There is nothing permanent, except change. As AB InBev continues its journey as the world’s largest brewer and as a pillar in the communities of which it is a part, I’d like to take a moment to wish our newly appointed CEO Michel Doukeris the best of luck in this new era, and to thank Carlos Brito for his support and time at the company. Michel, you’ve been a part of AB InBev since 1996, and like many of us, know that dreaming big is one of the things we do best here – Count on me to join you in continuing to bring people together for a better world!
As Brito steps down, and Michel steps up, today I want to share one of my favorite moments at AB InBev with you all – With hopes of accomplishing something even greater under the new leadership of Michel Doukeris.
I remember it vividly. The butterflies in my stomach as I boarded the plane to Geneva, the distinct aroma of the in-flight blanket that unsuccessfully quelled my nerves, and the crisp air of the Swiss alps that hit me as I walked out the terminal. As we waited for our ride to the hotel, I recall thinking to myself “how on earth are we going to pull this off?”; my doubts disappeared into thin air as soon as I saw how calm and composed Carlos Brito was. “After you,” he said, as we hopped into the minivan.
You see, 2018 was a very important year for AB InBev and for the advancement of public-private partnerships. It was the first time ever that the company attempted to form an alliance with the United Nations (UN). The thing is, it wasn’t any company, it was the world’s largest beer company. I’ll never forget the feeling of calm that came over me as soon as we took the floor of the UN. The butterflies I had been nursing in my gut vanished completely, and I was certain that we were about to make history.
The eloquence with which the team explained the role of our business in society was something truly majestic and empowering. We managed to get an ovation and approval at the UN Geneva Head Quarters by a room packed with ambassadors from across the world, who were now on board with our philosophy of businesses being a part of the communities where they operate. As the presentation came to an end, bottles of Jupiler 0,0 were passed around the room, giving place to the second historic event of the day: the entire event’s guests toasting best wishes to our newly founded collaboration, beer in hand.
This is just one of many stories that I will fondly remember from my time working with Brito. Beyond being an incredibly gentle, charismatic, and caring person in all our professional exchanges, he greatly influenced the way I view and understand the impact that businesses can have on the world, and why being a company that provides shared value is important for sustainability.
Brito in my opinion was a master at listening. He understood that for AB InBev to go beyond “traditional” corporate social responsibility, it had to comprehend society’s ever-changing ethical expectations, and not only adhere to them – but be a part of a solution. He taught me that in order to make an impact on our business as well as in the communities we were a part of, we had to go beyond what was expected of us as a company.
Two examples I can think of concretely that truly showcase this are our Road Safety and Smart Drinking initiatives.
- When it comes to Road Safety, AB InBev has surpassed what’s expected of us as an operator of one of the world’s largest fleets. Our responsibility in this regard is to minimize the negative externalities that our vehicles may cause on the world’s roads (which we’ve accomplished through driver training and state-of-the-art vehicle telemetry systems). But we’ve done much more than that. We now work hand-in-hand with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), leveraging each other’s resources to provide communities with evidence-based solutions, methodologies, and toolkits that can truly make a difference and save lives.
- Smart Drinking is another great example. To be a company built to last, AB InBev had to be more than just an abiding ally in the fight against the harmful consumption of alcohol. We do more than just sticking guidance labels on our products- we are investing over a billion dollars towards our 2025 Smart Drinking Goals, creating social norms marketing campaigns to shift consumer behavior for the better, and measuring our progress openly and transparently.
The feeling of fulfillment I get from doing my job is second to none, and I want to thank Brito, and the rest of the marketing and corporate affairs teams for giving me the opportunity to do what I love every day. But beyond that, for helping me understand and gain a fresher perspective on why we must go above and beyond to care for our planet and communities.
At the end of the day, if there’s no water, there’s no beer. If there’s no farming, there’s no beer. There’s only one earth, and we must all do our fair share in taking care of it. Brito planted a seed in all of us to dream big and make an impact in the world – and we’ll continue growing that ambition through Michel’s leadership.
Cheers to dreaming big.