February 23, 2022
Written by
Richard Edwards

Webinar key takeaways: Heineken's path to a net-zero impact

On the 16th February, Vizibl was joined by Heineken’s Global Director Strategic Sourcing Supply Chain, Arjen van der Woude, for a webinar on sustainability and scope 3. In ‘Purpose-Led Procurement: Heineken’s path to a net-zero impact’, van der Woude had many insights for the audience on the value of supplier collaboration in sustainability, the importance of being bold and failing fast, and the steps procurement can take to support their organisation’s goals. Here we’ve assembled some of those insights.

Heineken’s world-famous slogan used to be that it refreshed the parts that other beers couldn’t reach. Now, the Dutch-based brewing giant is hoping that it can use its enormous global reach to fortify its battle to ‘brew a better world’, and beat a path to a net zero emissions in production by 2030. 

Heineken’s sustainability ambitions

That’s just one aim in a long list of ambitions outlined by Arjen van der Woude, Global Director Strategic Sourcing Supply Chain at Heineken, during Vizibl’s recent webinar ‘The Decade of our Lives – Purpose-led procurement: Heineken’s path to a net zero impact’. 

Heineken has long been viewed as a leader in the field of sustainability, and the company has already made huge strides since the millennium dawned. It has, for example, achieved a 33% reduction in water usage across its operations since 2008. Over the same period, Heineken has also worked to deliver a 51% reduction in CO2 emissions in its breweries.  

Those are impressive figures, but now van der Woude is looking for more – and he has a message for all those companies who are thinking of doing the same. 

There should be, he says, no limit to ambition, and that no levers should be left untouched when it comes to tackling the particular challenge of scope 3 emissions; as much as 90% of the emissions in Heineken’s value chain sit under scope 3. 

Stakeholder silo-busting will be key

The key message of the session is that collaboration is key and that a silo mentality will harm progress. This is why the company’s relationship with Vizibl is helping them take sizeable steps to fulfilling their objectives in the short, medium, and long term.   

“Our 2040 [net-zero] commitment is very bold and it brings a sense of urgency to our internal organisation as well,” says van der Woude. “It’s not easy to get there, it seems like it’s far away because to tackle scope three you need more time as it’s more complex and involves doing big things together with stakeholders and suppliers.  

“Our 2030 and 2040 commitments were really co-created with stakeholders, including employees, but these are also commitments where you don’t have to have all the solutions in front of you. If you ask me today, do we have all the solutions and all the roadmaps in place in order to secure it today, through planning? The answer is not necessarily.”

Sustainability progress demands supplier innovation and technology

And therein lies the key to achieving commitments in the future, because being bold and embracing innovation and technology in the present signals the route to overcoming this uncertainty in the future, putting companies in a much better place to deliver long-lasting change in the years to come.  

In other words, if you wait for opportunities to come to you and eschew a proactive approach, then you’ll pay a heavy price. In an era where the environment and social responsibility is king, nobody can afford to take their foot off the pedal. The costs to the business, including the inevitable reputational hit, can be enormous.

Heineken is backing up its own words with action. Having already taken significant strides forward, they’re intent on opening up channels of communication across their entire value chain to harness the innovation and technology already available to them.

“I think we all recognise the importance of innovation and technology,” he says. “My firm belief is that for scope 3 – and even for scopes 1 and 2 – the role of innovation is so important and I think that, not yet, across supply chains we are leveraging that sufficiently enough.

“We want to use this to mobilise our supply chain, our partners, to get it done. It’s important not to get everything set in stone before you put the commitment out there – you have to accept that there’s a part which is unknown.” 

Organisations must accept uncertainty, and learn to fail fast

One important area in making sustainability progress is that of baselining, a process that many organisations find intensely difficult due to the time, resource, and data required to get an accurate picture of where you’re starting from. This is, van der Woude admits, ‘a heavy exercise’, particularly when it comes to logistics in scope 3.  

The key thing, as van der Woude emphasised time and again across the webinar, was that barriers and even failure will be inevitable at various points in any company’s journey to zero impact. But in his opinion, bouncing back and learning from those failures is as much a part of the process as celebrating successes. 

Procurement must collaborate with suppliers, partners, and colleague functions 

Regardless of the outcomes and bumps along the way, meaningful progress on emissions performance can’t be achieved in isolation. As well as partnerships between Heineken and suppliers and partners like Vizibl, it’s also essential that procurement works hand-in-hand with other areas of the business, particularly when it comes to unlocking the potential of innovation and technology.

“Procurement is very much integrated – it's a function that never stands by itself,” says van der Woude. “Technology identification is very much a shoulder-to-shoulder job with supply chain, with finance, with any other part of the business – you have to see what’s out there.”  

Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration.  

If the decade of lives is going to be remembered as one which changes the direction of climate change and tackles the problem of global emissions before it’s too late, then that word will be critical.  

At Heineken, they’re leading the pack and raising a glass to that notion already.

Vizibl Decade of our Lives Webinar Series

Pre-register for the next webinar in the Decade of our Lives series here.

Or to learn more about how Vizibl is helping some of the world’s largest companies address their sustainability challenges, visit Vizibl Sustainability

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