HEINEKEN, renowned for its commitment to quality and innovation, wants to be carbon neutral in its operations by 2030. As a first step, HEINEKEN has removed all PET packaging from production, making it the first PET-free beer producer on the Hungarian market.
Its Hungarian subsidiary is also promoting greater sustainability through its commitment to quality and innovation. HEINEKEN Hungária has been offering its draught beers exclusively in biodegradable paper cans since May this year. The company's CEO, Geert Swaanenburg, shares his thoughts with Diplomacy&Trade on sustainability and the Dutch beer giant's involvement in Hungary.
HEINEKEN has been present in the global beer market for over 140 years. “What has made the Amsterdam-based brewery, which started as a family business, so big and global has been its commitment to quality and innovation. That's why it won the Grand Prix at the 1889 Paris World's Fair, a prize that still appears on the brand's labels today,” the CEO points out.
HEINEKEN’s Hungarian company, Sopron Brewery, which is over 120 years old, is not far behind in tradition. Rather, HEINEKEN Hungária combines the heritage of Sopron and Amsterdam: an entrepreneurial spirit, a commitment to sustainability and renewal, and the ability to adapt to a changing world. “It is thanks to these qualities that HEINEKEN Hungária is a leading brewery. The fact that Sopron Brewery is one of the few breweries in the world to brew Heineken, the company's flagship product, is a clear testament to the company's unyielding dedication to quality,” he adds.
Developing in a sustainable way
However, HEINEKEN is not only aiming to be the world's most innovative beer brand, but also the world's greenest brewery. “For us, sustainable development means that as a company, but also as ordinary citizens, as HEINEKEN employees, we want to make a positive impact on our environment by contributing in our own way to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). As responsible corporate citizens – as one of the world's largest beer producers and as an employer –, we must face up to the consequences of our actions. I am convinced that only by developing in a sustainable way can we protect our jobs and at the same time guarantee the Better Tomorrow™ to which we have committed ourselves in our strategy,“ Geert Swaanenburg explains.
Towards total carbon neutrality
HEINEKEN announced its new sustainability objectives last August. “Our beers sold in the Dutch market have been produced with 100% renewable energy sources since last July. As a global company, HEINEKEN has set a target of achieving total carbon neutrality in its own production by 2030. Also by 2030, we aim to achieve an approximately one-third (30%) reduction in carbon emissions across our entire value chain compared to 2018. In 2018, we set a target to source 70% of our breweries' electricity and heat from renewable energy sources by 2030. Our even more ambitious target is to be the first global beer company to achieve carbon neutrality across its entire value chain by 2040. Since we decided to switch to green energy in 2018, HEINEKEN has launched more than 130 renewable energy projects worldwide, five of which are among the top ten solar-powered breweries in the world,” the CEO highlights.
Eliminating PET bottles
“One of our latest initiatives – again, one of the first in our industry – is to completely eliminate products packaged in PET bottles from our portfolio. This step is particularly significant for a brand that is very popular in Austria and is also identified in Hungary with affordable and premium quality beer. While we are gradually phasing out PET packaging from our portfolio, we also stopped ordering plastic beer cups for good last November. Instead, we now source biodegradable paper cups from a supplier in Debrecen. We officially introduced paper cups in May this year, which means that if you order a Heineken or Sopron beer at one of the beer terraces that are now reopening, it will now be served to you in a paper cup,” Geert Swaanenburg emphasizes.
In dialogue with the stakeholders
HEINEKEN Hungária also looks at local sourcing as a means to improve its sustainability performance. The CEO underlines that “as well as helping to strengthen the local economy, this helps us to further reduce emissions from our operations by shortening our transport routes. In Hungary, two-thirds of the raw materials we use in our production are sourced locally. Soproni, for example, is made entirely from barley grown in Hungary, and we use sour cherries and elderberries sourced from Hungarian farmers to flavor our Soproni radlers.
We are in constant dialogue with our stakeholders to ensure that our goals are always in line with their expectations. That being said, I personally believe that by becoming the world's ‘greenest’ brewery, we are only making our beers more desirable to consumers.”
A sustainable model
The Hungarian Ecumenical Aid Organization and HEINEKEN Hungária implemented a model in Kastélyosdombó (SW Hungary), which is commercially sustainable in the long run, and also contributes to the livelihood of disadvantaged families involved in cultivation.
As Heineken Hungary CEO Geert Swaanenburg commented, “producing materials for beer production can be a path out of poverty. In every part of the world, Heineken especially values local communities and local products.”
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