Chicago Booth Magazine Sipping Sustainably at AB InBev
Ezgi Barcenas, ’13, reflects on how the skills she learned at Chicago Booth help her drive impact at scale at global brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev.
- January 29, 2021
- Social Impact
Ezgi Barcenas, ’13, has always been driven to make an environmental and social impact. That drive led her to pursue a master’s in environmental health following a double major in biomedical and electrical engineering. After she worked in the public sector and in international development, her plans ultimately led her to Chicago Booth. “I needed that financial rigor and business acumen,” Barcenas said. “I observed the role of the private sector in bringing change to the world.” As global head of sustainability, Barcenas oversees the development and execution of the sustainability strategy for Anheuser-Busch InBev, which operates in more than 50 countries and includes over 500 brands. This is a glimpse into what it looks like in one day of her current routine.
6 AM I’m up at the crack of dawn with my two boys, who are 18 months and five years old. I get the kids settled with their breakfast, and I quickly scan through my emails. Mornings are hectic as we all get ready to go.
7:30 AM My husband takes the kids to school. I head into the office. On my 45-minute walking commute I call my parents in Cyprus, where I was born and raised.
8:15 AM I arrive at AB InBev’s Midtown office. We’ve had an opt-in return-to-workplace policy since the summer. It’s nice to be back. I grab my coffee and hop on Zoom with European colleagues for our monthly T&M (tracking and monitoring) meeting.
10 AM At our weekly team meeting we discuss key priorities for the coming week. I find myself often turning to the insights and lessons learned in the managerial and organizational classes at Booth. How do you operate in complex organizations, how do you lead with impact and influence, how do you inspire teams? The 10 of us are based across Switzerland, Belgium, and the United States, but we have a much larger team of teams across the world that are all working towards our 2025 Sustainability Goals.
“There is nothing like seeing how a global strategy can translate into on-the-ground impact.”
11 AM I join an investor meeting. I have more ESG (environmental, social, governance) calls than ever before. The pandemic has been a stress test for sustainable development. We discuss how, at AB InBev, we are building value chain resilience, specifically through our efforts in smart agriculture, water stewardship, circular packaging, and climate action.
12 PM I grab a granola bar in between Zoom calls. I’m used to eating on the go. Previously, 50 percent of my job was travel. I would visit our local operations, and tour breweries, barley fields, watersheds, and recycling supply chains. There is nothing like seeing how a global strategy can translate into on-the-ground impact. Our local teams are the real change-makers.
2 PM I meet with my team to discuss the launch of the applications for the third cohort of our 100+ Sustainability Accelerator. To date, we have accelerated 36 startups across 16 countries, unleashing the power of innovation to create a more sustainable future for all.
4 PM I review the final edits of the pre-read for our cross-functional Sustainability Council Meeting, which brings together six C-suite leaders to align on 2021 priorities and shared targets.
6 PM I catch up on emails before I head home. On my walk back, I give a colleague a quick call to discuss our upcoming Sustainability report.
7 PM It’s dinner and bath time with the kids. A family favorite is an olive bread I bake with traditional Halloumi cheese.
8 PM My husband and I wind down with a show or two. I’ve been going nonstop all day, but I love it. I am inspired by the passion and resilience of my colleagues across the globe and driven by our purpose of bringing people together for a better world.