New Belgium Brewing:
Environmental and Social Responsibilities
New Belgium Brewing Company’s (NBB) mission statement is “to operate a profitable brewery which is socially, ethically and environmentally responsible, that produces high quality beer true to Belgian brewing styles.” Does New Belgium’s mission statement make an ethical stance for the business? Does it even have any bearing on the products and their beliefs? It seems to when it comes to operating a profitable business and the “green” way they are doing so and the benefits given to its employees.
New Belgium addresses several environmental issues, the first being air pollution. In an effort to “do their part,” they switched from coal burning power to wind power. NBB were the first brewing company to a make such a bold move. The change to wind power has allowed NBB to reduce CO2 emissions by 1,800 metric tons each year. Another environmental issue addressed by NBB is the reduction of energy costs. To this end, NBB reuses the hot water used to boil its hops and barley. This water is used to provide heat to flooring and loading docks. The hops and barley used in the brewing process do not go to waste either: they are stored and offered “free of charge” to local live stock farmers to be used as feed. This not only benefits the environment, it adds a sort of feed subsidy to the local farmers thereby helping them lower their feed costs. This can be shown as both an environmental and social benefit to the community. In addition to the environmental items above, NBB also uses sun tubes to provide natural lighting to the plant, again cutting down on energy costs. Finally, and perhaps the most unconventional, NBB offers each employee, after one year of employment, a bike that can be ridden to work. The last seems more of show of good effort than a true environmental savings.
Is NBB being socially responsible for the greater good of its consumers or to increase the bottom line and further market their product within the community; are they “appearing” concerned or are they genuinely concerned? NBB’s strategic approach to the environmental issues is two-fold. One, it shows the public that even through they are a beer company, which can be looked at as not being social and environmentally good, they are still concerned. And two, it helps reduce their operating costs. NBB’s social incentives are part of a strategic philanthropy. It is in their best interest to show that NBB is a company that sells alcohol but is still, in the grand scheme of things, a company that believes in giving back to the community. Are they doing because it is ethical? They do it because it gives them good press in the community. NBB sells their beer at many of their supported biking events such as “Best Damn Bike Tour,” a ride for the MS Society. True, the MS Society benefits from this event with the money raised, but is this right? One would have to say yes because they are doing good for society, it is your choice whether you purchase their products or not. One concern around the selling of products during these kinds of social events is does the company have legal responsibility if someone gets drunk and hurt? Another is the “responsibility factor” of offering alcoholic beverages at events where children are encouraged to participate. Is biking and drinking, which carries stiff penalties in the eyes of the law, the best image to portray to our kids? These are questions we may not be able to answer at this time.
Still, the question remains: Is NBB doing all of this – the environmental cleanliness and philanthropic outpouring – because of the values of the company or does NBB do this because it looks good and what that means to the public? Based on the case one would believe it is because it is truly the company’s values. It would be hard for NBB to take any further steps to show they are ethical and socially responsible. It gets to a point where there actions begin to...
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