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WWF and SABMiller unveil water footprint of beer

18 August 2009

Honduras water treatment plant

Business value of water footprints revealed in South African and Czech studies.

Water footprinting is being increasingly used to understand the total amount of water that supports our lifestyles - the water used to create the clothes we wear, the food we eat and the beverages we drink. At this year's Stockholm Water Week, SABMiller and WWF, two members of the Water Footprint Network, will publish a report which explains the water footprint of the whole value chain for SABMiller's beers in South Africa and the Czech Republic.

SABMiller and WWF are working together on water footprinting to better understand the quantity, efficiency and geographical context of water used to produce beer in order that this resource can then be better managed. The two organisations are using the insight provided by water footprinting to develop targeted programmes to improve water management. For example SAB Ltd in South Africa already works with barley farmers to improve their yields and water use, and with WWF the company is now considering how to develop this further to protect the watersheds within which it operates.

A water footprint encompasses the entire value chain, from crop cultivation and processing, through to brewing and distributing the beer and details the total water input, both direct and indirect. The new report reveals that in South Africa, the total water footprint is equivalent to 155 litres of water for every 1 litre of beer such as Castle lager and Carling Black Label. The vast majority of this (98.3%) comes from the cultivation of crops, both local and imported.

For Plzensky Prazdroj, SABMiller's Czech operation and home of Pilsner Urquell, agriculture is again the most significant component; accounting for over 90% of the total water footprint. However the overall water footprint is significantly smaller at 45 litres of water to every 1 litre of beer. This difference is due to a number of factors including weather, the reliance on irrigation in South Africa and the proportion and origin of imported crops.

In comparison with other beverages, beer's water footprint is relatively small; for example an independent report* has estimated that coffee, wine and apple juice all have water footprints more than three times that of beer. However, the water footprint figure itself does not give the whole picture. More important is the context - where it is used, what proportion of the area's total water resource it represents, and whether water scarcity creates risks to the environment, communities and businesses now or in the future.

Stuart Orr, WWF's freshwater footprint manager, said: "The water footprints of SABMiller's beers in South Africa and the Czech Republic are the first detailed corporate water footprints to be published and are progressive in the way they examine the impact of water use within these countries. Most important is that this information is now used to ensure that their business partners - particularly farmers - are encouraged to use water more efficiently."

SABMiller head of sustainable development, Andy Wales, explains "Water footprinting enables SABMiller to understand which parts of our supply chain might face water scarcity, or poor water quality, in the future, and means that we can plan now to deal with these future challenges.  We will build on our existing partnerships with WWF in South Africa, Colombia, and Honduras to create further local watershed protection projects to reduce risk whilst protecting the environment"

Download the report here


 *Source: Pacific Institute, February 2009

- ENDS -

Notes to editors:

About SABMiller
SABMiller 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 2009, the group reported US$3,405 million in adjusted pre-tax profit and group revenue of US$25,302 million. SABMiller is listed on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges.

High resolution images are available for the media to view and download free of charge from http://www.sabmiller.com/

About WWF
The way we live is leading to environmental threats such as climate change, species extinction, deforestation, water shortages and the collapse of fisheries. WWF's One Planet Future Campaign is working to help people live a good quality of life within the earth's capacity.

For more information visit www.wwf.org.uk/oneplanet

About 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 2009 reached 25.9-million hectolitres.  SAB Ltd is the South African subsidiary of SABMiller plc.

For more information visit http://www.sablimited.co.za/ 

About Plzensky Prazdroj
With total sales of over 10.7 million hectolitres in the calendar year 2008 (including licensed production abroad) and exports to more than 50 countries around the world, Plzensky Prazdroj a. s. is a major beer producer in the Czech Republic and the largest exporter of Czech beer.

For more information visit http://www.prazdroj.cz/

SABMiller and WWF's local collaborations
SAB Ltd in South Africa is already working with WWF and the South African government's Working for Water Programme to offset the water used by two breweries in scarce regions. In agriculture, SAB is working with WWF to develop methods for barley farmers to improve water use and encourage sustainable agriculture.  

In Colombia, there is a joint project between WWF and SABMiller's subsidiary, Bavaria, to develop and promote strategies which reduce the water footprint, protect natural ecosystems and improve the efficiency of Bavaria's water use, through institutional, scientific, logistical and financial cooperation. One of the first steps in this will be to calculate the water footprint of Bavaria's value chain.

In Honduras a memorandum of understanding has been signed by Cerverceria Hondurena and WWF, agreeing to work together to protect the different water basins which drain into the Mesoamerican Reef in Honduras. Works has already started different NGOs to protect the different water basins at the Merendon Mountain Range which supplies over 80% of the water to San Pedro Sula. The initial focus will be the protection of the basins by reforestation of the affected areas. Also as part of the agreement, WWF is working with Cerveceria Hondurena and Coca Cola to implement the Water Efficiency Toolkit at both the soft drink and beer plants.

SABMiller also has active local water projects with The Nature Conservancy in Colombia and through its joint venture MillerCoors in the United States.

Contacts:
Bianca Shevlin, Corporate Media Relations Manager, SABMiller
+44 (0)20 7659 0172

Robin Clegg, Senior Press Officer, WWF
+44 (0)7771 818707

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