Brewdog are one of Britain’s leading craft brewers, based in Edinburgh and with a growing reputation. They are known for doing business differently, including using community funding initiatives and paying a living wage. Perhaps their boldest idea is to take an open source approach and publish all the recipes for their beers so that home brewers can try them out for themselves.
This year Brewdog have added a raft of new sustainability measures alongside their existing community work. They announced new recycling incentives at the same time as a rebrand in February, and this month they launched a full sustainability report.
“It hit us,” say the founders in their introduction – “the blindingly stark realisation that we were not doing anything like enough.” With a suitable sense of urgency, they have committed to carbon neutrality immediately through partnerships with offsetting companies, but that is a temporary measure. A two year fast-track programme will aim to reduce emissions quickly wherever possible, and any remaining emissions will be offset through a Brewdog forest.
The firm already runs entirely on wind power, readily available in Scotland. Waste products from the beer-making are also used to make biogas, and a new anaerobic digester will enter service next year to deal with waste water. A fleet of electric vans is also on the way. More speculatively, there’s a plan to capture the CO2 emitted by the brewing process and use it to carbonate drinks in Brewdog’s chain of bars.
All of that will reduce emissions substantially, but as I’ve discussed before, it isn’t really possible to aspire to absolute zero carbon. It’s always about the net impact, and Brewdog will need ways to absorb carbon too. For the longer term, Brewdog have bought 2,050 acres in the Scottish Highlands. Formerly used as grazing land, it will be planted with a million trees to create a 1,500 acre forest and a 550 acre peatlands restoration project.
There are some clever ideas around waste that I won’t list here, because it’s worth reading the report. It’s shorter and more fun than your usual corporate sustainability report, as blunt and irreverent as we have come to expect from Brewdog, while still being deadly serious about its aims. They’ve been working with Mike Berners-Lee, environmental consultant and author of There is No Planet B, to ensure that their plan is a proportionate response to the climate emergency.
One of the reasons that I’m particularly interested in what Brewdog are doing is that they have always been a community spirited company. They’ve been transparent and generous about ownership of the company, about their recipes, and now about their environmental impact. I expect they will be ready to share their learning, and could be quite influential within the brewing world. We need companies that are prepared to take a risk, to decarbonise further and faster than others, and then share their journey for others to learn from.