Member Spotlight: Andre FourieApril 16, 2020 | BIER
Name: Andre Fourie, Global Director: Water Sustainability
Company: Anheuser-Busch InBev
Welcome to our series aimed at spotlighting the individual leaders within BIER member companies and stakeholder organizations. The idea for this series was conceived well before the start of the current COVID-19 crisis, and we believe that in challenging times like these, stories of positive impact can provide some much-needed relief. So, we invite you to learn how these practitioners and their companies are addressing pressing challenges around water, energy, agriculture, climate change and what inspires each of them to advance environmental sustainability in the beverage sector and collectively, overall.
Which of your company’s sustainability initiatives/achievements are you most proud of?
While we continue to make progress on our sustainability efforts, AB InBev’s focus right now is on doing what we can to support communities as they fight COVID-19. Specifically, AB InBev is manufacturing more than 1 million bottles of hand sanitizer to donate to hospitals and frontline workers around the world. This is effort is echoed by many other leading companies in our sector in an effort to protect our colleagues, support our customers and consumers, and strengthen the efforts of local healthcare workers for the benefit of communities.
Outside of these current efforts, the sustainability-related initiative I’m most proud of is how AB InBev responded to the water crisis in Cape Town in 2017. The city could have potentially run out of water due to water shortages, and local communities were required to cut back on their water use. Our brewery in Cape Town had a long-standing commitment to water efficiency and had sufficient availability of water from a local spring located on land owned by the brewery; the brewery already had a long tradition of providing access points to the spring for the local community at no cost. As “Day Zero” approached, the brewery reached an agreement with the City Council to relocate the spring access point so that it could continue to provide the community with quality drinking water, but in a manner that could be managed by the municipality. The brewery also developed a plan to switch from brewing beer to bottling over 12 million bottles of water for the South African government to distribute to communities in need, if it became necessary (fortunately for the community it did not). This example has helped shape a new strategy for how AB InBev can operate our breweries and support our communities during drought emergencies.
What is your favorite practical insight you have gained from being in BIER?
My favorite practical insight is the realization that while each of our companies has its own unique operations, internal challenges, and specific objectives, the broader sustainability journey we’re on is a shared one. As a result, there is so much we can learn from one another. BIER provides a safe space to share challenges, opportunities, and lessons learned and to inform each other’s thinking to maximize the impact of the unique work each company is undertaking.
How has being in BIER shaped your sustainability strategy/enriched your sustainability strategy?
At AB InBev, I lead our water stewardship efforts specifically, and our perspective is that the challenges associated with water are very much local. BIER has enriched our sustainability strategy by helping to shape a conversation on water that recognizes how meaningful context is. By engaging with NGOs and academia, we are trying to inform how to target and define a water strategy in a way that takes into account local context, enabling us to commit to truly relevant goals and have real impact.
What area(s) of BIER’s work and the working group initiatives are you most interested in? Why?
I’m most interested and engaged in the BIER Water Working Group. In particular, I’m most interested in the workaround identifying high-risk watersheds where a number of BIER members have shared interest and commonality due to having operations within these high-risk basins. This allows members to collaborate, work towards common goals, and have an impact at scale in these basins.
What’s one cool thing people might not know about you or your company?
While people may know that AB InBev is the world’s largest beer company, they may not realize that we are also an extremely local company. We currently have more than 500 beer brands within our portfolio, most of which are local brands that use local ingredients and local water, are produced locally, and sold locally. Our goal on water stewardship is that by 2025, 100% of our communities in high-stress areas will have measurably improved water availability and quality—so our aim is really to have an impact at the local level. As the COVID-19 crisis tests our individual and collective resilience, we believe efforts that help local communities build long-term resilience—such as water and climate resilience—is more important than ever.
BIER Publications referenced in this interview:
Context-Based Decision Guide for Water Reuse and Recycling
Performance In Watershed Context
The Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) is a technical coalition of leading global beverage companies working together to advance environmental sustainability within the beverage sector.
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