Beer and baseball have gone hand-in-hand for over a century. Now, Anheuser-Busch’s CEO Brendan Whitworth wants to pair them with civic engagement.
On Sept. 22, the Executives’ Club of Chicago and the Chicago Cubs hosted Whitworth for a discussion with former MLB player and Marquee Sports Network analyst Doug Glanville on how Anheuser-Busch is thinking bigger when it comes to utilizing its resources. In an empty Wrigley Field, Glanville peppered Whitworth with questions about the importance of sustainability in front of a couple hundred people.
After serving in the military for eight years, Whitworth wanted to continue to do work dedicated to improving the lives of U.S. citizens. He decided to chase that passion through business. One of the ways he and his company have been able to do that is by fostering relationships within the communities Anheuser-Busch has invested in. Whether it is a big city like Chicago or a smaller one like Cartersville, Georgia, they want to be ingrained in the culture.
“We very much like to think of what we do with our business and brands as local,” Whitworth said. “99% of what we sell [in Chicago], we make here. That starts with the farming partners, how we get the barley, the hops and other products.”
Anheuser-Busch has also put sustainability at the forefront when determining how it wants to produce its products. Whitworth said the company has invested in solar panels, wind farms and solar farms for its breweries to reduce the amount of energy they typically use. He mentioned businesses can lessen their energy consumption “in the double digits” with the right solar fields.
“We know that we are a consumer company,” Whitworth said. “What we try to do is bring other critical things like recycling and awareness to that connection because, once a consumer finishes a Budweiser, they can immediately become a recycler if they’re aware of it.”
One of the ways Anheuser-Busch tried to separate itself from the recycled ads (pun intended) companies use to raise awareness around social issues was partnering with the National Recycling League. Anheuser-Busch worked with some of the sports teams it does business with and created a competition among them where the company tracks how many of its products are sold at a game and compare it to how many of them get recycled.
“It’s a way we can use our customer connection to not only predispose people to our brands but drive home other messages as well,” Whitworth said.
Cubs owner and chairman Tom Ricketts said before the event that he believes in what Whitworth and company have set out to achieve.
“We would rather do it differently,” Ricketts said. “Let’s get bigger, deeper, more meaningful partnerships with the brands and companies that mean so much to us. We really leaned into the partnership with Budweiser at that point.”
How to Help:
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James is a freelance reporter who has covered the Chicago Sky for the Chicago Tribune, MarketWatch and The Next Hoops. He hosts and produces a podcast covering the team called The Skyhook Podcast and is a mass communications/journalism graduate from the University of Iowa.