Andy Wales: A champion of business solutions to global poverty

Andy Wales, director of sustainable development at major global brewer SABMiller. Photo by: SABMiller

When Andy Wales speaks about responsible water management, businesses take notice. He is not only the director of sustainable development at major global brewer SABMiller but also serves in the boards of the U.N. CEO Water Mandate, the World Economic Forum water program and the joint global water investment project of McKinsey and the International Finance Corp.

Wales is one of today’s most influential development leaders under 40 in London. He and his peers have inspired change that transcends borders.

Devex is recognizing 40 of these young London-based trailblazers in international development. They are social entrepreneurs, government leaders, development consultants, business innovators, advocates, development researchers, nonprofit executives, philanthropists and investors.

We asked Wales about his leadership and vision for development cooperation in the years to come. Here’s what he said:

What different perspective do you bring to the debate among traditional donors about the future of development aid?

Over the last 10 years the international development debate has broadened to include a much wider range of actors — including the recognition that business is at the heart of economic growth in emerging and LDC markets, and thus at the heart of development. I’m optimistic that the next 10 years will show even greater progress. If a business manages its activities in an inclusive way, recognising that it has a shared stake in protecting scarce natural resources, improving the health and education of local communities, and strengthening the capabilities of governments and their agencies, then it can make a huge contribution to development. If many businesses do this together, then it can transform not just an economy but a society.

How has your engagement with the multilateral and public sectors helped SABMiller do good while doing business?

SABMiller has grown from emerging market origins in South Africa to become the world’s second largest brewer. Our current and future success is based on the growth and development of both developed and emerging markets and intrinsic to this is an understanding that we will only succeed if societies develop and grow in a healthy way. These are not platitudes, but rather embody how we approach our business day to day. Our multilateral and public sector partners enable us to tackle challenges that we cannot resolve on our own. They help us build supply chains which encompass more smallholder farmers, growing crops for us at the right quality, protect supplies of key inputs such as water, and build health programmes such as our Tavern Intervention Programme in South Africa, which tackles issues such as HIV/Aids awareness, responsible drinking, and protecting the rights of women and children.

What types of cross-sector partnerships do you see as the most innovative and promising in reducing poverty around the globe?

Those where the partnerships focus on a genuine business opportunity or risk, where the partners bring a different set of capabilities and knowledge, where partners are prepared to challenge each other and yet put the effort in to agree a common set of goals and approach, and where results are published openly, including a discussion of how things can be improved. Three examples:

The Water Futures Partnership, between WWF, GIZ and SABMiller, helps reduce the long term business risk of water scarcity for SABMiller, whilst protecting water supplies for communities and ecology — the partnership is active across markets from Peru to Tanzania, and South Africa to Ukraine, and is open to other partners to join. We publish progress annually through a Water Futures report and host online discussions with sites such as Guardian Sustainable Business’s water hub.

The Africa Enterprise Challenge fund is supporting a partnership between SABMiller and FARM Africa to build a smallholder cassava supply chain in Southern Sudan, to produce local rather than imported raw materials for our $50m brewery in Juba.

In 2011 Oxfam America, SABMiller and Coca Cola published a poverty footprint report covering our soft drinks value chains in Zambia and El Salvador. The anaylsis found that human rights, environmental protection and labour rights were well protected in our soft drinks bottling plants, but also identified challenges up and down the value chain to improve the opportunity for female entrepreneurs and to improve health and safety for sugar workers on third party plantations.

Read more about the Devex 40 Under 40 International Development Leaders in London.

About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.