Water is the ultimate shared resource but global demand for it has doubled in the past 50 years. With the population growing ever bigger, global brewer Heineken is having to change the way the company uses water or it could face a 40% supply gap by 2030. How does a company this size conserve water use other than by reducing output (and thereby disappointing a lot of thirsty people)?
Heineken uses water throughout the whole supply chain – from growing crops to the finished product. Beer is 95% water so it is a critical resource for a beer business. The company focuses efforts on its breweries in water-stressed areas, such as Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Spain. The global programme to conserving water usage is headlined ‘Water Stewardship’.
Heineken has made several investments around the world as part of its Water Stewardship Program. For example, Multi Bintang (an Indonesian subsidiary) has run projects since 2012 to install biopori holes, which are narrow, meter-deep pits dug into the soil and filled with vegetable scraps and compost material. By slowing rainwater runoff, they preserve water and prevent flooding.
Water stewardship covers a few different things:
- reducing the water Heineken uses in breweries
- treating the water that is discharged back into the environment appropriately
- balancing the water they don’t put back in the environment by investing in water stewardship projects
Heineken has also established a Public Private Partnership with UNIDO, creating Water Stewardship programs to help communities local to Heineken breweries, increase local sourcing and find ways of using renewable energy sources at breweries. Key targets to 2020 include reducing water consumption by 30% in the company’s breweries, local sourcing of 60% of raw materials in Africa and lowering carbon dioxide emissions by 40%.