Corporate Accelerators Spark Sustainable Innovation

How one of the world’s largest beverages groups advances sustainability
Corporate Accelerators for Sustainable Innovation
Publ. date 7 Jun 2018
Instead of innovating in isolation, multinationals are opening their doors and partner with startups to design solutions for their most pressing challenges. Coca-Cola, Google and Disney are only a few of the companies that have captured value of initiating these corporate accelerators. These accelerators increasingly focus on sustainability issues. One of the latest companies entering the stage is Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev). The global beer company has announced its 100+ Accelerator, aiming to address global challenges in line with the group’s 2025 Sustainability Goals.

AB InBev’s 100+ Accelerator is powered by Zx Ventures, the global growth and innovation group within the company. The group’s mission is to develop new products and services that address evolving customer needs. Emerging customer trends in the beer sector include the low- and no-alcohol segment, the craft beer revolution and awareness of environmental issues. As part of the 100+ Accelerator, annual boot camps on selected sustainability challenges will be ran in 9 different markets, followed by a 10-week implementation program to test and scale selected ideas. The challenges will be designed in support of AB InBev’s 2025 Sustainability Goals:

  • Smart Agriculture: 100% of AB InBev’s direct farmers will be skilled, connected and financially empowered
  • Water Stewardship:100% of AB InBev’s communities in highly water-stressed areas will have measurably improved water availability and quality
  • Circular Packaging: 100% of AB InBev’s products will be in packaging that is returnable of made from majority recycled content
  • Climate Action: 100% of AB InBev’s purchased electricity will be from renewable sources, and 25% of CO2 emissions across its value chain will be reduced

One of the innovations from Zxlerator, a previous accelerator program ran by Zx Ventures, is Canvas. Around 5 kilograms of spent grain is generated for every liter of beer that is produced, accounting for around 85% of the solid waste from beer production. Canvas is a solution to use the spent grain as a key ingredient for the production of non-alcoholic fiber & protein shakes. Whereas Canvas benefits from AB InBev’s network and resources, AB InBev is able to capture value from its waste stream of spent grain. Canvas has already spoken out that the technology behind retrieving the spent grain for plant-based beverages can be rolled out to other breweries in the future.

Nurturing early-stage ideas for successful implementation

Another recent example of a corporate accelerator focusing on sustainability challenges is the Fashion For Good initiative. The initiative was founded last year by the foundation of the global fashion retailer C&A with the objective to change the fashion industry through innovation and new sustainable business model development.

One of the programs is the Early-stage Innovation Accelerator, whereby startups are supported in the transition to a sustainable apparel industry. This program accepts 20 startups a year to produce a proof-of-concept and fully developed business plan. To date, the accelerator has already brought new innovations reducing water usage (Nature Coatings), increasing resource efficiency (Texloop) and a mushroom-based textile that is 100% biodegradable (Mycotex).

Building your company's own accelerator program

Telenet, Belgium’s leading cable service provider, launched its first accelerator program in partnership with Idealabs already back in 2014. The majority of startups in the program had a positive environmental and/or social influence, for example Hoplr, a network focused on unlocking local value and improve neighborhood ties with mobile and web applications.

As of today, the Telenet Kickstart program has evolved towards partnerships with other startup communities such as Start it@kbc, the largest Belgian startup community, and imec IStart, with a key focus on startups in the telecom, media and entertainment sector. Furthermore, the company invests in promising startups, scaleups and spinoffs offering added value for Telenet’s business units.

Finch & Beak was closely involved in designing the business plan, the actual development of Telenet's accelerator program and feeding the experiences back into the company to create a culture of innovation. From our experience, we assembled a roadmap for corporates who are looking to explore the option of starting their own accelerator program. The three key steps are:

  1. Feasibility Quick Scan: exploring the market and startup lanscape and examining benchmarks to determine whether there is a viable opportunity.
  2. Business Plan: investigating the business case for an accelerator, based on more specific detailing of proposition, promotion, distribution, operational processes and financials
  3. Operational Execution: implementing the accelerator program on a practical level: location, mentors and engagement, communication and review processes.

In-House Accelerator for the Circular Economy

Finch & Beak has developed a state-of-the-art accelerator for the circular economy. During a 7-week program, in-house solutions to circular challenges are designed through a process of inspiration, ideation and implementation. Please contact Jan van der Kaaij, Managing Partner at Finch & Beak, to learn more about the Circular Economy Sprint at or call +31 6 28 02 18 80.

Image source: Canvas

About Jan van der Kaaij

Sustainability expert in strategy development, DJSI and sustainable innovation, with a hands-on approach and always committed to go for the max. | 

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