WITH SIMON BOAS HOFFMEYER
SUSTAINABILITY DIRECTOR, CARLSBERG
Sustainability is high on the agenda of food and beverage companies, particularly brewers, as some of the largest producers of beer aim to cut back on their carbon emissions and water dependency. A couple of weeks ago, Carlsberg revealed plans to eliminate carbon emissions and halve water usage at its breweries by 2030, as part of a new sustainability programme. The brewer is collaborating with the not-for-profit Carbon Trust and will partner with 30 suppliers to reduce their shared carbon footprint over the duration of the project.
FoodBev’s Alex Clere caught up with Carlsberg sustainability director Simon Boas Hoffmeyer to explore what the measures mean for the Danish brewer.
Sustainability and Carlsberg – those are two very Danish things! So presumably taking care of the planet is just part of Carlsberg’s DNA?
Our new programme – Together Towards ZERO – is a response to global challenges such as climate change, water scarcity and public health. It is driven by the company purpose of brewing for a better today and tomorrow. We believe that making brewing more sustainable will benefit both our company and the societies where we operate.
This is something that has been part of who we are as a business since our founders created the company, and has evolved over decades of beer brewing and engagement with stakeholders inside and outside our breweries – so yes, I guess you can say that this is part of our DNA. We are very proud of our track-record when it comes to sustainability. Since 2010, we have: reduced CO2 emissions by 28%, reduced water consumption by 9%, reduced lost-time accidents by 53%. Also, in 2016 we had 20 partnerships to promote responsible drinking and we reached 25 million consumers with responsible drinking messages through our activities in Global Beer responsibility Day – just to mention a few accomplishments.
The brewing process is very resource-dependent, especially when it comes to electricity and water. How difficult is it to make Carlsberg’s brewing operation completely carbon-neutral?
We are aiming at ZERO carbon emissions from our breweries by 2030, with an interim milestone of 50% reduction by 2022. This will definitely not be an easy feat, however we believe that it is the right thing to do, both for the business and society. It will require several investments in new technology, employee behavior and ways of working.
Some of the activities we will employ include improving energy efficiency, following best practice in energy management; sourcing 100% renewable power using physical (such as solar) and market-based instruments (such as certificates with guarantees of origin); sourcing renewable fuels for heat generation (such as sustainable biomass from rice husks, wood chips or spent grains); making surplus low-carbon energy available to local communities (heat) and power grids (electricity); and offsetting residual (unavoidable) carbon emissions with recognised carbon offsetting projects.
You mention renewable energy: what’s your target for renewable energy and how long will it take you to achieve?
We are targeting 100% renewable electricity by 2022. By 2016 we had achieved 45% through generation of electricity from solar, extracting biogas from 18 breweries and buying renewable energy certificates with guarantees of origin. A highlight of 2016 was definitely the inauguration of the Dali Brewery’s rooftop solar installation, which provides renewable energy to help mitigate the brewery’s annual CO2 emissions of more than 1,800 tonnes. Around 20% of Dali’s electricity needs can now be met by a clean, cost-effective and infinitely renewable power source by using more than 8,000 panels to convert the sun to electricity.
Many people don’t understand the business sense of operating sustainably. How do commitments like this contribute to Carlsberg financially, both in the short and long term?
The programme will help ensure that we run a sustainable, cost efficient business, and we do it because we think it is the right thing to do, and because it makes business sense.
What do we mean by this? Well, the cost of utilities such as energy and water will rise in the future – we just don’t know when and by how much. Therefore, investment in Together Towards ZERO will protect our future, and create a more resilient business that can deliver both short-term and long-term business performance. This is also the case for our wider value chain, and we hope that with our ambitious targets we will be part of creating a virtuous circle of improvements among our suppliers and business partners. We also expect that a positive outcome will include an increased rate of innovation within our business and among adjacent industries, releasing the ingenuity of the value chain to contribute to a more sustainable future.
Trump talk: the US’ withdrawal from the Paris Accord was met by shock in generally liberal Europe.
Obviously climate change has been in the news recently, with Trump withdrawing from the Paris agreement. I know Cees‘t Hart has spoken out about it, but how is that affecting your view of sustainable business?
Beer is a natural product made from barley, hops, water and yeast. This means that we are reliant on a healthy nature and environment to continue brewing our products. With the climate changes we see increased erratic weather patterns, increased instability within the pricing and supply of products.
For this reason, it makes sense for us to step up in the fight against climate change, regardless of what some politicians might say or do. Furthermore, as a business we like to be masters of our own fate, and with Together Towards ZERO, this is exactly what we do, by going above and beyond legislation in our pursuit of a better tomorrow.
You recently started working with Toast Ale in the UK, which makes beer form leftover food. How important is it that your commitment to sustainability is reflected in your products?
We drive our sustainability ambitions and targets for many different reasons, and of course it’s important for us to make our products relevant to our consumers.
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