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Brewing sustainability (and purpose) into business

1 September, 2023

Our eyes were recently caught by a piece in the Financial Times, in which the Asahi Group discusses its commitment to sustainability, its dedication to reducing its environmental impact and the chief executive’s vision for a sustainable society. Credit is certainly due to them, for even though the piece is authored by them, the messages are meaningful.

One of the initial messages, and arguably the most pivotal one, emphasises nature’s role as a service to business; noting that long-standing brands often exist as a gift from the earth. Giving back to nature is particularly important for Asahi – given that their world-renowned beer is curated from yeast and other raw materials – so it’s fitting that they are integrating sustainability into its management strategy; going beyond the confines of corporate mission statements.

Asahi aim to make a positive impact on business and society. They have set out to transition to renewable energy sources, invest in innovative technologies and support sustainable agriculture. Most notably, they have pledged to transition all PET bottles to biomass and recycled materials by 2030, which is much more ambitious than their 2050 net zero target. Their initiatives resonate with us, and Asahi serves as a great case study of a business taking the right steps. Yet one aspect is noticeably missing – connecting sustainability with purpose.

Upon closer inspection, Asahi Group does indeed have a purpose: to be a force for planet positivity and to serve up a positive and inclusive experience for people and society. It’s not the most focused purpose and it’s hard to see how it could be an effective guide for action, but nonetheless it’s odd they haven’t included a mention of this within their piece. Sustainability is the bedrock upon which you build your purpose – your sustainability impacts are unlikely to differ significantly from those of your competitors. But purpose is different. It articulates not only what you do, but how you do it differently – enabling your business and society to thrive.

Asahi can build on brewing sustainability into their business by recognising the role that purpose plays in driving action. They have shown maturity by coupling corporate value with sustainability; however, they shouldn’t shy away from vocalising why they exist: to contribute to a better world.

By Bertie Bateman

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