International Beer Day: Cheers to Sustainability!

In light of the ever-increasing demand for sustainability, many drinks producers have heavily invested in making sustainability a priority; none more so than Scottish breweries who in recent years have made conscious steps to becoming more eco-friendly by committing to meeting green targets consistent with the overall direction set by the Scottish Government.

What is sustainability?

Sustainability refers to the ability to meet today’s needs whilst protecting the environment and resources for the future. It requires the full usage of current resources and waste minimisation in order to preserve future resources and protect the planet.

What commitments have been made?

In recent years, drinks businesses have been heavily scrutinised and pressured by the public, government authorities and the consumer to lower their carbon footprint. This has resulted in businesses committing to sustainability which follows in the footsteps of the Scottish Government which has committed to achieving net-zero emission by 2045 under the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019.

One of the forerunners in committing to sustainability is Brewdog, a Scottish multinational brewery and bar chain. Brewdog has recently claimed to be the first negative carbon beer business following the launch of its £30 million investment plan to implement measures to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Some of the measures included in the plan are: shortening the supply chain, recycling waste water, planting over one million trees and exclusively using wind-powered electricity. Other large multinational beer producers such as Heineken and Carlsberg have also followed a similar path by committing to lowering carbon emission with the latter partnering with WWF to tackle carbon emission issues directly through restoring seagrass meadows supported by consumer donations. 

Thankfully there are many companies in Scotland who have recently taken the initiative to adopt a circular economy model for production. Circular economy refers to a system which aims to reduce wastage and create a continual use of resources at all levels of production. Some of the examples include the following:

  • Brewdog has taken this step by re-using its used grains for new purposes including turning them into green gas, renewable vehicle fuel and organic fertiliser;
  • Arbikie Distilling Limited re-uses the waste products from its Nadar Gin as fertiliser and cattle feed. Eden Mill has recently introduced a new premium gin range in glass bottles which use 18% less glass than the industry standard; and
  • Many beer companies have now scrapped plastic packaging for six-packs and are adopting recyclable cardboard packaging with Tesco encouraging this move by banning plastic six-pack packaging earlier this year.

By adopting a circular economy model a business can better utilise its resources and materials which in turn helps reduce pollution and carbon emissions.

What’s next?

There are many great examples for breweries and drinks producers to follow to reduce their carbon footprint. Given the importance and increased attention placed on sustainability every business needs to consider what steps it can take in order to play its part in making the world a cleaner and more sustainable place.

However, as highlighted by Brewdog’s £30 million investment plan, achieving sustainability is not cheap and while there may be long term cost-saving effects, the short-term financial costs can be great. In order to support and encourage businesses to move towards sustainability, there needs to be further initiatives and measures to assist with the costs involved in moving towards a circular economy and greater sustainability.

One of the ways in which the Scottish Government may look to provide such support is through the proposed Circular Economy Bill. In particular, it is suggested that monetary penalties imposed under the Circular Economy Bill could fund grant schemes such as the current EU-funded Circular Economy Investment Fund which encourages small to medium enterprises to adopt new innovative business models for circular economy based products and services.

Crowdfunding is an alternative for funding sustainability as recently shown by Strangers Brewing Co, a sustainable microbrewery based in Linlithgow. The company is expected to launch its crowdfunding this summer to assist with purchasing brewing kits and creating a new wetland habitat to assist in drainage at the brewery.

Proactive sustainability measures are very important to consumers and will in many cases drive consumer spend.

For the sake of the global environment and individual commercial success every business must start planning what practical and achievable steps it can take to join the likes of Arbikie, Brewdog, Eden Mill, Strangers Brewing Co and many others. Time to raise a glass of beer (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) to developing and implementing actions to achieve great sustainability in the world of drinks. Cheers!

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