Everyone: “The earth is on fire!”
Budweiser: “Hold my beer.”
When corporate giants purport lofty sustainability agendas, they tend to allocate an ambiguous start date in the distant future. This initially seemed to be the case with Anheuser-Busch, the makers of Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Corona. The beer industry goliath announced plans in March 2017 that all energy it purchases will come from renewable sources by 2025, which they claim will reduce its carbon footprint by 30%.
While this start date seems far-off, Anheuser-Busch has already taken a drastic step-forward on committing to its new sustainable agenda: brewing using 100% wind energy.
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The company publicly launched its initiative in, arguably, one of the most iconic commercials of the 2019 Super Bowl in February. The commercial featured the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales, a ridiculously endearing dog, and Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ set as the musical backdrop; the combination was enough to elicit pathos from even the most cynical of viewers. The intended message rang clear: your next six-pack will be “brewed with 100% wind power.”
Anheuser-Busch has now been brewing with wind power for over a year. And, if the company fully commits to its long-term sustainable agenda, it’s set to be the largest corporate direct purchaser of renewable electricity for the global consumer goods sector.
Turning heads from the tech industry
Just a few years ago, the behemoths of the tech industry like Amazon and Google surged ahead of other industries in the construction of renewable energy plants. Now, the consumer goods sector is shaping up to be a formidable contender in the coming years. Anheuser-Busch joined the ranks of the 176 RE100 list, predominantly made up of tech companies, that have made a commitment to go ‘100% renewable’.
Yet, despite Anheuser-Busch’s commendable efforts, technology companies currently still reign as the largest and most sophisticated corporate energy players. According to Wood Mackenzie, a market research firm, Facebook, Google and Amazon hold firm as the top businesses in corporate power purchase agreements.
But as the costs of wind and solar power become drastically lower, sustainable energy sources are getting attention from a broad range of companies. And, the cost-effectiveness isn’t the only allure of pursuing an eco-friendly product line. More than ever, consumers are taking a company’s sustainable agenda into consideration before purchasing a product. That’s right, sustainability is now a lucrative marketing asset.
Progress to be made
While there’s no doubt that this is a major step forward for Anheuser-Busch, most of its energy will still come from conventional energy sources. As of right now, only about half of the electricity needed in their 12 domestic breweries is sustained through renewable energy resources. Budweiser still heavily relies on energy sources such as natural gas to generate the heated needed for production.
The company is transparent about its progress; Budweiser professes on their website that “nearly one-third of our brewing comes from electricity,” while the rest comes from heat. The company purports that it is working towards fully transitioning to “low carbon sources,” but the date in which they plan to put this into effect still remains ambiguous.
When all is said and done, Anheuser-Busch’s admirable eco-friendly restructuring could very well just be a covert attempt to sell more beer. Its sales of domestic beer has dropped by 4.2% last year, and Miller Lite beat out Budweiser to claim the number 1 title of the country’s favorite beer. Perhaps Budweiser’s main objective for jumping on the sustainability bandwagon rests in monetary gain alone. And, if this is their agenda, there’s no doubt this would be a financially savvy move. Investment in environmentally sound businesses has doubled over the last three years and is projected to grow.
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