SABMiller logo


SAB Ltd water measures help global reduction targets

17 March 2009

Johannesburg, 17 March 2009 - The South African Breweries (SAB) Ltd has set itself a target to reduce water consumption by at least 10% in the coming few years.  In so doing, it aims to support the SABMiller plc objective of reducing water consumption across the group by 25%.

SABMiller, one of the world's leading brewers, recently announced a major new commitment to reduce water consumption across its global operations. The group has set itself the target of reducing its average water use per litre of beer by 25% by 2015. This initiative will save around 20 billion litres of water globally every year by 2015 - enough to fill eight thousand Olympic-sized swimming pools. 

Water quality and availability is a key priority for the South African beverage industry, which is heavily reliant on water-intensive raw materials, while operating in a water-stressed country.  Along with all companies in the SABMiller group, the key focus is therefore to produce more beer and, in SAB Ltd's case also soft drinks, but using less water.

"This is a big challenge for us," says Janine van Stolk, SAB Ltd's Communications Manager.   "We are very conscious that our portfolio of beer brands has increased, but at the same time we're also very serious about reducing our water consumption rates even further."

SAB Ltd's current performance across its beer division is 4.4 litres of water used for every litre of beer produced, against the global industry average in 2008 of 5 litres. The company's target is to reduce its average water consumption to below 4 litres of water for every litre of beer.  SAB's Soft Drinks division (ABI) currently uses about 2.4 litres per litre of soft drinks manufactured, with a target to reduce its water consumption to less than 2 litres by 2015.

"We have had a number of successes so far, and we are committed to continue looking into how we can reduce our water use within both our operations and our supply chain.  By implementing a number of new technologies and operational efficiencies at our plants, we are well on our way to meeting our water reduction targets," van Stolk concluded.

By 2015 SABMiller aims to reduce its global water consumption footprint to an average of 3.5 litres used to make a litre of beer. In 2008 this figure was 4.6 litres; the global industry average is 5 litres.

"In an increasingly water constrained world it is critical that we become as efficient as possible, whilst working with communities to protect water resources", SABMiller CEO Graham Mackay said. "This is an extremely challenging, but achievable target, and sets a new industry benchmark."

For more information, please contact Dominique van Onselen on 082 802 8184.

Some of SAB Ltd's water reduction measures include:

  • Company-wide reporting for more effective monitoring and management of water consumption.
  • Anaerobic digestor treatment plants, which treat effluent, are now installed at five of SAB's seven breweries.
  • Secondary recycled water is used for non-product related tasks such as cleaning, floor washing and garden watering.
  • At one SAB brewery, 2,000hl of water per day has been saved through recycling a bottle washer's final rinse water for reuse in a crate washer and floor cleaning.
  • Backwash water is also used at the Appletiser plant. Waste water from the plant's manufacturing process is carefully cleaned and filtered before before being reused to irrigate the neighbouring apple orchards or returned to the nearby river.
  • SAB also works with water catchment management agencies, an initiative of the Department of water Affairs and Forestry, in areas where it has operations to map out future water demand and availability.
  • SAB is also a partner of WWF's Water Neutral Scheme, in which SAB voluntarily monitors and reduces its operational water consumption, and then off-sets the residual by investing in projects that clear alien invasive vegetation, which in turn releases equivalent volumes of water back into natural aquatic ecosystems. In an initial pilot phase, two of SAB Ltd's breweries - Newlands in Cape Town, and Ibhayi in Port Elizabeth - have been linked to the Water Neutral Scheme. This pilot phase will be used to develop and refine the scheme, before it is made available to other participants.
  • Because agriculture is heavily dependent on water to produce crops for the beverage industry, finding water savings in agriculture is another imperative for SAB, and the company is examining its water footprint along its value chain to unlock any reduction opportunities there
  • Last year, SAB conducted watershed mapping in partnership with Coca-Cola to research long-term water supply viability and availability for its Devland and Midrand plants. The lessons learnt through that exercise have allowed SAB to understand the potential business risks of water supply constraints. This allows the company to more proactively consider infrastructure and supply chain issues to ensure business continuity.
  • SAB Maltings, SAB's barley malting company based in Caledon, forms part of the company's value stream, and has the same water reduction measures in place as for beer and soft drinks. A project currently under consideration here is the installation of water treatment facilities to reduce water consumption as well as effluent discharge.
  • The SAB Hop Farms in the George area are irrigated using permanent irrigation systems drawing water from farm dams that are filled from boreholes, rivers, or furrows out of rivers, during times of water availability. The hops can be irrigated in three ways - by drip, micro-jet or overhead sprinkler systems, depending on the farm and the type of soil. A neutron probe measures the field capacity and wilting point of the crop to assess water availability. Readings are taken three times a week to indicate if, when and how much water is required to maintain the correct balance at any given time. This has considerable benefits for the efficient use of water.

About the 5R water responsibility model

As part of the global SABMiller Sustainable Development Framework, SAB Ltd has also adopted a new ‘5 R' model of water responsibility, developed by SABMiller India, to galvanise its operations around the new water strategy.

  • Protect - Influence farmers to ensure responsible water use and understand the watersheds we operate breweries and bottling plants within
  • Reduce - Change attitudes and behaviour to reduce water consumption within our plants
  • Reuse - Collect waste water streams within facilities and re-use appropriately
  • Recycle - Investigate new technologies to recycle water for appropriate use within the plant
  • Redistribute - Provide local communities with clean water through community investment programmes and treat waste water so it can be used for irrigation or other purposes.

The South African Breweries (SAB) Ltd

The South African Breweries Limited was established in 1895 and employs in the region of 8,800 people, including its soft drink division ABI. It owns seven breweries with a brewing capacity of some 31.4 million hectolitres. Total beer volumes during the last financial year to end March 2008 reached 26.5-million hectolitres.  SAB Ltd is the South African subsidiary of SABMiller plc.


SABMiller & Water

SABMiller was a founding signatory of the UN CEO Water Mandate in July 2007, along with Coca Cola, Nestle and Levi Strauss. Signatories commit to leadership in direct operations, supply chain and watershed management, collective action, public policy and transparency.

Further information on the UN CEO Water Mandate can be found at

More information on SABMiller's work on water can be found at

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 Grolsch, Miller Genuine Draft, Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Pilsner Urquell, as well as market-leading local brands such as Aguila, Castle, Miller Lite, Snow and Tyskie.  SABMiller is also one of the largest bottlers of Coca-Cola products in the world.

In the year ended 31 March 2008, the group reported US$3,639 million in adjusted pre-tax profit and revenue of US$21,410 million.  SABMiller plc is listed on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges.

Jasmita Chauhan
Tel: 021 426 1233
Fax: 021 426 1353

The information in this email (and any attachments) is confidential. If you are not the intended recipient, you must not use or disseminate the information. If you have received this email in error, please immediately notify me by "Reply" command and permanently delete the original and any copies or printouts thereof. Although this email and any attachments are believed to be free of any virus or other defect that might affect any computer system into which it is received and opened, it is the responsibility of the recipient to ensure that it is virus free and no responsibility is accepted by Corporate Image Holdings (Pty) Ltd, for any loss or damage arising in any way from its use.

Back to news index