More than 90% of the company’s water footprint occurs in its agricultural supply chain and by 2020 it aims to expand its sustainability programs to manage and reduce agricultural water risks such as in Idaho’s Silver Creek Valley.
“We undertook research into new projects including companion cropping [planting a different crop along with barley that won’t directly compete with it for water or nutrients], nozzle changes on pivot irrigation, and irrigation shutoff timing to improve soil health,” Karina Diehl, director of community affairs at MillerCoors, told BeverageDaily.
Diehl added that favorable weather conditions played a role in MillerCoors “banner year” for water savings.
“Weather positively impacted the amount of water we were able to reduce usage by; 2016 was a ‘wet year” within our barley growing regions, specifically Montana, with heavy rain and snowfall,” Diehl said.
“While weather can be unpredictable, our goal is to be properly prepared so we have a better chance to use less water while
still growing high quality barley.”
Water conservation at the brewery level is also a key area of focus for MillerCoors with the company aiming to reduce its water-to-beer ratio to 3:1 by 2020.
Working directly with barley growers
The company said it continually works with barley growers to help conserve and reduce water on their farms by determining which agricultural techniques are best suited for their specific land.
Last year, MillerCoors launched the Grower Portal for all of its barley growers, a digital platform for information and data sharing to meet the company’s barley standards and further enhance water savings.
“Currently, all of our growers, more than 800, are signed up for the platform,” Diehl said.
MillerCoors is also working with Molson Coors to develop new 2025 Global Goals, which will include water stewardship targets and will be announced in the next one to two months, according to Diehl.