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Opinion: Sustainability in the brewing industry – what does it look like?
FoodBev Media

FoodBev Media

17 April 2024

Opinion: Sustainability in the brewing industry – what does it look like?

In recent years the conversation around climate change has become an important topic of discussion, with world leaders, organisations and consumers all taking action to reduce their carbon footprint and help protect the planet. In fact, over half of consumers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly brands and products, highlighting the demand individuals have for action on climate change. While many businesses are pivoting towards greener, cleaner processes, more traditional industries face the challenge of moving away from methods that have served them for hundreds of years, such as breweries. So what is the brewing industry doing to ensure that it plays a role in helping tackle climate change? Craig Groeneveld, master brewer at Lyras, explains.

Why the brewing industry should care

It is clear that today’s consumers are conscious about environmental issues and are seeking out products that align with their values. By offering sustainably brewed beers, retailers can attract environmentally conscious consumers and increase their brand loyalty. In turn, this gives them a competitive advantage in an already saturated marketplace. Further still, implementing sustainable practices, such as reducing water usage, optimising energy consumption using Raslysation technology (ambient energy replacing heat energy) and minimising waste (or waste to product in a safe way), can lead to significant cost savings in the long run.

Climate change and environmental degradation pose significant risks to supply chains. For example, in 2023, severe floods in China impacted global supply chain operators, resulting in hundreds of millions of pounds in damages. By working with breweries that prioritise sustainability, retailers can enhance the resilience of their supply chain and mitigate the impact of disruptions caused by environmental factors.

Embracing sustainability in brewing offers numerous benefits for retailers, including attracting green-conscious consumers, gaining a competitive edge, reducing costs, ensuring compliance and enhancing supply chain resilience. By prioritising sustainability, retailers can not only contribute to environmental conservation but also drive business success in the rapidly evolving market.

Can UV light reduce the food industry’s climate impact? Check out Lyras’ exclusive article on this topic here.


Tackling greenwashing

It is clear that many consumers will happily pay more for a product if it is environmentally friendly. As a result, organisations have tried to jump on the bandwagon and position themselves as sustainable, when this is not always the case. So how can consumers spot brewers that are genuinely doing the right thing over those that talk the green game?

Transparency and accountability

Look for brewers who openly share information about their sustainability practices, such as energy consumption, water usage, waste management and sourcing of ingredients. Companies that are truly committed to sustainability will often provide detailed reports or certifications to back up their claims.

Certifications and standards

Pay attention to certifications and standards related to sustainability. These designations indicate that a brewer has met specific criteria for environmental and social responsibility, providing assurance of their commitment to sustainability.

Track record and long-term commitment

Evaluate a brewer’s track record and long-term commitment to sustainability. Companies that have been actively implementing sustainable practices for years and have concrete goals for future improvements are more likely to be genuinely committed to environmental stewardship.

Supply chain transparency

Assess the transparency of a brewer’s supply chain. Brewers that prioritise sustainability often have initiatives in place to ensure ethical sourcing of ingredients and support for local farmers and communities. They may also have partnerships or collaborations with sustainable suppliers.

Engagement with stakeholders

Look for brewers that actively engage with stakeholders, including employees, customers and local communities, on sustainability issues. Companies that solicit feedback, participate in sustainability initiatives, and communicate openly with stakeholders are more likely to be genuine in their commitment to sustainability.

Third-party endorsements

Consider endorsements or recognition from reputable third-party organisations or industry associations focused on sustainability. Awards, rankings or partnerships with recognised sustainability organisations can provide additional credibility to a brewer’s claims of environmental responsibility.

Consistency in actions and messaging

Pay attention to consistency between a brewer’s actions and messaging regarding sustainability. Beware of greenwashing, where companies exaggerate or misrepresent their environmental efforts for marketing purposes. Genuine commitment to sustainability is demonstrated through consistent actions aligned with stated values and goals.

By considering these factors and conducting thorough research, retailers can better identify brewers who are genuinely committed to sustainability and distinguish them from those who merely pay lip service to environmental concerns.


Transparency is key 

Sustainability is a complex issue, so how can retailers go about communicating this with consumers effectively?

Customers are often interested in how products impact the environment. Retailers can highlight aspects such as reduced carbon footprint, water conservation efforts and use of renewable energy in production processes. Communicating specific environmental benefits can resonate with environmentally conscious consumers and demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. 

Transparency about the sourcing of ingredients and materials can be compelling for customers who are concerned about ethical issues such as fair labour practices, animal welfare and support for local communities. Retailers can emphasise partnerships with sustainable suppliers, certifications for responsible sourcing, and initiatives to support small-scale producers. 

Customers appreciate retailers that actively work to reduce waste and promote recycling. Retailers can communicate efforts to minimise packaging waste, implement recycling programs, and use eco-friendly packaging materials. Highlighting initiatives such as bottle return programs or compostable packaging can appeal to customers who prioritise waste reduction.

Demonstrating a commitment to the local community can also strengthen customer loyalty. Retailers can communicate efforts to support local farmers, artisans and charitable organisations. Engaging in community events, sponsoring local initiatives, or donating a portion of sales to relevant causes can foster a sense of connection with customers and show support for community well-being.

Additionally, retailers can educate customers about sustainable product options and innovations in the brewing industry. Highlighting eco-friendly brewing techniques, such as using renewable energy or implementing closed-loop systems, can showcase a commitment to innovation and sustainability. Providing information about the environmental benefits of specific products can empower customers to make informed choices.

Customers increasingly expect companies to demonstrate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives beyond their core business activities. Retailers can communicate CSR initiatives such as employee volunteer programmes, contributions to environmental conservation projects or efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. Sharing stories and achievements related to CSR can humanise the brand and resonate with customers on a personal level.

By incorporating these elements into their communication strategies, retailers can effectively engage with customers and differentiate themselves as leaders in sustainability. Building trust and loyalty through transparent and meaningful sustainability messaging can ultimately drive customer satisfaction and long-term success.

Mark Kalhøj Andersen, Lyras’ new CEO, was featured in our latest edition of FoodBev Magazine, exploring the company’s cutting-edge technological advancements. Don’t miss out on the upcoming issue (FoodBev 76), which comes out soon – subscribe today.

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