SABMiller: Collaborating to Address Water Risks in Agriculture
SABMiller has calculated its water footprint in four countries to determine which part of the beer value chain (agriculture, processing, brewing, bottling, or waste disposal) is most water-intensive.
In 2009, the global brewing company SABMiller, in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the German international development agency GIZ, calculated water footprints for the company’s operations and suppliers in Peru, Ukraine, Tanzania and South Africa. One of the goals of the effort was to determine which part of the beer value chain (agriculture, processing, brewing, bottling, or waste disposal) was most water-intensive. The assessment showed that in all four countries agriculture (primarily the cultivation of barley, corn and hops) accounted for over 90% of the water embedded in SABMiller’s products.
Beyond understanding where water was used across the value chain, SABMiller and its partners conducted watershed risk assessments in each of the four countries. The assessments were designed to determine the current status and health of relevant watersheds and water infrastructure, any risks the existing situation posed to the company, and trends in supply and demand (such as climate change and social and economic development) that would affect those risks over the next 20 years. A more detailed business risk assessment was also conducted that established the potential costs of these risks and the relative cost-benefit of numerous risk mitigation options.
Using these analyses as the business case for action, SABMiller, WWF and GIZ developed appropriate risk mitigation plans with farmers in stressed watersheds. For example, the project is tackling the water efficiency of agricultural suppliers of hops and barley for Kilimanjaro, one of Tanzania’s most popular beer brands. The project partners are working with farmers to educate them on the value of water conservation (introducing more efficient irrigation techniques and technologies) and providing incentive- based programs for farmers to reduce their water impacts.
These mitigation plans also include efforts to engage regulators and governments to support and participate in efforts to improve local water management. In Tanzania, for example, the partnership is undertaking a targeted communications program with senior government officials to raise the importance of water resource management. In South Africa it is working with key stakeholders in the Gouritz basin to establish a robust water monitoring system in collaboration with the Department of Water Affairs and other government agencies.