With more than 100 brands—including Michelob ULTRA, Busch, Stella Artois, Goose Island, and of course, Budweiser—no North American brewer is associated more closely with American beer (and Clydesdale horses) than Anheuser-Busch. The company was founded in 1852 and now has about 18,000 employees and 23 breweries that span the continental US from Los Angeles, CA, to Baldwinsville, NY. As a high-profile company that depends on natural resources, Anheuser-Busch takes sustainability very seriously.
Angie Slaughter is vice president of sustainability procurement at Anheuser-Busch. She is responsible for working cross-functionally to lead the company’s sustainability goals for the North America Zone operations. Her responsibilities have included developing strategies for renewables, sustainable agriculture, water stewardship, and sustainable packaging. Previously, Slaughter held various roles in procurement, including work with agricultural commodities, raw materials for vertical operations, and utility, water, and wastewater contracts for the company. She started in Brewing Engineering with the company in 1997 and is a licensed professional engineer with the State of Missouri.
Slaughter will be the keynote presenter at the 2019 TAPPI Pulping, Engineering, Environmental, Recycling, and Sustainability (PEERS) Conference, which will be held October 27-30 in the brewer’s “home city” of St. Louis, MO. (Learn more, or register online, at www.tappipeers.com.) Paper360° asked Slaughter to tell us more about the sustainability efforts of a company with some of the country’s most iconic beverage brands.
Paper360°: How does Anheuser-Busch view the business case for sustainability in production? How do you communicate that to stakeholders?
Slaughter: We take great pride in our sustainability efforts and have a long history of striving to be good stewards of the environment. As the leading brewer in the US, we recognize the huge opportunity and responsibility we have to help protect the environment and to inspire others to do the same. As beer is a natural product, a healthy environment is crucial to the brewing process.
To drive awareness of Anheuser-Busch’s efforts to achieve our ambitious 2025 US Sustainability Goals (see sidebar), we leverage our portfolio of beers to do so in ways that resonate with consumers. For example, during the Super Bowl, we broadcasted our ad titled “Wind Never Felt Better” to creatively show consumers how the Budweiser Wind Farm at Thunder Ranch in Oklahoma provides more than 50 percent of our purchased electricity in the US—and more than 100 percent of Budweiser’s needs.
How does Anheuser-Busch view the role of packaging in influencing brand recognition and consumer choice?
Packaging is not only critical to brand recognition and driving consumer choice, but it’s also our greatest asset to educate consumers on our sustainability efforts. Each brand’s packaging and point-of-sale materials provide us a platform and opportunity to communicate with consumers in a way that they can tangibly see what we’re doing—while driving preference and delivering on quality.
For example, consumers may not see our Budweiser Wind Farm at Thunder Ranch, but our Budweiser packaging features a 100 percent renewable electricity logo that symbolizes Anheuser-Busch securing half of its purchased electricity from wind power, which is more than the electricity used to brew Budweiser each year.
Your 2025 Sustainability Goals include 100 percent of packaging materials be either returnable or comprised of 50 percent or more of recycled materials. What has been the biggest challenge for Anheuser-Busch in this area? How can paper and packaging manufacturers help you meet these challenges?
While aluminum is infinitely recyclable, the biggest challenge has been with glass. An aluminum container can be melted down and re-used over and over again offering hope of true, 100 percent “sustainability” in the beer/beverage container lifecycle. However, non-aluminum beverage containers rely on all or some percentage of single generation raw materials use, and we are constantly looking for new solutions.
We understand that some of the most innovative sustainability ideas come from our supply partners, including those in paper and packaging. We are committed to working together to bring packaging solutions to market and to reducing carbon emissions throughout our supply chain. Our goal is to work directly with our suppliers to collectively reduce our environmental footprint across our value chain by 25 percent by 2025.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share about Anheuser-Busch, or about your upcoming PEERS Conference Keynote?
At Anheuser-Busch, our teams and colleagues across the country have been hard at work finding new, innovative ways to reduce the environmental impact of our brewing and logistics operations in pursuit of our 2025 U.S. Sustainability Goals. We’re really proud of all the work we have done so far, such as achieving a 99.8 percent recycling rate in our US breweries.
However, we’re not resting on our laurels and will continue to push forward.
Anheuser-Busch Sustainability Goals by the Numbers
Water and plants—the two most critical resources not only for papermakers, but for brewers as well. As a company that relies on renewable resources, Anheuser-Busch has made a commitment to sustainable production that it says extends “from seed to sip.”
“We set goals and work hard to reduce the environmental impact of our brewing and logistics operations by using more recycled content in our packaging than ever before; working to convert our entire dedicated fleet to zero emissions vehicles; and obtaining more purchased electricity from renewable sources to reduce our carbon footprint,” according to the company’s media. “We work closely with organizations like RE100, Enel Green Power, Water.org, National Forest Foundation, River Network, Keep America Beautiful, Living Lands & Waters, The Nature Conservancy, Closed Loop and The Recycling Partnership to ensure our commitments and programs drive meaningful change for our environment.”
Here are some of the company’s efforts and goals, by the numbers:
• Water usage across Anheuser-Busch’s 12 major breweries has been reduced by almost 50 percent over the past 10 years (the equivalent of 73 billion cans of beer)
• Those same 12 major breweries have a recycling rate of 99.8 percent
• The company has pioneered new barley varieties that use up to 40 percent less water
• To reduce carbon footprint, the company plans to order up to 40 Tesla and 800 Nikola trucks powered by renewable energy
• More than 50 percent of Anheuser-Busch’s purchased electricity comes from renewable resources
• Launched in 2018, the company’s 2025 Sustainability Goals address four critical areas:
-Renewable Electricity and Carbon Reduction: 100 percent of purchased electricity will come from renewable sources; and CO2 emissions across the value chain will be reduced by 25 percent.
-Water Stewardship: 100 percent of facilities will be engaged in water efficiency efforts; and 100 percent of communities in high stress areas will have measurably improved water availability and quality.
-Smart Agriculture: 100 percent of direct farmers will be highly skilled, connected and financially empowered.
-Circular Packaging: 100 percent of packaging will be made from majority recycled content or will be returnable.