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Dragan Lupšić, Corporate Affairs Director at HEINEKEN Srbija

Our Project ”RESERVOIR” Supports Preserving Serbia’s Water

Our country isn’t rich in water, while Edelman’s research also shows that citizens don’t recognise water as being a sufficiently important topic for companies to address. However, water is vitally important for HEINEKEN

We launched the RESERVOIR project last autumn, which will contribute to the protection and recovery of our country’s natural water resources and lead to their improved use, but will also ensure better access to clean drinking water for citizens – explains Dragan Lupšić in this CorD interview.

Why are sustainable operations important today?

— Sustainability has been the number one topic over the past few years when it comes to companies’ ESG and CSR activities, both at the global level and in Serbia.

The climate change that we are witnessing is a key reason to raise awareness of this topic and its growing importance. However, this isn’t the only reason. Apart from being obliged to harmonise their operations with regulations governing environmental protection, the branches of global corporations that operate in Serbia are also aligning their operational and production processes with their parent companies’ sustainability goals at the global level. These global strategies are generally more stringent and ambitious than local regulations, which means that meeting the goals of your own ESG strategies can yield results that extend beyond those stipulated by local legislation.

When it comes to consumers, we live in a time when attention is increasingly being paid to this topic when making purchases. The sustainability of packaging and origin of raw materials are just two of the many things that consumers take into consideration when choosing a product. And the younger generations are particularly interesting in this sense. Members of Generation Z place a greater emphasis on the quality of ingredients and on packaging simplicity and sustainability, but also on the importance of returnable packaging.

How do the goals of the “Brew a Better World” strategy contribute to carbon footprint reduction?

— In concrete terms, our goal is to achieve net zero in all production processes by 2030 and across the entire value chain by 2040. On this journey, we are focusing on renewable energy sources, increased energy efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions in logistics. Apart from that, an important role is also being played by innovations through the placement of so-called green fridges on the entire Serbian market.

Our employees have also contributed to cleaner air by having implemented the “Plant Your Shade” campaign on Brewery Day over two consecutive years in Zaječar and Novi Sad, planting 500 seedlings on each occasion. Thanks to this planting of a thousand trees, we’ve enabled savings of more than 24 tons of carbon dioxide annually, or 720 tons of carbon dioxide over a 30-year period. Apart from the positive impact that trees have on air purification and CO2 reduction, a significant amount of water is also returned to nature through the transpiration process.

You’ve improved numerous processes significantly, in the direction of environmental protection, at your breweries in both Zaječar and Novi Sad over recent years. To what does this relate?

— That’s right! We’ve implemented major infrastructure investments at both breweries, with which we achieved zero waste to landfil and also implemented wastewater treatment systems. The aim of the latter is to return all the water we use to nature purified. Additionally, in order to reduce the use of plastics, we continuously highlight the importance of using returnable packages and continue to develop innovative packaging. When it comes to Serbia, 85 per cent of our raw materials are sourced locally, while 100 per cent of our suppliers have signed the HEINEKEN supplier Code, thus confirming that they operate in accordance with the highest standards and that they respect human rights and the environment.

You’ve recently been paying special attention to preserving water resources. Why have you focused on this area in particular?

— Water accounts for more than 95 per cent of beer, which makes it the key ingredient of the beverage that we produce, but this fact also testifies to just how important this resource is to our industry and to the quality of the beer that we offer our consumers. We take care at our breweries in Zaječar and Novi Sad to ensure the rational use of water, adherence to the circular economy in its use and responsible management, i.e. the maintaining of watersheds. Our progress in this area is best confirmed by figures showing that we’ve reduced water consumption in production by 75 per cent over the last decade. We are proud that we are closing in on the goal we’ve set for 2030.

We’ve implemented major infrastructure investments at both breweries, with which we have achieved zero waste to landfill and implemented wastewater treatment systems

Our commitment to this topic is also best confirmed by the fact that we presented the RESERVOIR project in Zaječar last autumn, which is focused entirely on the issue of water.

What has been implemented to date within the scope of the RESERVOIR project and what are you planning for the period ahead?

— It was in September 2023 that we presented the RESERVOIR national campaign, with which we want to not only raise awareness, but also contribute to the preservation and recovery of Serbia’s natural water resources and their improved use. We are additionally aiming to improve access to clean drinking water for citizens. In cooperation with the NALED organisation, as our long-term partner, the RESERVOIR campaign will be implemented continuously through the renovation of public drinking fountains and artesian wells, with a focus on Novi Sad and Zaječar, wastewater treatment at breweries (WWTPs), education and student visits to the company’s breweries, workshops for students covering the topic of preserving water resources, as well as the implementation of numerous volunteer actions for employees.

We launched our activities in Zaječar, which is unique in terms of its abundance of healthy drinking water, while it is also home to the first public drinking fountain in Serbia with water sourced from an artesian well. This year alone, in cooperation with the City of Zaječar and the citizens’ association ZA Česme, HEINEKEN Serbia proudly invested in the renovation of three drinking fountains and the revitalisation of one artesian well, while another four fountains and three artesian wells were renovated in previous years.

The topic of the responsible consumption of alcohol occupies an important place in the framework of your ”Brew a Better World” strategy. In which ways do you raise awareness of this topic?

—Responsible consumption is an extremely important topic for us, as is evident in the fact that our portfolio includes two non-alcoholic beer brands: Heineken ® 0.0 and Laško Malt®. We also joined forces with the Auto-Moto Association of Serbia with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of this topic, implementing a campaign entitled “Kad ide tura, ne ide gas” [When you drink, don’t drive]. I’m proud that this is the first partnership in Serbia between a beer industry leader and the national association of drivers, and that it represents an innovative advance on the topic of responsible consumption.

Through various channels of communication and exclusive video content, as well as innovative activations at driving schools and AMSS and AMS Osiguranje branches throughout Serbia, the messages of this campaign have to date reached almost all drivers in the country. The campaign also includes Nikola Miljković, a trophy-winning Serbian driver and the youngest champion of the European Hill Climb Championship, who – as an experienced competitive driver and an example of responsible conduct on the roads – provides additional strength and visibility to the messages of the campaign.

HEINEKEN Srbija, together with its partners, is this year continuing its mission to ensure the campaign’s messages reach every driver, with a special focus on new and young drivers. Alongside traditional promotion channels, we will further expand the campaign with an innovative approach to this topic that will ensure the campaign’s messages of responsible consumption remain in the public memory always and everywhere.

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