In response to a push by institutional investors, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), the world’s largest brewer, has pledged to make the transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2025. The move is part of a wider engagement that has support from a coalition of 34 institutional investors across eight countries representing more than $1 trillion in assets under management.
The RE100 initiative, which is calling on companies to publicly pledge to switch to 100% renewable electricity in their international operations by an agreed date, is coordinated by ShareAction, a UK-based nonprofit.
“This commitment is significant, as it accounts for around 90% of AB InBev’s total electricity consumption and is expected to reduce the company’s operational carbon footprint by 30%,” according to a statement from ShareAction. “This strategy will make AB InBev the largest corporate direct purchaser of renewable electricity in the global consumer goods sector, at around 6 terra watt hours of total electricity consumed.”
The addition of AB InBev brings the RE100 initiative’s membership to 89 companies.
AB InBev’s announcement to join the environmental initiative was spurred by a letter sent by large investors, including KBI Global Investors, the McKnight Foundation, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. The investors wrote to AB InBev in January expressing their desire to invest in environmentally sustainable companies. The group had previously written to SAB Miller before its acquisition by AB InBev. “In the current political climate, with commitments to mitigate climate change under threat, it is even more important than ever that investors work together to encourage appropriate policy changes in the companies in which they invest,” Eoin Fahy, head of responsible investing and KBI, stated. “In joining the RE100 initiative, companies such as Anheuser-Busch InBev are pressing ahead with real and substantive changes to the way they do business. This is clearly in the best interests of the environment and society at large, and – importantly – AB InBev’s shareholders, too.”
“Obviously there’s a range of factors at play in any company decision, but, with the backing of the RE100 investor coalition, what ShareAction aims to do is demonstrate to companies that there is support within the investment system for decisions that prioritize both the sustainability and the longer-term stability of opting for renewable electricity,” Clare Richards, a campaign manager for ShareAction, said. “Through helping to drive corporate demand for renewables, in turn that helps to give project leads and investors the confidence to develop the infrastructure and supply necessary for a low-carbon economy.”
The group calculated that about half the world’s electricity is used by companies, and if more of them made the shift to sustainable sourcing, it would have a significant impact. “The AB InBev announcement is a great example of how investor engagement can help to amplify and encourage a company’s sustainability plans,” Richards said. “In AB InBev’s case, as you’d expect, they’ve spent a number of years working on its 2025 target.”
By Chuck Epstein