Why sharing means security

SABMiller was a pioneer in the use of water footprints to better understand ecological and business risks around water.

Our bespoke water risk assessment process helps us to better understand the nature and extent of local water risk.

It gives us a detailed, watershed-level, site-by-site picture of our water exposure. The process begins with a one-off mapping of watershed and identification of key policies, regulations and stakeholders. On an annual basis we assess water risks and profile stakeholders, work that informs specific action plans for each prioritised risk and guides the way we engage with different stakeholders.

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View our approach to water risk assessment

While water scarcity is a risk to our business operations, it can also have severe human and economic consequences for local communities. Nearly all of our breweries have now evaluated their exposure to water risk using our bespoke water risk assessment process. Each brewery has identified and prioritised risks and developed action plans in consultation with local stakeholders.

Our focus is now on implementing these action plans – with the aim of effectively mitigating the risks water scarcity poses both to our sites and to local communities. Water risks – and the appropriate response – vary by watershed. The four most frequently recurring risks we face are shown in the table below.

Water risk Description Example of material risk
Water availability Increasing urbanisation and water demand place availability under pressure and extreme weather events, in particular droughts, impact water supplies to our breweries. Two of our breweries in Maharashtra, India, have had to locate alternative water supplies due to the municipal utility being unable to provide the quantity required during the current drought.
Infrastructure and regulatory environment Unreliable water infrastructure can cause interruptions to supply for our breweries. This can be compounded by a weak regulatory environment. Our brewery in Accra, Ghana, has experienced interrupted water supplies due to frequent infrastructure failures in the city. The brewery is currently working with the city utility to review potential mitigation actions.
Declining water quality Treating poor quality water requires significant investment both to purchase water treatment equipment and in ongoing operating costs. In Zambia, our facilities in Lusaka are currently constrained by both water quality and quantity. While short-term solutions can be found, in the longer term, we need sustainable solutions to tackle water quality and quantity at scale so that we avoid this added cost, and local communities do not face the same problem.
Reputation With growing water scarcity, there is increased competition for this scarce resource, and companies can be perceived as the problem, however efficient their water use. In El Salvador, our Nejapa soft drinks bottling plant has faced pressure from stakeholders who fear potential over-extraction of the local aquifer. In response, we have withdrawn a request for an environmental permit for a water bottling plant located in the area while more studies about the health of the aquifer are completed, and we are working to facilitate clean water access for the local community. To date, water and sanitation services have been established for over 300 local families.