A clutch of the world's largest consumer products and food companies are joining Budweiser's parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev in backing an investment program to support early-stage companies focused on making supply chains more sustainable.
The Earth Day-timed announcement comes as companies and consumers confront the failure of recycling programs to adequately address the problems associated with plastic waste -- and broader issues around the contributions of consumer behavior and industrial production and distribution to the current climate emergency.
The AB InBev program, called the 100+ Accelerator, launched in 2018 with the goal to solve supply chain challenges in water stewardship, the circular economy, sustainable agriculture and climate action, the company said. These are problems with which the alcohol manufacturer's new partners -- Colgate-Palmolive, Coca-Cola and Unilever -- are also intimately familiar.
Since the launch of the accelerator and investment program, AB InBev has backed 36 companies in 16 countries, according to a statement. Those startups have gone on to raise more than $200 million in follow-on financing.
The accelerator program creates funding for pilot programs and offers opportunities for early-stage companies to consult with executive management at the world's top consumer brands.
Since the program's launch, AB InBev has worked with startups to pilot returnable packaging programs; implement new cleaning technologies to reduce water and energy use in Colombian brewing operations; provide insurance to small farms in Africa and South America; collect more waste in Brazil; recycle electric vehicle batteries in China; and upcycle grains waste from the brewing process to create new, nutrient-rich food sources.
As pressures from outside investors and regulators mount, companies are beginning to shift their attention to focus on ways to make their industrial processes more sustainable.
These kinds of collaborative initiatives among major corporations, which are long overdue, have the potential to make a significant contribution to reducing the environmental footprint of business, but it depends on the depth of the commitment and the speed at which these businesses are willing to deploy solutions beyond a few small pilot programs.
Applications for the latest cohort will be due by May 31, 2021.