I’m pleased to announce that AB InBev has asked Georgetown University to review our Global Smart Drinking Goals (GSDGs) with the purpose of identifying strengths and opportunities to improve as we enter the second half of these goals. Based on Georgetown’s findings, it is a case study for how private corporations like ours can create strategic partnerships to tackle the world’s most pressing issues.
Within the case study, titled AB InBev and Smart Drinking: An Analysis of How the World’s Largest Beer Company Contributes to the Reduction of Harmful Alcohol Use, Georgetown recognizes AB InBev as an industry leader for its pioneering efforts to promote “Smart Drinking” through investments in excess of a quarter-billion dollars since 2015.
The findings suggest that businesses can play a role in addressing global social challenges, when there is a commitment from the top, understanding the need to embed smart drinking into the commercial strategy as recommended by public health experts, and a willingness to go beyond traditional corporate philanthropy to create shared value for both business and society. Among the conclusions listed, cross-sector partnerships, leadership, best practices, measurement, and social norms marketing stand out as key elements that are working in our fight to promote smarter drinking habits.
We understand that drinking a beer can be a pleasure when done in ways that are consistent with one’s health and well-being, but also acknowledge that any alcohol-containing products can be used in ways that are harmful to one’s health. The data provided by global health leaders is clear: consumption of all forms of alcohol such as beer, wine, and spirits contribute to more than 3 million deaths annually and more than 5 percent of the global burden of disease and injury. Because of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) called upon governments, civil society organizations, academia, and the alcohol industry to confront the harmful use of alcohol as a global health imperative.
We wasted no time getting to work.
In 2013, AB InBev joined other alcohol producers in signing the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking’s “Producer Commitments” as a key part of a joint industry effort to contribute to reducing harmful drinking. That same year, we started planning our Global Smart Drinking Goals (GSDGs) initiative, to which I am proud to say I was able to contribute since 2017. Our largest contribution, however, was in 2015, when we launched the goals and announced our plans to invest at least $1 billion USD by the end of 2025 to achieve four new Smart Drinking Goals.
According to the study, here’s how we’ve been doing on some of our goals, so far:
- Goal 1: Change harmful drinking social norms through social norms marketing campaigns
By 2019, we invested over $250 million USD across all of our markets specifically towards social norms marketing campaigns and programs. This led us to the development of a Smart Drinking Toolkit, which included direct input from public health experts, to be deployed and used by our teams as a guide on how to best address Smart Drinking. This resulted in our annual internal Smart Drinking Campaigns Competition that gave birth to campaigns by Aguila in Brazil, Budweiser in the United States, and Carling Black Label in South Africa. According to Georgetown’s study, said campaigns revealed successful contributions to reducing harmful drinking behaviors and shifting drinking-related attitudes for their duration. Long-term behavioral and norm shifts have yet to be measured, however, as shifts to stubborn societal norms and the permanent changes of health-related behaviors can take a decade or more to occur.
- Goal 2: Create guidance labels on all eligible product packaging to enable consumers to make more informed choices
By 2020, we successfully placed guidance labels on 81% of our products. However, Georgetown University estimates that it is too early to clearly determine the impact of this achievement on consumer norms, attitudes, and behavior.
- Goal 3: Reduce the harmful use of alcohol by at least 10% in six cities by the end of 2020, and implement best practices globally by the end of 2025
By 2016, we launched city pilots in Zacatecas, Brasilia, Columbus, Ohio, Jiangshan, China, Johannesburg, and Leuven. By 2020, our Zacatecas project achieved its goal of contributing to a 10% reduction, while four other cities made progress toward that goal. We are currently working to improve the efficacy of our other city pilots across the previously mentioned markets.
At AB InBev, we know our contribution to the GSDGs is more than just a dollar figure. We’re constantly working to improve and innovate our methodologies, whether in City Pilot Programs, using marketing to influence alcohol-related social norms, or pioneering groundbreaking ways for our industry to effectively label their products. Our company is at its best when our consumers engage with our products in a way that is healthy for them and their communities. Thus, we pledge to constantly test and evaluate our efforts to reduce the harmful consumption of alcohol.
I’d like to thank Georgetown University team Bill Novelli, Leslie Crutchfield, Karthik Easwar, and Myriam Sidibe for this insightful case study, which presents valuable feedback on how we’re approaching these issues and points to additional opportunities and ways in which we can improve our existing initiatives.
The fight against the harmful consumption of alcohol is ongoing, but so are our efforts to stop it. We’re always up to the challenge and are tremendously grateful to all the experts who have worked with us over the past years.
All my best,
To access the full case study, click here.