How innovation helped drive prosperity for entrepreneurs during COVID-19

  • Mindsets that promote prosperity can build a future that all can celebrate and share, while strengthening and protecting the natural resources that local communities depend on.
  • The BEES and Tienda Cerca platforms provide real-world examples of how technology can help small business owners improve their financial literacy.
  • Collaborations and solutions that foster prosperity can address a number of major challenges by building capabilities, boosting economic growth and building resilience.

What if more leaders came together to chart a path for the future—a future for all to celebrate and be a part of? What if we could do all of this together while strengthening and protecting the natural resources that local communities rely on? If we could do both, companies would be more competitive, better responsive and prepared for the changing needs of consumers, and help improve the livelihoods of everyone, everywhere.

As we have learned from the creation of a dedicated digital platform that went live during the pandemic, this type of collaboration is possible and vital to underpinning shared prosperity.

Driving Prosperity: Digital Platforms and Lessons Learned

1. Shopping nearby

AB InBev operates in more than 50 countries worldwide. For many small neighborhood grocery and convenience stores, there has never been a need to offer delivery or online shopping options. That was until the COVID-19 pandemic and strict social distancing rules hit. Overnight, lockdowns and shifting local regulations meant small businesses couldn’t operate the way they had for decades, allowing customers to come in and browse. A change was needed to help entrepreneurs survive and ensure that residents who depended on these businesses could access much-needed goods.

With millions of shops facing closure, AB InBev quickly developed Tienda Cerca, a free online delivery platform that kept small local shops open across Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Honduras.

The platform allowed shoppers to place online orders for all their groceries through the Tienda Cerca mobile app or online at no cost to themselves or the store owner. It also enabled small businesses – the heart of most communities and the livelihood of many people – to survive during one of the greatest economic recessions in history.

This program was only possible in regions with digital access. The regions that could benefit from this tool already had the digital tools and infrastructure that allowed users to integrate the platform into their business models.

2. BEES e-commerce platform

Access also leads to other growth opportunities. For example, AB InBev offers its retailers access to the e-commerce platform BEES. This platform is – in its simplest form – a technical product where small and medium-sized retailers can browse products, place orders, earn rewards, arrange deliveries, manage invoices and access business insights from one place.

BEES was launched in the Dominican Republic at the end of 2019 as an investment in a digital future. This investment unexpectedly became a lifeline for many retailers during COVID-19. Today, BEES is one of the largest business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce platforms in the world 1.8 million active users every month.

Programs like BEES and Tienda Cerca help small business owners access personalized educational content that enables them, among other things, to improve their financial literacy and leadership skills and harness the power of technology to grow their businesses and expand opportunities for their communities.

Of course, such growth is not created by any one company or organization. Digital access is enabled by technologists, investors, entrepreneurs and government leaders whose collaboration and broad thinking create the platform for even greater growth and even greater ideas.

Increase prosperity for years to come

The kind of collaboration that has led to these solutions is also needed for other big challenges.

Let’s take water as an example. More than just an important part of our products, water is a critical resource to the health and well-being of every society around the world. Climate pressures, inadequate infrastructure and poor governance increase the challenges for water resources. The increasing scarcity of freshwater resources is not only an issue for our company; it is a global risk to the economic, social and environmental well-being of our communities.

That’s why we’re committed to improving water availability and quality in 100% of our high-water-stress communities by 2025. One way to do that is to drive some of the collaboration needed to address these challenges. We work with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, an organization in Germany that works with governments and other key stakeholders to provide services in support of international development. Through our partnership with GIZ, we want to promote water-efficient and regenerative cultivation methods as part of the develoPPP funding program, which GIZ is implementing on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

More specifically, we help farmers implement drip irrigation technology and conservation agriculture, and access affordable financial services to make these changes. We also implement nature-based solutions to increase water infiltration into the aquifer, helping to improve long-term water security for communities.

Activities that demonstrate their ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere or prevent CO2 from being emitted are verified by an independent standard and issued as CO2 Credit Certificates (equivalent to one metric tonne of carbon dioxide).

Standards are organizations, usually NGOs, that certify that a specific project achieves its stated goals and emissions level. Among the most well-known standards are the UN Clean Development Mechanism, Worsethat American Carbon Registry, climate protection reserve and gold standard.

Carbon credits fall into three broad categories: mitigation projects (they avoid greenhouse gas emissions altogether), mitigation (they reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere), and removal (they remove greenhouse gases directly from the atmosphere).

Forest avoidance projects or programs known as REDD+ (Reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) Prevention of deforestation or destruction of wetlands. Other examples are soil management practices in agriculture that limit greenhouse gas emissions – such as projects aimed at avoiding emissions from dairy cows and beef cattle through different diets.

carbon removal from the atmosphere can include afforestation and reforestation projects and wetland management, which convert CO2 as they grow into fixed carbon that is stored in their stems and roots.

The reduction category includes projects that primarily focus on reducing the demand for energy efficiency, including cookstove projects, fuel efficiency or the development of energy efficient buildings.

International Voluntary Carbon Markets (VCM) provide a platform for individuals and organizations to offset their unavoidable and residual emissions through the purchase and retirement (cancelling in a register after which they can no longer be sold) of carbon credits made by sellers with a Excess have been issued Carbon budget – either because they avoided emissions or have implemented some additional activities that reduce or eliminate emissions.

While compliance markets are currently limited to carbon credits from a specific region, voluntary carbon credits are much more flexible and are not constrained by limits set by nation states or political unions. They can also be accessed by all sectors of the economy and not a limited number of industries. That Taskforce on scaling voluntary carbon markets estimates that the market for carbon credits could be worth over $50 billion as early as 2030.

These are examples of how we can make big dreams come true, using innovative solutions to meet the needs of tomorrow. But we know we still have work to do — the pandemic isn’t over, and even when it is, many of the issues uncovered over the past two years will remain. And if we are to truly thrive, we need more people working together to break down silos and foster a sustainable and inclusive recovery. The fact is, these challenges are more important than any individual organization. That’s why we look beyond our business and form unique partnerships. The more attention we pay to the challenges of ending the pandemic, improving the livelihoods of everyone everywhere, and strengthening and protecting the natural resources that local communities depend on, the better.

Beyond these partnerships, we must use our scale and capabilities to drive change in the communities where we live and work. As the world focuses on rebuilding and recovering socially and economically from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to understand the opportunities that come with economically empowering an equitable and inclusive recovery. We recognize that we must work to build resilient communities, and we must also empower the change makers in our communities to make lasting impact.

People everywhere are asking for that. That’s what they look for leaders they can count on to give them some peace of mind in a turbulent world. And now, more than ever, we must create a better future for all.

We can do this by working together. By refusing to accept “good enough”. By finding new ways to solve the world’s biggest problems. And with the vision of developing solutions to problems that don’t yet exist.

Our future together depends on it.


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