Brewing by the Sun and Maintaining a Sustainable Supply Chain

Brewing by the Sun and Maintaining a Sustainable Supply Chain

Making an impressive advertising claim that Tiger Beer is “brewed by the sun”, is just one thing – important as it is – but Asia Pacific Breweries and its international owner Heineken believe in taking it a lot further.  One of the biggest global brands, Heineken says it is committed to “Brewing a Better World”. Sustainability is a business imperative rather than something that lies outside its normal business operations.  In Singapore, the brewery’s Head of Supply Chain, Gerardo Naranjo Sotomayor tells us what’s involved in the “sustainability brew”.


Earlier this month (November), Ken Hickson and Lekha Patmanathan visited Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore (APBS), toured the facility and sat in the impressive beer tavern to talk to Gerardo Naranjo Sotomayor, who came to Singapore a mere four months ago from Mexico to become Head of Supply Chain.


While he proudly retells the “brewed by the sun” story, as it has put Tiger and Asia Pacific Breweries on the map globally for brewery owner Heineken, in addition to being the biggest solar energy project by any company in Singapore.


He wants to tell us much more about the circular economy approach to the business and the global commitments to “Brewing a Better World”.


The Singapore operation certainly has the largest solar rooftop installation of any of Heineken brewery anywhere in the world. It is also the first solar project for the brewer in Asia Pacific.


Fact 1: The size of three football pitches, the solar panels are scheduled to run for the next 25 years, the resulting renewable energy will help APBS mitigate 1,500 tonnes of carbon emissions annually, reducing its carbon footprint by approximately 20%. It produces 20% of the total energy needed at the brewery.


But Gerardo wants to tell us how important all the other sustainability and supply chain factors are for the group and the brewery in Singapore.


A clean energy source is crucial but so is energy and water management. Both are critical to the production of beer.


Energy efficiency is a work in progress locally, as it is globally. How to cut back on the amount of energy used to produce one can of beer? Breweries talk in terms of Megawatts(MW) and hectoliters (hl). How many MW to produce a hl of beer. The aim is to bring about an improvement of 10% every year. Now it takes 9.3MW of energy to produce 1 hl of beer.


In the Singapore plant and around the world, the brewery goes out of its way to its manage its energy use, to cut its emissions of CO2, by addressing everything from lighting, heating, refrigeration and energy used in the production cycle.



In 2015, APBS achieved 2% reduction in its energy consumption from 99.5 MJ/hl in 2014 to 97.3 MJ/hl and corresponding 1% reduction in carbon emissions from 8.4 kg CO2-e/hl in 2014 to 8.3 kg CO2-e/hl. However, carbon emissions still stood above the global target of 7.6 kg CO2-e/hl despite upgrading of the plant and warehousing facilities. This was attributable to insufficient economies of scale in our production output. (From the 2015 Sustainability report:


Gerardo tells us the brewery is always looking at ways to be more energy efficient. All engineers and managers in the complete supply chain are required to address this.  One Heineken operation learns from what other plants are doing, studying best practices, just as others are seeing Singapore’s example of utilising solar energy. It is a case of continual improvement.


When asked what is his biggest challenge, Gerardo says it’s the circular economy. But is a positive challenge, he says. It’s not just about waste, but also the design of the whole process from production to packaging to the market.  How to have less impact on the environment. He’s determined to see that sustainability thinking and processes are embedded in the way APBS works.


Of course it is consistent with Heineken’s global policy, but it cannot be just top down. Change must come from the bottom up as well. Changing the way things can be done for the better. It means calling on and applying best practices from elsewhere. Seeking continuous improvement and not being satisfied with the way things are.


It important to be transparent in resource consumption at all plants around the world to produce each volume of product so they can compare globally. There’s the global target of cutting water use in the production of beer – aiming for no more than 3 hectoliters (that’s 3000 liters) of water for every one hectoliter (hl) of brewed beer.


According to Singapore’s Sustainability Report, water consumption in 2015 was reduced by 1.6% to 4.27 hl/hl, short of our target of 3.9 hl/hl. As the global aim is to reduce specific water consumption in our breweries by 25%, APBS has raised its ambition for 2020 to

3.5 hl/hl.


Gerardo can see where improvements could be made – using control points to monitor the rinse/clean process for bottles returned for re-use, for example. There’s also the aim to have a water recycling plant in the brewery and do more rain water harvesting. Currently  5-10% of the brewery’s water comes out of the sky.


Besides energy and water, there’s much to be done to cut waste and recycle more. As the only company in Singapore to have a bottle recycling programme, APBS currently gets 85% of its bottles back to clean and re-use. That seems like a good rate of return, but Gerardo would like to see it go higher.


For beer cans it is a different story. While Singapore does encourage people to recycle aluminum cans, ABPS doesn’t get directly involved in that process. There is no aluminum can recycling plant in Singapore so the brewery’s gets its supply of cans from overseas. Gerardo would like to help educate consumers to be responsible and recycle more, and also work with the industry to make greater use of recycled aluminum in the cans is acquires.


What else does Gerardo think can be done to make the brewery more sustainable? To apply circular economy principles?  Here are some of his hopes and plans:


* Enhance the HR programme for more staff to go overseas to learn and share practices in the brewing area. To teach and learn. Skills, knowledge and behaviors will empower employees.

* Encourage internal employee initiatives towards sustainability, for example, reducing food waste at the plant itself.  Reminders to turn off lights and use recycle bins.

* Do more to capture and use waste heat. Currently heat exchangers make use of the thermal energy generated during the beer production process.

* Make sure the Spentgrain, a by-product of the brewing process, doesn’t go to waste. This makes up 95% of total waste from the brewery and it can be exported as animal feed on farms.

* Address the supply chain and see how logistics can be improved. While sea freight is more efficient in South East Asia, he’s prepared to look at all options. He’s interested to learn more about the work of Green Freight Asia, for example.


Gerardo knows it cannot be achieved over night, but he’s determined to put global sustainability and supply chain objectives to work in Singapore. Already a lot has been done to “create sustainable value for our company, society and the planet” as set out by Heineken and according to APBS commitments.


Singapore’s state-of-the-art brewery has adopted the most technologically advanced brewing process that is extensively automated, coupled with nimble packaging capabilities at the same time. It has set high benchmarks for the industry and for companies in Singapore, particularly by its initiative to maximize the use of solar energy.


But Gerardo, like others in APBS, is determined to take the global mantra “brewing a better world” and apply it to every aspect of the business. Inside the company and outside.


He sees it as an end to end approach –  from grain to glass or barley to bar. He thinks of the impact on one part of the process for the rest of the supply chain and the environment.  That’s the circular economy approach. That’s putting sustainability to work.


Asia Pacific Breweries is determined to be the best at “brewing a better world”.


ABC Carbon Express Report by Ken Hickson and Lekha Patmanathan (November 2016)


See also the 2015 Sustainability Report for APBS:


See this report from New Zealand about:


Turning brewed hectolitres into road kilometres


A pilot project at DB Breweries (Waitemata Brewery, Auckland), New Zealand, has turned surplus yeast into an innovative biofuel. ‘Brewtroleum’ is an example of a circular economy approach, in which we recycle and reuse waste products.


Our operations in New Zealand, had a yeasty challenge rising around them. They produce around 572,000 liters of yeast slurry every year, as a natural by-product of the brewing process. Around 150,000 liters already find a second life in primary industry – for example, in the production of popular breakfast spreads – or, as animal feed. But, how best to use the remaining waste?


The unorthodox answer was found on the open road. One of the biggest sources of CO2 emissions across New Zealand is transport. Developing locally-produced forms of biofuel could offer a way to reduce emissions. HEINEKEN approached Gull, New Zealand’s leading biofuel retailer, to help develop a world first: DB Export Brewtroleum, a publicly available biofuel made from beer. By turning yeast slurry into fuel-grade ethanol, refining it and adding petrol, the result – Brewtroleum – could power vehicles while emitting 8% less carbon than traditional petroleum.


The pilot ran for six weeks during July and August 2015, supported by a tongue-in-cheek advertising campaign encouraging consumers to ‘drink DB Export and save the entire world’. Together with mass media coverage, this helped the message reach over 26 million people worldwide. During the six weeks, 300,000 liters of biofuel were produced and sold across 60 Gull petrol stations – enough to power

3.6 million road kilometres.*


The project received the Renewables Innovation Award at the NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards 2015 – New Zealand’s largest sustainable business event. On the back of the successful pilot, DB Export Brewtroleum 1.1 is planned to be re-introduced in selected Gull stations across New Zealand in the course of 2016.


* Based on the average tank size of 50 liters and average kilometres travelled per tank of 600 kilometres.




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