How Heineken USA Does Sustainability

In the corporate world, “sustainability” has gone from being a forward-thinking concept to a buzzword, to a must-do. Though many companies now pay lip service to sustainability initiatives—with varying degrees of success—they have gradually become more transparent about their actions and outcomes. One of our largest locally based companies, Heineken USA, recently released its 2014 Sustainability Report, and we decided to look into how the beverage behemoth is working to make improvements in its sustainable business practices.

The report identifies what Heineken USA has been up to this past year in a number of areas including reduction of gas emissions, water conservation, and improvements in shipping methods.

According to Tara Rush, Heineken USA’s senior vice president and chief corporate relations officer of sustainability, sustainability is crucial to the company’s operation. “As the world’s most international brewer, we have a responsibility to the communities in which we operate,” says Rush. “We want to ensure the responsible consumption of our products as well as reduce the impact of our production on the environment. For example, beer is 95 percent water—we need this vital resource to continue to make great beer the way we have for the past 150 years. Sustainability is critical to the longevity of our business.”

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For example, 23 out of Heineken’s 160-plus global breweries have been identified as “Priority One,” meaning that they are located in water-scarce or water-stressed areas of the world. These breweries are focal points of Heineken’s water resource protection program.

Although the company is pleased with the results of this year’s report, Dolf van den Brink, the president and CEO, is still hoping to do more in the future to improve the company’s sustainability. “I have no doubt that even greater progress will be made in years to come,” says van den Brink in the report. “Heineken USA will continue to…reduce the environmental impact of our packaging and distribution, and develop new environmentally-friendly innovations.”

Some of the finer points detailed in Heineken USA’s 2014 Sustainability Report show that the company:

  • Achieved a 12-percent reduction in fleet greenhouse gas emissions over the past year.
  • Has begun shifting its focus to ocean freight carriers as a mode of distribution. Ocean freight carriers are capable of carrying massive quantities while using less fuel, making them a more efficient and eco-friendly option. Additionally, more freight carriers will lead to fewer trucks on the roads and fewer emissions.
  • Achieved 100 percent compliance with Supplier Code, which is a set of guidelines regarding sustainability that Heineken suppliers are expected to follow if they are to do business with Heineken.
  • Is aiming to have 50 percent of its raw materials be sourced sustainably by 2020.
  • Has achieved a 23 percent reduction in global water usage since 2008. This was completed one year before the 2015 target date. This progress will result in a more challenging and beneficial goal being set for 2020.
  • Introduced a new 100 percent recyclable BrewLock System for its “on-premise draught-beer delivery.” BrewLock is a new 20-liter keg that keeps CO2 and other gases out of beer to enhance the flavor of the beer when it comes out of the keg. The BrewLock kegs also use air pressure to dispense the beer, removing the need for the CO2 and N2 gas blend that used to move the beer. This system reduces waste by yielding 99 percent of the beer in the keg, as opposed to the standard 85 percent.
  • Achieved several high marks regarding sustainability from various groups including: 77 out of 100 (15th percentile) from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, a personal high score of 99 out of 100 from the Climate Disclosure Project, and an 11th consecutive inclusion on the FTSE4Good Index with a score of 98 out of 100.

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