Impulsor and others to promote best conservation agriculture practices for barley and other crop production. The pilot expands upon existing initiatives to focus on barley-producing areas where knowledge and adoption of conservation practices are limited. We are working with our partners to train technicians in conservation agriculture, which includes an important set of practices that improve soil health, reduce soil erosion and increase soil moisture retention. In 2014, we supported numerous demonstration trials and facilitated education and promotion events aimed at increasing the awareness and adoption of conservation agriculture. With an additional 6,000 hectares committed under conservation agriculture practices in 2015, we look to advance this important collaborative initiative for years to come.
We use a robust benchmarking process to share best practices and drive productivity gains within our operations. In 2013, we took this to the field, developing a platform for our growers to anonymously compare their barley production practices and outcomes across our global grower network. This platform, called Smart Barley, enables growers to use data and share best practices to deliver value to their farms and communities, while strengthening our supply chain.
SmartBarley is playing an important role in helping us achieve our water-management goals by identifying opportunities to improve resource management, reduce water risks, increase efficiency and water productivity, and measure the success of soil and irrigation management pilot initiatives.
In 2014, we unveiled a new website for the program: www.smartbarley.com. The site provides a program summary, along with an overview of our SmartBarley growers across Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Mexico, Russia, the United States and Uruguay. More than 2,000 growers are currently participating in SmartBarley, and we have plans in 2015 to expand to new growers and new countries, while improving the program to deliver even greater value to our grower network.
In order to drive social change and start conversations about water conservation in water-stressed regions of Brazil, AB InBev launched the CYAN movement in 2010. As part of this initiative, we have partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to establish a watershed restoration program in the drought-stricken Jaguariúna region, which supplies water to the greater São Paulo area as well as our local facility. Large-scale deforestation in the area has negatively impacted the watershed and, without the critical plant root systems to hold topsoil in place, hundreds of thousands of tons of sediment are released into the Jaguari River every year. This reduces the water volume of the river, which is near capacity, and strains local water supplies, limiting economic growth.
Our large-scale green infrastructure project with TNC, called Project Bacias, aims to better manage important Brazilian water basins and improve the quality and quantity of water available. To this end, we are collaborating with local stakeholders like the Jaguariúna Bureau of the Environment, the Brazilian National Water Agency and Sao Paulo Road Development Public Limited Company. Together, we are devoting financial and technical resources to conservation projects, reforestation of riverbank vegetation and soil conservation techniques.
In light of a recent drought that impacted the region, this is an ambitious and timely project. This partnership aims to demonstrate the importance of investments in green infrastructure as part of watershed management, as well as brings together critical partners needed to scale the project into the rest of the Jaguari River basin. Planned activities in 2015 include additional technical support, more community engagement and calls for project proposals from rural landowners. We also plan to replicate the project in other municipalities in the Jaguari and Jundiai watersheds.
Read more about our Responsible Supply Chain Sourcing.