Embrace alignment. Your idea might be the best. It might be the worst. If not one else is with you, it really doesn’t matter. Nothing truly great is done alone if you have a goal of connecting a wide group of stakeholders. Learn how to bring people on board with you early on. It’s harder to embrace as you advance in your career.
As a part of my series about “Social Impact Heroes” had the pleasure to interview Adam Warrington. Adam is Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at Anheuser-Busch. Adam leads Anheuser-Busch’s corporate social responsibility team, overseeing the three pillars of A-B’s Better World platform: Community Affairs, which includes A-B’s emergency drinking water program and Anheuser-Busch Foundation, Responsible Drinking programming and communications, including Budweiser’s “Drink Wiser” platform, and Sustainability communications and storytelling, including A-B’s 2025 Sustainability Goals.
Thank you so much for joining us Adam. can you tell me about your role as the Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility. What brought you to this career path?
I’m proud to lead our corporate social responsibility team, overseeing the three pillars of our Better World platform: Community Affairs, Responsible Drinking and Sustainability.
Previously, I led communications and education for The High End, Anheuser-Busch’s business unit devoted to the company’s craft and import beer brands. While with The High End I had the opportunity to co-create Elevate, an initiative aimed at identifying new opportunities (solar and wind energy, date coding), while focusing others (community giving, category education) in collaboration with the company’s 12 craft partners.
The beauty of our company is that it encourages all of us to try new paths. My background in storytelling and communications led me to the path I’m on now, which allows me to help tell different stories while focusing on developing programs with the goal to drive social impact.
Can you share a story about something impactful has that you’ve been involved with since you joined A-B?
I am incredibly proud of the Emergency Drinking Water program and the evolution we are announcing this week. This is a program that our entire network of colleagues — from our employees who help produce the water at our breweries, to our logistics team who delivers it to the region, and our wholesaler partners who provide it to communities on the ground — are very passionate about. To watch the power of teamwork bring it to life is awe inspiring. By partnering with the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) to expand the program by donating one million cans of water to volunteer fire departments in 2019, we look forward to using our production and logistics capabilities to help even more people and provide critical hydration to those who putting their lives on the line to protect our friends and neighbors.
Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? What advice would you give to others who are interested in pursuing a similar path?
The mistake was a perspective, which was a fear of executing an idea I didn’t think was bulletproof. That fear led to a more conservative approach, which most likely kept some good, and I’m sure bad, ideas within a draft document versus being executed. I’ve learned more and grown professionally the past few years from pushing strategies forward that didn’t totally connect with whatever stakeholder they were aimed at versus the ones that were sure-fire successes.
Can you tell me how you think Anheuser-Busch is making a significant social impact?
We simply want to try and contribute and give back in the communities in which we operate.
We are there when disasters hit our communities, supporting our neighbors through clean water donations.
We are there to help make our communities safer with leading responsible drinking programs that aim to reduce harmful alcohol use, including impaired driving and underage drinking.
We are there as stewards of our lands and waterways, doing our part to protect the environment, from seed to sip.
And we look forward to continuing this commitment to help us achieve our mission of bringing people together for the next 100 years and beyond.
Tell me more about Anheuser-Busch’s Emergency Water Donation Program. Why did A-B decide to evolve, and why now?
Since the inception of our emergency drinking water program in 1988, Anheuser-Busch has worked alongside the American Red Cross to donate more than 80 million cans of clean drinking water to U.S. communities affected by natural disasters and other crises. We stand ready to support communities across the country at a moment’s notice by periodically pausing beer production at our Cartersville, Georgia and Ft. Collins, Colorado breweries throughout the year to apply our brewery resources and production expertise to can emergency drinking water.
This program is something that our leadership and colleagues are very proud of, so this year, we began exploring ways we could use it to help more people and more communities across the country. So in the past few months, we’ve been listening to experts in the firefighting space — including the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and Congressional Fire Safety Institute (CFSI) — on the issues they are facing and understanding their biggest challenges which sparked on insight on how we can help. As the country faces more natural disasters, like wildfires, it’s important to have programs in place to help our emergency responders. There’s plenty of support they need — but as hydration is a major concern, we believe that providing safe drinking water through our emergency drinking water program is an important first step.
Can you tell me a story about a particular individual or group who has made a significant impact on this cause?
There are many, and it starts with the American Red Cross.
Our relationship with the American Red Cross dates back to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 — when our co-founder Adolphus Busch saw first-hand the devastation caused by the San Francisco earthquake, and supported the relief efforts of the Red Cross.
Since then, with the inception of our emergency drinking water program in 1988, we’ve worked alongside the American Red Cross to donate more than 80 million cans of clean drinking water to US communities affected by natural disasters and other crises
What are a few things that the community, politicians, or society at large can do help you address the root of this problem?
I believe there is a role for everyone when it comes to supporting our first responders. Specifically, volunteer fire departments across the country are understaffed and under supported. Whether it’s making a donation to your local department, signing up to become a volunteer yourself or just taking a moment to thank those who are putting their own interests, time, and even lives on the line to protect our communities. Every little bit counts.
How do you define “leadership”? Can you give an example?
It’s “our” team, not “my” team. It’s a cliché, but leadership is best demonstrated through example versus delegation. When you are part of a team, and I’m lucky to lead a great one, everyone has to help drive initiatives forward by doing the necessary work.
What are 6 things you wish someone told me when you first started, and why? Please share examples.
- Never say never. My now wife asked me years ago if I would ever work in New York City (we lived in Chicago at the time) and I quickly responded “no way.” Well, I’ve happily worked in NYC the past four years. Be open to what could come down the line and don’t close yourself off.
- You can do this. I was trained that certain jobs might not be available to me as I could only be focused on certain career paths. My time at A-B has proven that to be false. As long as you’re willing to jump into a job where you don’t have all of the answers or experience.
- Great companies allow talented colleagues to learn, and talent will thrive with proper support.
- Embrace alignment. Your idea might be the best. It might be the worst. If not one else is with you, it really doesn’t matter. Nothing truly great is done alone if you have a goal of connecting a wide group of stakeholders. Learn how to bring people on board with you early on. It’s harder to embrace as you advance in your career.
- Run toward people who think differently than you. I can improve in many, many areas — and this is certainly one. I’ve learned it’s really easy to work with people who think like you and come from a similar background. Being challenged on your approach and ways on thinking can be uncomfortable. But it can also lead to much better ideas that connect with more people.
- Always constructive. Never destructive. Everyone needs and deserves feedback at work. How it’s delivered is key. I unfortunately had a couple of managers early in my career who took a scorched earth approach to delivering feedback, which led to team members not wanting to speak up for fear of being torn down. My personal goal is to always be consistent, and constructive, with everyone I work with when sharing my views.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Being safe doesn’t mean you won’t be sorry.”
A life without risk is a life with regret. I hope to keep pushing myself to be bolder and would much rather learn from an experience than be afraid to try.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can learn more about the A-B Emergency Water Donation Program at https://www.abfindspurposeinbrewing.com/initiative/volunteer-firefighters.html. Follow Anheuser-Busch on Instagram at @anheuserbusch and on Facebook at @AnheuserBusch.