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Managing both its carbon and water footprints and increasing female leadership are just some of MillerCoors's many worthwhile initiatives
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, MillerCoors – a joint venture of SABMiller and the Molson Coors Brewing Company – is the second largest beer company in the US, behind Anheuser-Busch, and is responsible for household names including Coors Light, Miller High Life and Blue Moon, as well as international brands including Pilsner Urquell and Peroni Nastro Azzurro. This year’s report highlights the company’s impressive progress across sustainability initiatives in 2014 and announces its sharpening focus on 2020 through a series of new and ambitious goals.
The report is divided by the three pillars of the company’s 2020 strategy and subsequent commitments: Great Times – promote and protect the responsible enjoyment and marketing of beer; Great Environment – embed environmental stewardship in the way the company operates; and Great People and Communities – empower employees, suppliers and communities. This strategy, informed by the company’s 2014 materiality assessment, helps to organise the new 2020 goals, of which there are 10. The report offers a variety of interesting updates, including a summary of the company’s carbon footprint throughout its supply chain, a description of partner-led work on watershed conservation, and a targeted strategy to increase women’s leadership at MillerCoors.
Early in the report, MillerCoors makes its commitment to accountability and transparency clear. The company reports its final results against its 2015 sustainability goals, noting where it achieved, exceeded or missed each target. Looking back on 2014, MillerCoors has a lot to be proud of. With seven of its eight major breweries now landfill-free and its total water usage reduced by 15% (now a water-to-beer ratio of 3.3 barrels of water per barrel of beer), the company continues to make promising progress on issues critical to its business.
Along with the PDF, the report is complemented by a sustainability section of the company’s website. There, readers find an invitation to provide feedback on the 2015 sustainability report, as well as a three-minute animated video summarizing the company’s sustainability strategy. Through the use of colourful animations, infographics and lively voiceover, the video shares MillerCoors’ “recipe for greatness”. In contrast to the PDF, however, the video appears to be a hidden gem and seemingly unleveraged asset to the company’s greater sustainability messaging. From a narrative perspective, the PDF lacks this creative element, missing a strong voice or cohesive thread beyond the theme of striving for greatness or upholding the company’s commitment to sustainability. In future years, MillerCoors might consider using its creative brand power to ramp up the flavour of its report, perhaps bringing its impressive sustainability story to life with a more people-centric report or through rich media on an engaging website.
Much like its signature drink, Miller Lite, the Company’s 2015 report qualifies as “reporting light”, providing core updates on progress against measurable targets. Overall, the report is a good read for someone rushing to happy hour; it tells most of what the reader needs to know, but with considerable gaps in discussing larger issues and disclosure. The report’s discussion around the “responsible enjoyment and marketing of beer,” as well as safety performance are notable shortcomings. While the company’s commitment to preventing drunk driving and underage access through its Free Rides initiative and other programmes is commendable, it addresses only a narrow section of issues linked to alcohol consumption in society, like binge drinking and alcoholism.
he report’s short call-out on responsible marketing practices vaguely acknowledges the role of marketing in combatting these issues, but is very high-level and says little about MillerCoors’ perspective.
Similarly, on page 21 of the document, readers will find a four sentence call-out box, “Safety at MillerCoors”, which details the company’s injury rates in 2014. But as the second largest beer company in the US, an employer of 8,000 people, and operator of eight major breweries, the company might shed light on how it protects its people, through programmes, technology or benefits. In light of the company’s strategy and the issues it ranks as high-impact in its materiality analysis, these gaps in reporting seem incongruous with MillerCoors’ long-term goals.
Ultimately, the 2015 MillerCoors Sustainability Report is easy to read and demonstrates that the Company is dedicated to reducing its impact. With ambitious goals, organised strategy, and impressive updates, the report gives readers a good taste of sustainability at MillerCoors. Next year, however, MillerCoors might consider a more full-bodied route, providing further context around its progress through stronger storytelling, creative elements, and a deeper discussion of critical issues.
Follows GRI? No
Materiality analysis? Yes
Stakeholder input? Yes
Seeks feedback? Yes
Key strengths? Targets
Chief weakness? Lacking narrative
Pleasant surprise? Animated video
Sophia Ingram is an analyst at Context America