News and Notes

Anheuser-Busch, Ball Corporation and Arsenal Lead on Green

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Today’s GSB News & Notes features three linked stories:

1. Leading sports advertiser Anheuser-Busch partners with Rio Tinto to develop a more sustainable aluminum beer can. Great news, yes, but Rio Tinto has serious greenwashing issues. Maybe America’s leading brewer can find another, less greenwash-y partner?…

2. …Like aluminum cup-maker Ball Corporation, which recently bought the naming rights to the home of the Kroenke Sports-owned Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche. Kroenke also owns Arsenal of the English Premier League…

3. …And Arsenal this week became the first EPL club to sign the UN’s Sports For Climate Action Framework.

 

ANHEUSER-BUSCH TO DEVELOP MORE SUSTAINABLE ALUMINUM BEER CAN

It’s been such a chaotic last two weeks here in the U.S., it may be time for an adult beverage — consumed responsibly, of course.

With that in mind, it is worth noting that Anheuser-Busch, America’s largest brewer and a major sports advertiser, recently announced that their beer cans will be made from low-carbon aluminum that meet industry-leading sustainability standards — a first for the canned beverage industry.

The maker of Budweiser, Michelob and Stella Artois formed a global partnership with Rio Tinto, a leading producer of responsible aluminum, to deliver a new standard of cans made from low-carbon aluminum that meet industry-leading sustainability standards.

Leveraging Rio Tinto’s low-carbon aluminum made with renewable hydropower along with recycled content, Anheuser-Busch will produce a beer can with a potential reduction in carbon emissions of more than 30 percent per can compared to similar cans produced today using traditional manufacturing techniques in North America. The partnership will also leverage outcomes from the development of ELYSIS, a disruptive zero carbon aluminum smelting technology.

Anheuser-Busch plans to pilot the first one million cans produced through the partnership with Michelob ULTRA, the fastest growing beer brand in the United States.

 

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Michelob ULTRA cans will be made from low-carbon aluminum thanks to Anheuser-Busch's new partnership with Rio Tinto (Photo credit: Anheuser-Busch)

 

The partnership builds on Anheuser-Busch’s 2025 U.S. Sustainability Goals, launched in 2018, which include a validated science-based target to reduce carbon emissions across its value chain by 25 percent by 2025 and invest in more sustainable packaging options across its product portfolio.

 

GSB’s Take: Anheuser-Busch’s move to produce low carbon aluminum cans from Rio Tinto that could result in a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions is a very good thing.

Hopefully, America’s #1 brewer will share the green story of these cans in advertising on sports broadcasts. The company has a history doing so, most notably with its Super Bowl LIII spot in February 2019 that highlighted its investments in wind power.

Now it must be noted that Rio Tinto is a problematic partner. Even as it makes legitimate advances in low carbon aluminum, the company continues to greenwash.

At the company’s April 2020 annual meeting, Chairman Simon Thompson said this: “As the world confronts the immediate crisis of COVID-19, it is vital that we do not ignore the longer term challenge of climate change. If the world is to achieve the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, urgent, co-ordinated government action is essential.”

Sounds good, right?

Well, a not-so-deep dive shows that only eight weeks before Thompson’s speech, Rio Tinto committed to spending $1 billion to build a coal-fired power plant.

And that’s only the beginning.

Per Financial Review (Australia) columnist Joe Aston, “Thompson wants [Australia’s government] to tax carbon emissions and so motivate Australian industry to decarbonize, but to exempt mining exports [like Rio Tinto] from the tax. That’s Rio being well-positioned not to contribute to a low-carbon future.”

While no industrial company is close to perfect when it comes to carbon emissions, here’s hoping that Anheuser-Busch can either exert pressure on Rio Tinto to live up to its Chairman’s words or find another, less-conflicted partner for its low-carbon aluminum cans.

Maybe Ball Corp., the new naming rights partner of the home of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, could be part of the solution?

 

BALL CORPORATION BRINGS ALUMINUM CUPS, GREEN ETHOS TO DENVER ARENA NAMING RIGHTS DEAL

Broomfield, Colorado-based Ball Corporation announced last month that it has bought the naming rights to the home of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche, formerly known as the Pepsi Center. The deal is part of a wide-ranging partnership with arena, Nuggets and Avs owner Kroenke Sports & Entertainment that Ball hopes will increase awareness and adoption of its recyclable aluminum cups.

 

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Ball Arena, the newly-renamed home of the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and the NBA's Denver Nuggets (Photo credit: Michael Martin/NHLI)

 

Ball Arena has begun phasing out single-use plastics for all cold beverages, including water, soda and beer whenever fans come back to the venue post-COVID-19.  December 2022 is the target date to complete the transition.

The partnership extends to other sports properties owned by billionaire Stan Kroenke, including the Los Angeles Rams and their new $5 billion SoFi Stadium, and Arsenal of the English Premier League’s and its Emirates Stadium. Both  venues will begin introducing aluminum cups and ramp up their recycling infrastructure. More on Arsenal and its greening efforts below.

Per Ball CEO John Hayes, this represents the company’s biggest-ever marketing partnership. It is structured in a way that gives Ball financial flexibility should the COVID-19 pandemic continue to disrupt upcoming NBA and NHL seasons, Hayes said.

The company has been primarily a business-to-business operation over most of its 140 year history, providing cans and jars for companies like Coca-Cola and, yes, Anheuser-Busch.

Now Ball is preparing to sell its new aluminum cups — which can be recycled and the metal recirculated within 60 days — at retail, hoping general awareness around recycling and sustainability will create a popular alternative to plastic cups. The company sees adoption at sporting events as a primary way to introduce the cups more broadly to the public.

“This is not a transaction where we write a check, slap our name on the stadium, high-five each other and go home.,” Hayes said. “This is the beginning of a long-term journey about educating consumers on the benefits of aluminum packaging.”

“Consumers are cognizant of sustainability nowadays,” said Michael Ceilley, Senior Vice President of Partnership Marketing, Media and Digital Sales at KSE, in a statement. “That was one of the things we looked at across the KSE portfolio that really made sense—doing right by our fans, doing right by our venues and doing right by our planet.”

 

ARSENAL BECOMES FIRST PREMIER LEAGUE CLUB TO SIGN UN’S SPORTS FOR CLIMATE ACTION FRAMEWORK

Arsenal reinforced their commitment to tackling climate change, burnished by its switch to Ball’s aluminum cups, when it became the first Premier League club to sign up to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework on Monday.

 

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Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal (Photo credit: Arsenal F.C.)

 

The Gunners join the International Olympic Committee, FIFA and the New York Yankees, among 150 or so others in making the commitment to the Framework and its “five commitments”:

  1. Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility
  2. Reduce overall climate impact
  3. Educate for climate action
  4. Promote sustainable and responsible consumption
  5. Advocate for climate action through communication

“Arsenal is committed to leading the way on sustainability among Premier League clubs and we are proud to be the first club to sign up to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework,” said Hywel Sloman, Arsenal’s Operations Director, in a statement. “Together with our partners, we’ve already implemented a number of environmentally friendly practices across the club. This includes becoming the first Premier League club to switch to 100 percent green electricity  since the beginning of our partnership with Octopus Energy in 2016.”

 

GSB’s Take: It pains me as a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal’s North London rival, to say anything nice about them but congratulations are in order for The Gunners for becoming the first Premier League club to sign the Sports For Climate Action Framework. Hopefully the rest of the EPL follows suit in short order.

OK, that’s about it as far as kind words for Arsenal are concerned. #COYS!¹

 

¹ COYS! = COME ON YOU SPURS!

 

 


 

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Formula E’s Sustainability Director Julia Pallé

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