Futureproofing a company through sustainability and purpose

Preeti Srivastav is the Group Sustainability Director at Asahi Europe & International. She leads the sustainability effort at Asahi, helping the beverage giant to bring sustainable products to millions of people and creating a legacy they can be proud of. 

‘What is our purpose?’ There aren’t many bigger or more vital existential questions than this. Examining the meaning of our existence as individuals is always a soul-searching experience. The same can certainly be said of defining our purpose as a business. 

At Asahi Europe & International we pride ourselves on our delicious beverages which bring people together. We know that creating meaningful connections lies at the core of our business. But our purpose is also far broader than this. 

Asahi’s ethos is grounded in our commitment to have a unique and positive impact on people and the planet. As leaders, we believe it is our responsibility to use our size and scale to influence others, and to shift the direction of the market to help halve global emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero by 2050.

We are living in uncertain, unstable times. Everywhere we look, we see extremes – in heatwaves, hurricanes, floods, and droughts. We are living in a climate emergency. Conditions are currently on track to get worse, given that global carbon emissions are still increasing year on year. But we must not let this result in inertia. Climate action has truly never been more important.

This context has been central to the development and implementation of Asahi’s Legacy 2030 sustainability strategy. Legacy 2030 is driven by our purpose of creating a legacy that we can be proud of, for people and for the planet. It is founded on transparency and honesty. Legacy 2030 covers every area of our business – from water consumption to renewable energy, to sustainable sourcing and agriculture, to circular packaging, and responsible consumer choices. It informs every decision we make at Asahi Europe & International.

Climate action has truly never been more important.

This commitment to our purpose and to sustainability is exactly why we have been working hard to reduce our overall carbon footprint by more than 40% since 2010. Our social and environmental purpose is also why we now use 40% less water compared to a decade ago, and why we’re now above the industry standard for water usage. As of January this year, just 2.93 litres of water is needed to brew one litre of beer on average across our breweries in Europe. We are working towards reducing this figure to 2.75 litres of water per litre brewed across our breweries by 2025. We’re also aiming to source 100% of our ingredients sustainably by 2030. We are already sourcing 100% of our barley locally, mostly directly from farmers, in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Italy.  

Legacy 2030 has set us in the right direction, and we are on track to fulfil our sustainability goals in the short and medium term. Looking to the future, our long-term goal is to reach carbon neutrality across the business and throughout the whole supply chain by 2050. We don’t yet know exactly how we are going to get there. Believe it or not, that is all part of the plan. What we do know is that this approach will drive innovation and collaboration. It will force us to be reflective and constantly measure what we are doing right, and where else we can improve. It will unite us with others who share our purpose-driven approach, and foster mutually beneficial, exciting partnerships. 

We know that to continue delivering on our priorities across all environmental, social and governance aspects of our business, we must futureproof our organisation, and adapt it for an ever-changing world. Continued growth is impossible without being sustainable. We also know, above all, that we can’t achieve our sustainability goals alone. We know from experience that collaboration is paramount. 

The Economics of Mutuality principles from Saïd Business School has been indispensable in our sustainability journey so far. The Economics of Mutuality is a ground-breaking management and investment innovation based on fifteen years of in-depth academic research and business practice. It has helped us transition towards becoming a more sustainable business, allowing us to deliver greater value to people and planet while also providing superior business returns. 

Collaboration has also been key in the development of our flagship sustainability project For Hops. Our Plzeňský Prazdroj brewery has joined forces with Microsoft, Agritecture Consulting, the Hop Research Institute, and the Hop Growers Union of the Czech Republic, to help Czech farmers efficiently irrigate their crops using AI and machine learning. This will help farmers better understand when they need moisture and ensure efficient cultivating – particularly during periods of drought and water scarcity. The For Hops project is a prime example of sustainability, collaboration and futureproofing all coming together.

Another pioneering partnership for Asahi is Campus Peroni, a collaboration between Birra Peroni, Saplo Malting Plant, CREA (National Research Centre for Agriculture) and the Agriculture Departments of six universities in Italy. Campus Peroni is a centre of excellence promoting training and innovation, spreading a culture of quality and sustainability in the agricultural sector. The collaboration with academia provides opportunities to the 1,500 farmers of the Peroni supply chain, who have become real tutors. In guiding the students’ learning of the cultivation process, malting process and management of a modern farm, they too are progressing sustainability and futureproofing the sector. 

Ultimately, Asahi is committed to being a force for good for people and the planet. This purpose-driven approach to our business is founded on the belief that collective action is key to success. We know that some of our best, most innovative and sustainable projects are those founded on mutually beneficial partnerships, in which there is a constant exchange of knowledge and expertise. 

The transformational sustainability projects borne of our partnerships with likeminded organisations, businesses, NGOs, and academic institutions such as Saïd Business School all have common threads. They are always purpose driven, and they always benefit our business, our partners, our planet, and society. 

The climate crisis is a global challenge – our response to it must be too.