Brewing
8 min read

Becoming a More Sustainable Brewery

Our quick guide and top tips to becoming a more sustainable brewery.
Written by
George Wade
Published on
January 3, 2023

Climate change is one of, if not the biggest threat facing society today. It’s a threat to our economy, the planet, our health and our businesses.

The UK brewing industry is responsible for 480,000 tCO2e (BBPA, 2019) every year and is not immune to the challenges ahead. Already, the impacts of climate change are pretty clear, impacting everything from the price, quality and availability of crops, to creating water shortages and rising energy bills.

The threat the industry faces look to continue, but we have hope and a plan to tackle the issue. In fact, it’s not all bad news. The emissions from a pint of beer have fallen by 42% in the last decade and breweries typically recover and re-use 98% of their waste. Impressive stuff. But what more can breweries do to become more sustainable and satisfy climate-aware consumers? Let’s dig into it.

1.  Measure your footprint

While it may be overused, the saying ‘what gets measured gets managed’ is true. Measuring your emissions is a great starting point to really uncover where you should be focusing your efforts to reduce your impact.

We started Zevero after realising how time-consuming and complex it is for small and medium-sized companies to take climate action and measure their emissions and wanted to create a more accurate and more streamlined solution to truly change an industry.

Measuring your emissions seems like a complex process with technical jargon and unknowns alike, but it’s actually relatively simple. Breaking it down, it’s a product of the things that come into your brewery, what happens when you make great beer and finally what happens when you send it to your customers. You can see a breakdown of DEYA’s cans vs kegs to understand an average emission breakdown. The more technical way to frame the breakdown of emissions is ‘scope 1, 2 and 3’, (read more on our blog here) produced by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

A Product Carbon Footprint comparison between DEYA Brewing’s cans and kegged pints. Source: Zevero.

2. Get everyone involved

While you’re discussing the process of measuring your emissions, talk to staff about creating a green committee or team.

By creating shared ownership of sustainability you’ll get buy-in from employees and you’re also likely to get great recommendations from your day-to-day operations. Effective action is more than just getting an expert to tell you what to do, getting real buy-in is a powerful tool in your climate armoury. It’s also useful to have an easy-to-use platform to measure your impact and work as a team.

Zevero’s dashboard for measuring and tracking your emissions.

3. Take advantage of easy wins

We get it. Tackling the question of sustainability can seem daunting, but there is always a starting point and we have to start from somewhere. Here are some quick wins to get you started, chose one and go from there. You’d be surprised, sometimes the lower costs items can have the biggest impact, such as a renewable energy contract and just talking to your suppliers.

Energy

Electricity and gas consumption accounts for anywhere from 5-15% of a brewery's emissions and is an area where you have direct control.

For your electricity tariff make sure you’re using renewable energy, either through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) or Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin’s (REGOs). While not perfect, it signals demand for more infrastructure to be built and helps you cut your market-based emissions. Better still, on-site solar can provide upwards of 30% of electricity usage for breweries.

Energy efficiency is also another great starting point and as energy prices rise, it is a win-win. Energy audits to improve and reuse energy in high-consumption areas will bring your emissions down. Longer-term strategies can be transitioning away from grid gas towards boiling with electricity or energy created through anaerobic digestion.

Waste

Waste in the brewing process is inevitable. For the most part, the brewing industry is fantastic at reusing and recycling, but it’s always worth finding out if your general waste is going to landfill or being incinerated for energy. Not so fun fact, data from Defra shows that sending items to landfill creates 95% more emissions than recycling or incineration for waste - however, it’s important to know waste data is fairly poor.

For simple wins, ensure that all of your packaging is 100% recyclable by consumers. Better still, try and ensure your card comes from 100% recycled materials. Where possible transition to cans as they have a lower footprint than bottles. Your packaging accounts for roughly 30% of every packaged beer you sell and is a key touch point for your customer, it’s worth paying attention to!

Engage your suppliers

Your supply chain will account for roughly 80-90% of your emissions, it’s important you bring them along for the journey too.

Start by asking your biggest suppliers what they’re doing about climate change and work with them to introduce things like renewable energy as a starting point. The key thing is making your suppliers aware you’re starting the journey so they can be involved, chances are they’re doing great stuff too. If not, see if they will, or begin to look elsewhere next time a contract is up for renewal. The climate won’t wait for laggers to catch up.

Set small actionable targets

Targets don’t have to be gung-ho statements of intent about going net zero or carbon neutral. Instead, they can just outline your internal goals at first. For example, we’ll start measuring our emissions by the end of 2022 and by 2023 we’ll get a renewable energy contract.

Other examples of targets could be, having 50% of vehicles electric by 2027 or working with your top 10 suppliers to understand what they’re doing to reduce their emissions.

All we would say is, start the process sooner than later, tick off some easy wins and be surprised at the impact you can have for a low cost. After all, the planet doesn’t have time to wait.

Zevero Brewery Reduction Checklist
Click on the image to go to Zevero's efficiency and reductions checklist.

We've even created an easy win template for you to see what you should be doing and how to improve your operational efficiency and reduce your emissions. You can find it by clicking here or on the image above.

Our mission is to help decarbonise the brewing industry. Sound good? Let’s talk!

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