Across the East African Community market of over 177 million people, something is brewing and you have probably been part of it.
When you sit down at your local with a glass of Tusker or you are toasting Johnnie Walker with your crew, you probably do not think much about all the water and other ingredients that go into that glass.
For 100 years now, the East African Breweries (EABL) Plc has been defining a path in corporate leadership, economic growth, and even more importantly championing a positive impact and change on society.
“We are deliberate about sustainability goals internally summed up in what we call Diageo Society 2030. We are purposefully driving a shared prosperity agenda to guarantee value for our employees, business partners, and consumers,” EABL Managing Director Jane Karuku said while toasting to 100 years of success since the brewer’s beer bottle filling lines started humming in 1922.
Previously, communities across Kenya consumed homemade brews such as busaa and muratina.
And from a single product, Tusker, fermented in a makeshift riverside operation in Ruaraka, Nairobi, the company has evolved to trade in an enviable collection of roughly 112 brands.
EABL says the next century will be marked by key investments geared towards making the firm a more sustainable alcoholic beverages manufacturer in the region.
From the water used in producing raw materials to the energy consumed in processing and packaging products, to the water in the bottled beverages, to the wastewater produced along the production line, EABL’s focus in the next century is switching to how to sustainably source and use water and energy.
In the years ahead, the focus is shifting to how to treat and use less water while significantly lowering energy demands from fossil fuels that power its production systems.
One does not have to look far to understand why. In Kenya and across the region, adverse effects of climate change, frequent severe droughts, population pressures, and runaway pollution are all working in sync to squeeze normal supply.
Take the Diageo Society 2030 plan for instance where EABL is trailblazing with a Kes22 billion investment in biomass boilers, and solar systems as the region’s giant brewer embraces a future powered by use of renewable energy.
The biomass boilers, which will replace current fuel-oil systems that are used to produce steam, will burn macadamia and rice husks–organic wastes–all supplied by local farmers thereby lowering carbon emissions while giving rise to fresh supply contracts to Kenyan entrepreneurs.
A total of Kes750 million has already been funneled into water recycling plants across East Africa as the brewer accelerates into a low-carbon future in its direct operations.
Over 12.5 million trees have also been planted across the region in the last 10 years, with independent audits revealing 85 percent success rate in this investment, the firm said.
In this journey, the company is also offering to support material suppliers to hasten their journey towards zero carbon.
With 47,000 farmers, 70 of whom are people with disabilities, actively engaged in the supply of barley, millet, and sorghum the brewer promises to provide farmers with training in the adoption of sustainable farming techniques, sowing the seeds of success in its new century. The goal is to exponentially increase the number of growers tapping benefits from the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed company in the decades ahead.
In January, EABL, which controls Diageo’s beer and spirit businesses in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda reported a 130.43 percent increase in net earnings to Kes8.73 billion. The positive results saw a return to dividend payment with an interim payout of Kes3.75 after the dividend drought during the pandemic period.
The half-year disclosures show EABL’s growth in alcohol sales was reflected in the 45 percent jump in the consumption of frontier drinks such as senator keg whose key ingredient is sorghum that is primarily sourced from thousands of farmers in Meru, Tharaka Nithi counties, and in western Kenya.
Growth in the subsidiaries was fairly distributed with sales in Kenya expanding by 27 percent on account of growth in Senator Keg, mainstream spirits, and beer. Tanzania grew 15 percent driven by brands such as Serengeti beer while Uganda reported an 18 percent uptick.
What’s more, “the important part of our growth is our people – the biggest pillar that has supported our growth agenda over all these years. We have and will continue to invest in our talent pipeline across East Africa,” noted MD Jane Karuku.
At the moment, EABL, which has a presence in neighboring Tanzania and Uganda, contributes over Kes50 billion in taxes in Kenya.