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SABMiller, one of the world's largest brewers, and leading global environment organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have published the latest results of their Water Futures Partnership. The report highlights the immediate water risks impacting both SABMiller's operations and river habitats in a number of countries and the necessary actions to manage the long term problems.
The report, which mapped water footprints in Peru, Tanzania, Ukraine and South Africa, identifies the critical water challenges in each country and how they impact on SABMiller's operations. For example in Ukraine, water scarcity will be exacerbated by climate change, whilst areas such as the Donetsk region suffer wide-scale pollution of rivers and aquifers due to mining and steel manufacture. Climate change and the reliance on glaciers for water supply are impacting on water availability in Peru, and the over-use of agrochemicals has resulted in the pollution of irrigation channels and surface water bodies.
Andy Wales, SABMiller's global head of sustainable development said: "Faced with climate change, inadequate infrastructure and population growth, business cannot respond to these challenges alone. It is critical that a collaborative approach is taken and in a way which attracts the support of all relevant stakeholders."
The partnership, which also includes German development agency GTZ, has been operational for nearly a year during which time detailed research has been carried out into the water footprints of SABMiller's value chains, the long term challenges in the different regions and the current and future action required to address them.
Dave Tickner, WWF's head of freshwater programs called for greater collaboration: "It is vital that businesses, governments and NGOs acknowledge that the risks around watersheds are shared and the responsibility must be shared too. We hope that the Water Futures Partnership will serve as a catalyst for change, by inspiring others act to protect ecosystems and, in doing so, secure global water supplies."
In each country, more than 90 percent of water used in the production of SABMiller's brands relates to the cultivation of the raw materials such as hops and barley. However the water used in agriculture varies from around 150 liters per liter of beer in South Africa, to 55 liters in Peru. This difference is largely the result of the variation in climates, leading to different water needs for the crops.
Workshops have been held in all of the countries with NGOs, government representatives, local businesses and other stakeholders to begin developing detailed watershed protection programs. It is the translation of this theory into practice that will make a change in those communities that need it most. This will be the next challenge for the Water Futures partnership.
Water footprints by country
Peru: Backus, SABMiller's Peruvian subsidiary and brewer of brands such as Cusquena has a total water footprint of 61 liters of water to every liter of beer. Within the brewing operations, Backus uses 4.3 liters of water to every liter of beer, a figure which has improved 7 percent since 2008.
Tanzania: Throughout the value chain it takes 180 liters of water to produce one liter of beers such as Kilimanjaro and Safari in Tanzania. Since 2008 water efficiency in the brewing operations has improved by 11 percent, and now stands at 6.5 liters of water to each liter of beer.
Ukraine: SABMiller's Ukrainian business, Sarmat, has a total value chain water footprint of 61 liters of water to each liter of beer of which 6.9 liters are used within the brewery. As the business was only acquired by SABMiller in 2008, there are no comparable efficiency figures to measure improvement.
South Africa: A total of 155 liters is used in the value chain in South Africa to produce 1 liter of beer, indicating no substantial changes from the original study. In its breweries SAB Ltd uses 4.1 liters of water to each liter of beer, an improvement of 8 percent since 2008.
SABMiller plc is one of the world's largest brewers, with brewing interests and distribution agreements across six continents. The group's wide portfolio of brands includes premium international beers such as Pilsner Urquell, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Miller Genuine Draft and Grolsch, as well as leading local brands such as Aguila, Castle, Miller Lite, Snow and Tyskie. SABMiller is also one of the world's largest bottlers of Coca-Cola products.