Intersection of Brewing and Sustainability - Pubinno

Intersection of Brewing and Sustainability

April 15, 2021


Not only in business language but also in general, we can define sustainability as “meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” With this in mind, let’s see what has the beer industry done and their to-do lists to ensure sustainability?

The concept of ecological sustainability in the brewing industry started through the Zero Emission Research Initiative (ZERI) and, specifically, with the Brewing-Aqua-Agriculture program (ZERI-BAG). The ZERI program is an initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), now run by the United Nations University in Tokyo. The idea of Zero Emissions Brewery was outlined in 1997 by Gunter Pauli who is also the creator of ZERI.


The market shift towards a more sustainable brewery was founded on four main criteria: water utilization, energy efficiency, production methods, and distribution methods (Peel, 1999). We are witnessing the impacts of climate change and its effects throughout the world. 

The World Bank estimates that by 2030 more than one-third of the world’s population will face significant water shortages if we continue the business as usual. The water scarcity could displace 700 million people by 2030 (Sotolongo, 2012). That is a cause for concern in an industry whose product heavily relies on water. It is essential to recognize and encourage the breweries charging ahead with the modern sustainable brewery to the next level for a sustainable future. 

Water scarcity has become a real threat alongside other environmental problems such as climate change, rapid population growth, and pollution. Water-related issues have a direct impact on the breweries’ core values and profit.Along these lines, as Pubinno, we think that anyone who is working in the brewing industry needs to build their strategies around this question: How much water, energy could we save if we committed to more sustainable brewing practices?

For example, in the United States, 42 beer companies have signed the Climate Declaration, a 2013 climate advocacy effort by non-profit sustainability organization Ceres (Upton, 2017). These breweries include Smuttynose Brewing Company, Guinness, New Belgium Brewery and Allagash Brewing Company, etc. The Climate Declaration guarantees that companies need to reduce emissions because rising emissions have negative impacts since the beer industry relies on barley and hops cultivation.

Heineken has launched APB’s Brewing a Better World sustainability strategy in 2010. The aim was to cut water consumption in Heineken’s breweries by 2020, reduce carbon emissions from production by 40%; and, source half of its raw materials from sustainable sources (Sotolongo, 2012). 

New Belgium Brewing Company has provided a greater understanding across the industry of how a sustainable brewery can and should operate. They set three main criteria for a sustainable business: brewing waste diversion, water, energy intensity reduction, and greenhouse gas emissions (New Belgium, 2013). They made a benchmark goal to reduce their water usage to 3.5:1 by 2020, making them one the most water-efficient craft breweries globally. They have also implemented massive on-site energy generation using solar photovoltaic arrays in conjunction with methane biogas produced from microbes in their water treatment facility (New Belgium, 2013). The company has achieved platinum LEED certification and platinum zero-waste certification from the United States Green Business Council. 

Carlsberg is also one of the most important leading figures for adapting sustainable brewing practices. Their strategy is based on ‘Together Towards ZERO,’ which consists of four ambitions: ZERO carbon footprint, ZERO water waste, ZERO irresponsible drinking, and a ZERO accidents culture. They claim to eliminate carbon emissions at their breweries by 2030 and use 100% renewable electricity by 2022. Also, they aim to cut water usage to their breweries by half by 2030 and offer distribution of alcohol-free brews by 2022 to expand consumer choice and give detailed nutrition and ingredient information on their packaging to encourage responsible consumption. Furthermore, Carlsberg is also building a ZERO accident culture by pre-empting the potential risks of their operations and providing a safe working environment (Carlsberg, 2020).

Finally, A.B. InBev is a brewing company based in Leuven, Belgium, which takes sustainability as a central core of their business. By adopting 2025 Sustainability Goals, AB InBev aims to make 100% of its product in packaging that is returnable or made from majority recycled content. Moreover, they want to add renewable electricity capacity to regional grids and to have a 25% reduction in CO2 emissions across their value chain. Most importantly, by 2025, they claim to make 100% of their communities in high-stress areas have measurably improved water availability and quality. Being a top brewing company globally, A.B. InBev is aware that it depends on high-quality crops to brew it’s beers. So they are giving significant attention to support their farmers to be skilled, connected, and financially empowered. They conducted a flagship platform called SmatBarley, which leverages data, technology, and insight to help enrolled farmers improve their productivity and environmental performance (A.B. InBev, 2020).

The commitment to sustainability is about a long-term strategy rather than immediate impacts on the bottom line. By recognizing different global examples of sustainability from the brewing industry, we realized that sustainability is an important business priority long before external pressure is to do so. 


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  1. A.B InBev Brewing Company. (2020). Sustainability Goals 2025. Retrieved from
  2. Carlsberg Breweries. (2020). Together Towards Zero. Retrieved from
  3. New Belgium Brewing Company. (2013). We are 100% Employee Owned. Retrieved from munity/Blog/13-01-16/We-are-100-Employee-Owned.aspx 
  4. Lin, Y. (2019). How to Improve Your Brewery’s Energy Efficiency? Retrieved from
  5. Peel, R. (1999). Ecological Sustainability in the Brewing Industry. Retrieved from
  6. Sotolongo, J. (2012). Sustainability in the Brewing Industry: All about the Water. Retrieved from
  7. Upton, E. (2017). Beer Today, Beer Tomorrow- The Journey to a Sustainable Industry. Retrieved from


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