High Andean Wetlands

High Andean Wetlands

Carolina Garcia Arbalaez

Business for Social Good

Carolina started working for AB InBev in 2017, taking the role of Sustainability Lead and then Manager in Colombia at the time of a new sustainable direction for the company. 

As a result, Carolina launched a project in the High Andean Wetlands, on which 70% of Colombia is reliant for water. The area is extremely vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. Carolina sought to address this with a conservation initiative in Santurban, a High Andean Wetland that provides water to more than 2 million people and is critically endangered. The project promotes voluntary agreements with local farmers to do forest restoration, preservation and sustainable agriculture in the buffer zone of the High Andean Wetland, the zone where the ecosystems suffer more pressures due to unsustainable productive activities.  The pilot programme was launched in 2018. The project has worked alongside farmers to improve their livelihoods and ensure local ownership simultaneously. The programme was launched in full as of 2019 when it became one of the key initiatives led by the company with an investment of nearly $1 million to scale up its ambition. Currently the project has impacted 9 municipalities, protected 3,700+ hectares and benefited more than 590 farmers.   

To ensure the longevity of the High Andean Wetlands project, the team designed and launched a new water brand called Zalva, the first purposeful brand in AB InBev’s portfolio in Colombia.  The brand has committed to invest most of its revenue to High Andean Wetland protection, initially funding this project in Santurban and then investing in other High Andean Wetlands in the country. This has ensured the project’s long term sustainability and scale. Aligned with the sustainability commitments of the project, this water was the first to be sold in 100% recycled PET bottles and will transition to more sustainable packaging such as returnable glass. The success of this project has led to the demand for its replication in eight more high risk watersheds across Latin America in Carolina’s new role as Sustainability Manager for the Middle Americas region that covers more than 10 countries. Her two main projects will focus on improving water availability for the Rimac River Watershed in Lima, Peru, and in the Calera aquifer in Zacatecas, Mexico.

SDG 13 - Climate Action