World Water Day: Stella Artois teams up with Water.org to provide clean water to over 1.5 million people

Think about the first few hours of your morning — how many times did you do something that required using clean water?

Whether it was a shower, using the bathroom, washing your hands, making a cup of coffee, cleaning off fruit to eat for breakfast, chances are you used water at least once -- most likely, more than once.

Now think about how many times you used water this afternoon? Evening? The entire day in total? How would your day change if, all of a sudden, your access to that resource was completely cut off with no set solution in store?

How would that change your routine, your mood, your lifestyle?

For nearly 600 million people around the world, this is an everyday reality.

But for Anheuser-Busch and Stella Artois in partnership with Water.org, this widespread lack of access to what is fundamentally a basic human right has run its course, and they’re enacting immediate and sustainable change to make sure of that.

To Michel Doukeris, Anheuser-Busch Zone President and CEO of North America, the core of these efforts begins with what matters most:

“I always refer to the idea that most of our actions with our brands, and in marketing, start with the ‘Why?’ — How do you understand what is inside of people’s hearts and how do you touch their hearts?

If you put the heart and the logic to work, what we need is the magic of the marketing and the marketeers to put this in a compelling storytelling that people really engage with, without getting all the details underneath the logic and the stories we are trying to portray there — the beauty of combining heart, the business rationale and the magic is this impact that you can have with brands.”

This impact starts with direct action -- the company has reduced water usage across all of its breweries in the United States by nearly 50 percent in the past decade while managing to recycle a staggering 99.8 percent of all waste in those same breweries.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Anheuser-Busch has already smashed its overall sustainability goals for 2020 — and Doukeris has his eyes set on even bigger targets and areas of impact for 2025:

“[Our efforts are] related to watershed protection, packaging recyclability and zero carbon emissions on our network, as well as climate action — we just announced a lot of solar energy for our breweries and Tesla trucks for transportation for our final products.

And the other thing that I’m super passionate about is smart agriculture, how much we’re fermenting and helping growers across all countries that we operate in … we can generate a positive impact on the local economy … in one of our breweries [in China] with the water we are saving, by reducing consumption, we are now providing free water for a village of 50,000 people — before they were paying for the water, they were paying for treatment of this water and now we are providing for them for free in a big partnership with the government, that helps a lot.”

Smart agriculture is something that the Anheuser-Busch company is no stranger to.

Just take the company’s efforts in Mozambique, for example, where most people are living just below the poverty line.

Residents were educated on how to seed better crops to gain a maximum yield of corn from their fields — corn that could then be used as a base for fermentation of a beer that could be sold in local markets (where dangerous and illegal alcohol is often found) at a lower price to bring in more revenue.

And thus has begun the ripple effect — as Anheuser-Busch buys more corn from those families, the families, in turn, make money, and as Doukeris continues:

“Because they’re making more money, they are building their houses, they are able to have water, electricity, kids at school … you see the eyes of the fathers that can have their kids at school, and the happiness of the kids that are no longer working but are now going to school and having the chance to learn and have a better life — this is just incredible.”

This notion of enacting and creating custom, targeted sustainability projects that will create long-lasting effects is exactly what Stella Artois specifically is doing in its partnership with Water.org — and it all starts with providing access to clean and safe water.

Water.org, which was founded by Matt Damon and Gary white in 2009, works across Africa, Asia and Latin America to bring safe water and sanitation to those who lack the resources.

Since the partnership between Stella and Water.org began in 2015, it has helped Water.org provide more than 1.5 million people with access to clean water to date.

Doukeris couldn’t be prouder:

Our ambition goes far beyond the 1.5 million people. The 1.5 million is what we have done so far, so if we continue to drive this partnership, if we continue to make this spirit around Water.org and the partnership with Stella grow, I think that we can impact 10 million people or more. And then the halo effect of what this impact causes is exponential.

Because of the size of the company, the impact that we can have with our brands with the reach of our company is disproportionally bigger than the impact that [we] can do individually. And this is the beauty of a brand, such as Stella, doing something like this — with only three-plus years of the campaign, we have already reached 1.5 million people.

Vice President of Stella Artois, Harry Lewis, couldn’t agree more on the importance of the reach that the company has when it comes to affecting as many people as possible on a global scale:

“We’re celebrating 1.5 million people that today have access to water, but also have so much more — this [crisis] disproportionally affects women, who spend six hours a day collecting the water … having that access to water comes with so much more for them — potential for the future and for kids and education and for pursuing a career.”

Lewis asserts that “every brand should take their stand in building a better world," which makes it a no-brainer in his eyes that “when Water.org approached [Stella Artois], we rapidly jumped into this program.”

The partnership enables consumers to help raise money by purchasing specific Stella products and the funds from the sales of these are then directly donated to Water.org in order to support sustainability efforts abroad.

Consumers can help support Stella and Water.org’s efforts and goals to reach 3.5 million people by 2020 by purchasing a Limited-Edition Stella Artois Chalice, a drinking glass that has become symbolic of the Stella brand, which Doukeris describes as "authentic, modern and connected with consumers and their passion points."

The chalices are hand-designed by local artists from countries that Water.org provides water to, and each purchase can provide up to five years of clean water for one person in need somewhere in the developing world.

As Lewis says, this has helped Stella change the world “chalice by chalice”, and it’s part of what makes his job one of the most rewarding in his industry:

“It’s a real privilege to say we’re ‘doing well while doing good’ — it’s such a meaningful way to lead a brand.”

Consumers can also purchase any 12-pack of Stella through April 15 to provide 12 months of clean water for one person in need.

Stella Artois is celebrating its success in reaching 1.5 million people globally on World Water Day by kicking off an interactive art installation aptly titled ‘Water Ripples’ in New York’s Grand Central Terminal, which Lewis explains is “a kinetic installation that will exemplify 1.5 million people with access to water in a beautiful, artistic way.”

Patrons will be able to visit the installation March 23 through March 26 and, of course, purchase their limited-edition chalice at the same time.

It’s all in part to reach what Lewis envisions as an ideal world, one where every person has “equal opportunities and no one is chained to do something for something so basic, like water.”

We will most certainly raise a chalice to that.