beverage, corporate watch

Heineken:Brewing Beer Sustainably

2 Comments 15 December 2010

Heineken:Brewing Beer Sustainably

Heineken participates in a comprehensive sustainability plan to conserve water in its brewing practices, an indispensable business strategy. Hester Swart, Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility Communication, met with the corporation’s supply chain to review Heineken’s water footprint studies on Monday 13 December 2010. Swart consulted with Heineken’s top water specialists Ron Bohlmeijer and Herman van de Bergh in Zoeterwoude, The Netherlands.

In an interview Swart told WaterWideWeb, “Water is one of the main ingredients of beer, accounting for the vast majority of our beer’s overall volume. Crops we purchase from suppliers need water to grow, particularly in those geographical areas with low rainfall. Heineken is conscious of the fact that the company does not operate in isolation with respect to watershed use. Heineken acknowledges that sharing local water resources with other water users comes with responsibilities”.

Efficient use of water and reducing water consumption is essential to the company’s future. Heineken faces various obstacles in its water conservation commitments. The corporation institutes various programs to achieve its goal of becoming an even more sustainable brewer. Please read the complete interview with Swart on Heineken’s water conservation plan.

EAB: What are some of the challenges that Heineken encounters to its sustainability plan?

HS: Water is becoming more scarce globally and every indication is that it will become even more so in the future.  Scarcity is expected to worsen in many parts of the world as a result of increasing population, urbanization, increasing food production, industrialization and changing consumption patterns. At the current rate of urbanization and insufficient investments in water infrastructure, the accessibility to clean water is already critical in some developing countries. Climate change is likely to exacerbate water scarcity and water quality problems due to changing rainfall patterns, severe drought, flooding and sea-level rise.

EAB: How are you working on this?

HS: We will pay special attention to areas where problems of water scarcity and pollution are most critical. We will engage in strategic partnerships and are and will be transparent about measureable targets with respect to water footprint reduction. Exchanging information about water footprints of communities and businesses will help to understand how we can achieve a more sustainable and equitable use of fresh water.

EAB: Are there additional challenges that Heineken faces internally?

HS: Yes, perpetuating water consciousness and integrating water resource management thinking into more than 140 breweries that Heineken operates around the globe.

EAB:  What is the largest use of your water?

HS: In the beer value chain, agriculture is the largest water user. Also the gray water footprint of our facilities is not negligible. The grey water footprint is the volume of polluted water, quantified as the volume of water required to dilute pollutants to such an extent that the quality of the ambient water remains above agreed water quality standards. Clearly, the reduction of the grey water footprint of agriculture is of importance to the Food & Beverages industry.

EAB: How are you working on decreasing the water footprint?

HS: Heineken will create awareness amongst suppliers to reduce their water footprint also. We also distribute a Heineken Supplier Code which outlines our sustainability commitments and the role of suppliers in delivering on those commitments. This Code lists relevant requirements of suppliers in certain areas of the world.

EAB: How does Heineken treat industrial waste water treatment before it is returned back into the environment?


Wherever we operate, we aim to clean our waste water prior to discharging it back into the environment. We treat industrial waste water at our own waste water treatment plants or through those of the local authorities. In 2010, we began constructing four industrial waste water treatment plants, three in Congo and one in Nigeria.

EAB: How is Heineken responding to these challenges?

HS: Heineken is committed to being an integrated sustainable brewer. The company published its first environmental report in 2000. In April, we launched Brewing a Better Future, our new sustainability ambition for 2020. The Brewing a Better Future program defines six strategic initiatives supported by 23 programs implemented worldwide. Water is one of the key focus areas of this program. Our set target for water reduction is 25% for the next decade.

EAB: Does Heineken partner with other NGO’s and organization on water conservation?

HS: In March 2009 Heineken endorsed the United Nations CEO Water Mandate, a measure to enforce both our sustainability and water management commitment. Heineken is also a member of the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER).

EAB: Can you describe the work of BIER?

HS: BIER is a partnership of leading global beverage companies working together to advance the standing of the beverage industry in the realm of environmental stewardship. The BIER members have developed six leadership principles that compel companies to Act, Engage and Communicate and Influence on matters related to water stewardship. The principles and their respective elements are intended to serve as the sector standard by which all beverage companies can guide and measure their stewardship efforts. The partnership concentrates on benchmarking, best practice sharing on various water management topics and the development of water foot printing sector guidance.

EAB: Does Heineken enlist the support of employees in water conservation efforts?

HS: Sustainability is a company-wide concern. Heineken recognizes the important role employees can play in becoming a more sustainable company. In addition, employers also expect their employees to demonstrate responsible behavior in all facets.

Within the Brewing a Better Future program, engaging employees is one of the strategic initiatives and it is taken seriously. Best practices on water are shared via the Heineken intranet, internal magazines, in our Brewing a Better Future e-room, as a case in the Heineken NV Sustainability Report and through workshops.

EAB: Sounds like you have a comprehensive water conservation strategy. Thank you for taking time to interview with

HS: You’re Welcome.

The photo above was provided by Heineken.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy:

Anheuser-Busch: Brewing a Beerable Future

Coca-Cola Company: Sustainable Communities

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