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I caught up with Carol Clark, Global VP for Beer and Better World, to drill deeper into Anheuser-Busch InBev’s latest CSR report. Key highlights:

The report is titled Connecting for a Better World. AB InBev makes beer. What’s the connection?

At AB InBev, our dream is to be the Best Beer Company in a Better World. We believe that taking consistent, active measures in our core areas of social responsibility means constantly connecting our business with our stakeholders, especially in the communities where we live and work.

It takes a team effort to address these issues. Through our work to promote responsible drinking, reduce our impact on the environment and support our communities, we work with others who share our collective goal of making a difference.

There’s a quote in the report from Carlos Brito saying “We’re not aliens.” Can you offer some context?

Carol_Clark_AB_InBevWhen Carlos Brito said, “We are not aliens …” he was responding to a question at the Business for Social Responsibility Conference last fall about why AB InBev actively promotes responsible drinking.

AB InBev today has over 116,000 employees operating globally. We live on this planet and share the same concerns as our friends and neighbors. Many of us are parents and understand how important it is to talk with our children to help prevent underage drinking.

Similarly, we don’t want to be on the road with drunk drivers, and we’re committed to supporting prevention efforts such as encouraging the use of designated drivers. We’re committed to addressing these issues not only from a business perspective, but also from a personal perspective.

What is the ROI in producing a comprehensive CSR report such as this one? Media mentions? Retention? Rankings? Anheuser-Busch_CSR_Report

Publishing our CSR report keeps us focused and accountable to our stakeholders and ourselves. The scrutiny that this annual process brings gives us an updated perspective to help us further drive our performance, engage our employees and very importantly, thank them for their great work over the past year.

From an external perspective, we’re satisfying the requests from varied stakeholders for transparency on our social responsibility efforts.

The report is over 80 pages. Who is your primary target audience? And, who would you want to target?

We have a lot of good things to talk about! We use the report to share our progress with diverse audiences – from community stakeholders to investors, to media, to government officials – around the world.

Alex Prud’homme author of The Ripple Effect recently said that “Water is the headlining story of our century.” Are you focusing on sustaining your business by reducing water use, R&D on water replenishment or identifying alternative products altogether?

Water is our primary environmental focus and we aim to reach a water usage rate of 3.5 hectoliters of water for each hectoliter of production by the end of 2012.

We tackle the issue of responsible water use by doing more to conserve both in our operations and in the communities where our breweries are located. Progress requires operational changes and continually applying the most updated technical innovations. It means going further with supply chain and community partners to help conserve water outside our walls. But it also requires reinforcing a mindset that doesn’t take water for granted.

[Anheuser-Busch InBev’s 2011 Global Citizenship Report]

It can be argued that 8.2% reduction in water usage since 2010 is not a lot. Primary challenges in reaching double-digit reduction?

Actually, if you look at the beverage industry, this is a significant achievement. And it’s important to keep in mind that we’ve focused on water and energy efficiency for some time now, so there is very strong year-on-year progress. And we’re also making these reductions while continuing to grow our business. That means that each year, our brewing operations teams find innovative ways to do more with less when it comes to water.

To date, we’ve achieved an average water use of 3.71 hectoliters per hectoliter of production across our global business, which represents a 13.7% reduction against our 2009 baseline.

Our target, which we’ve stated publicly, is to reach 3.5 hectoliters of water per hectoliter of production by end-2012, which will put us on the leading edge of water usage for the brewing industry.

Your report mentions the billions paid in wages and income taxes. Not a lot of reports make these metrics a part of their community development results. Why the emphasis on wages? 

As the leading global brewer, we have operations in 23 countries. We have a significant economic impact on the local communities where we do business through the jobs we create, the wages we pay and the taxes we pay governments at all levels. We feel that it’s important to report on and recognize the value and impact we are bringing to communities where we live and work.

Can you talk to the “ownership culture” of the company?

One of our 10 AB InBev Principles is about ownership: “We are a company of owners. Owners take results personally.”

[Sustainable Beer: Anheuser-Busch InBev’s 2012 Environmental Goals]

We strive to create a culture that encourages responsibility and accountability, and that applies to our work on social responsibility as well. Creating this culture of ownership helps us build those connections and team approach, both internally and externally, to helping make a difference in our communities as we strive to be the Best Beer Company in a Better World.

Originally written for and published on CSRwire’s Commentary sectionTalkback on April 26, 2012.