How AB InBev brews water, waste and energy savings

The world's biggest beer brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, has met its three-year environmental goals for water, energy and waste, in large part because of dedicated process controls and technology that allows almost real-time insight into these metrics across 95 percent of its global operations.

Its water milestone is one of the most impressive: Since its 2009 baseline, the beverage company has slashed consumption by approximately 18.6 percent.

Put another way, it has saved about enough water to produce 25 billion cans of AB InBev beverages, approximately 20 percent of its annual production. That works out to about 3.5 hectoliters of water for every hectoliter of production.

Belgian-based AB InBev also made substantial progress on saving energy during the past three years, cutting its power needs by about 12 percent per hectoliter of production worldwide, more than its original 10 percent target. This helped it reduce carbon emissions by about 15.7 percent.

What's more, the company improved its recycling rate for solid waste and byproducts to 99.2 percent, slightly more than its original goal of 99 percent. It has even managed to create new revenue of about $420 million by finding a marketable use for many of these materials.

For example, spent yeast and grain in Central Europe, Latin America North and China are dried and sold to dairy and cattle farmers for animal feed, while excess solid can, cardboard and glass byproducts are sold as raw materials to the highest bidder, according to Hugh Share, AB InBev's senior global director of Beer & Better World initiatives.

"We don't like to use the word 'waste' at all in our operations," Share said.

Next page: Staying on track