Product, Service & Design Innovation
Blaxtar Offers 'Frank' Distillation of Heineken's Sustainability Progress in New Video

Move over Prince Ea, there's a new spoken word artist promoting sustainability. To help reach a wider audience for its newly released 2015 sustainability report, Heineken recruited Dutch rapper and vocal artist Kevin "Blaxtar" de Randamie to transform the report into his own artistic expression. The result is a stylish short film, “Let’s Get Frank.”

Last year, Heineken launched a unique digital campaign, “Legendary 7,” to promote its 2014 sustainability report. The new video is Heineken director of global sustainable development Michael Dickstein’s latest attempt to engage millennials and spread its “Brewing a Better World” message.

“We use our website, we use the online report, I’m out regularly to give presentations and we’re quite skilled in doing that,” Dickstein told Fast Company. “However, we also realize there is a certain boundary on how many people you can reach.”

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In the film, Blaxtar starts at the beginning: dirt. “So yes, he says, from dirt, we get beer,” he says, setting the stage for the importance of sustainable agricultural practices. “Now, if you listen carefully you can hear the hands of almost 10,000 farmers who try to stay as close to nature as they can; you can hear over 120,000 African smallholder farmers harvest local ingredients for local production.

“Meanwhile, you hear the sound of company growth going hand in hand with reduced water consumption. Not to mention carbon dioxide output reduction by using something like windmills or solar panels to power breweries.”

Thus, he quickly delivers an overview of several key highlights of Heineken’s report. The company has achieved:

  • A 26% decrease in its worldwide breweries’ water consumption since 2008.

  • A 36% reduction in CO2 emissions in production in relative terms since 2008. Heineken also reduced its absolute emissions, and has reduced its total carbon footprint across the 'barley to bar' value chain by 6.3% compared with a 2012 baseline.

  • 21% of barley, 53% of hops and 71% of bittersweet apples were sourced sustainably, exceeding 2015 targets. Across Africa, 24 sourcing initiatives supported around 120,000 farmers, creating benefit and greater economic empowerment for 840,000 family members (based on Africa’s average household figures of seven people).

“I think the primary objective is to shed a light on the Brewing a Better World strategy and make people understand that when they drink a Heineken there is a much broader story behind it,” Dickstein said. “A story that is comprehensively set up behind sustainability. That’s my primary goal. I wouldn't dare to go a step further and say we will influence the brand appearance massively. Let’s take it step by step but I do believe we can make a difference in the way we present sustainability.”

For Blaxtar, at least, Heineken’s message seemed to hit home. As he articulates in the film: “It was as though his words had turned liquid and his story was now filling the glass he was handing me. I looked at the golden fluid behind the star. And for the first time became aware of its transparency.”

Dickstein and Blaxtar were both somewhat unsure about the project at points, knowing the unique approach was a risk.

“I was the first one to say in the preliminary meetings, ‘We do not want to limit your creativity, go for it’,” Dickstein recalled. “Then when we saw the first draft, I was like, 'Guys, are we really sure we want to use those words?' I realized that sometimes it is very difficult to step out of your own boundaries and walk the talk. It’s one thing to be bold; to say that we should do something totally different, and another indeed when you see the product and think, ‘Is this really what I was looking for?’ I immediately saw there was a very constructive and artistic tension between the things that he [Blaxtar] suggested and our reaction to them.”

“This will be exciting for us,” he added. “And excitement and risk is fun.”

Against its 2015 targets, Heineken fully met 5 of the 11 indicators and nearly met 4 others:

  • Water: Heineken met its breweries’ water use reduction target, but only completed Source Water Protection Plans for 99% of the total production volume of units in water-scarce and water-distressed areas, just shy of its 100% target.
  • Emissions: CO2 emissions reduction targets were met for Heineken’s production (27%) and fridges (42%), but the company failed to reduce distribution emissions in Europe and the Americas by 10%; it achieved a 9.8% reduction in Europe, but its overall emissions increased by 1.7% mainly due to “the production footprint challenge we [Heineken] face in Mexico, our biggest market.”
  • Sourcing: Heineken exceeded its sustainable sourcing goals for barley, hops and apples (the figures were noted above), but only increased its local sourcing in Africa from 48% in 2014 to 49% in 2015, falling just short of its 50% goal. Its Four-step Supplier Code Procedure is operational in 46 of its 50 operating companies, which represent 99% of the company’s sales volume, but fell short of its goal to implement the procedure in all of them.
  • Advocating responsible consumption: Heineken successfully has partnerships in place to address alcohol-related harm in all of its markets, but only 56% have met all of their 7-point partnership criteria (short of their 100% goal). The company partly met its commitments regarding media spend dedicated to promoting responsible consumption; while it committed 10%, it only invested 9.7% of its total media spend towards the cause, but it successfully ran campaigns in over 50% of its global market volume.

The company reported it is on track to meet its twelfth indicator, to deliver global industry commitments by the end of 2017 and report on them in 2018.

“2015 was a pivotal year for the world's sustainability agenda. Events such as COP21 and the introduction of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals provide additional input for "Brewing a Better World", our approach to creating a sustainable business,” said Jean-François van Boxmeer, Heineken’s CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board. “We are confident of the progress we have made in 2015 though we are aware of the challenges ahead.”

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