BUSINESS

Budweiser Is Turning 6 Cities Into Labs For Responsible Drinking

The world's biggest brewer wants to reduce harmful drinking by 10 percent in 10 years.

Alcohol ads urging people to “drink responsibly” don’t seem to be working. Though drunk driving has decreased, binge drinking and underage drinking are on the rise.

So the world’s biggest brewer is trying something different.

AB InBev -- the Belgian beer behemoth behind brands like Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois -- is launching pilot programs in six cities around the world, aimed at finding ways to reduce harmful drinking by 10 percent in 10 years. If everything goes according to plan, the cities will function as laboratories brewing public health solutions that can eventually be scaled globally.

“We have experience with different cultures in different places,” Ricardo Rolim, AB InBev’s vice president of sustainability, told The Huffington Post on Friday. “We can exchange knowledge and learning from one place to another.”

The initiative is part of a broader push to reduce dangerous drinking and tap a bigger market of non-drinkers. The company, which earned over $28 billion in profit last year, plans to spend over $1 billion to get the cities program off the ground and launch a global campaign to promote awareness of the risks of reckless drinking. By 2025, AB InBev wants at least 20 percent of its global volume of beverages to contain little or no alcohol. It also plans to update its labels to include more health information.

“The private sector has the opportunity to play a valuable role in addressing pressing societal challenges,” former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who serves as the chairman of AB InBev's global advisory council, said in a statement Wednesday. “Governments can’t do it alone.”

To start, the company is choosing cities in six of its biggest markets -- the United States, China, Belgium, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. So far, it’s selected two: Zacatecas City, an urban center in north-central Mexico with a population of about 130,000, and São Bernardo do Campo, a municipality of about 736,000 located outside São Paulo.

The idea is to work with schools, municipal governments, local nonprofits and public health officials to develop programs tailored to the needs of each city. The company is funding an independent third-party committee of made up of academic, public health and policy groups to monitor progress and publish their findings online.

“For more than 30 years, we have invested in initiatives to promote responsible drinking and discourage harmful drinking," Carlos Brito, CEO of AB InBev, said in a statement. "Now, we are taking our efforts to the next level, moving beyond awareness raising to driving real impact for the communities in which we live and work.”

This article has been updated to include Brito's remarks.

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