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A Visit to New Belgium Brewery: Here’s to Healthy People, Healthy Profits and a Healthy Planet!

Sure, New Belgium Brewery makes pretty fantastic beer. But they didn’t win one of our Top Small New Belgium Tasting RoomWorkplace awards for simply making a tasty product.

Pay their central offices a visit and you’ll get a taste of exactly what’s behind their remarkable success- a completely embodied dedication to the basics of the Triple Bottom Line- healthy People, healthy Profits and a healthy Planet!

The secret brew may start with great ingredients, but it’s a corporate culture that flows through every person, building and artwork in their workspace that ensures a proper pour in the end. Place even one foot in their Fort Collins “Mothership” facility and you’ll see what they’re all about: Eco-Conscious architecture, lots of light, bright colors, employee bikes everywhere and trails extending from the front door to miles of pristine Rocky Mountain beauty.  This is indeed a fit and friendly establishment.

The other week brought me to Fort Collins to visit with Katie Wallace, New Belgium’s Sustainability Specialist, and I couldn’t help but feel as if I was stepping into a temple of healthy, responsible business.  When the office messaged her of my arrival, I was told it would just be a short wait while she biked back from running an errand (this is November in the Rocky Mountains!)  New Belgium walks the talk, that’s for sure.New Belgium Tasting Room

New Belgium even went toe to toe with their much-loved hometown when the city demanded they expand a new parking lot to accommodate more vehicles.  “Not gonna happen,” said the Brewery, as so many of their employees walk, carpool or bike to work.  Known for bucking the status quo in terms of how a business should operate, New Belgium understands that it’s not always easy being green. Sometimes you’ve got to draw a line in the sand, sometimes you overspend and sometimes you get blasted for not doing enough… but the Brewery argues that such measures are good for their staff and the community alike.

As was mentioned in my coverage of the organization in our Top Small Workplace media, New Belgium represents one of the most vocal advocates for a Triple Bottom Line approach. As Katie explains, at her first All-Staff Meeting their CEO & Co-founder, Kim Jordan mentioned that a company’s greatest asset is indeed their people.  Not your buildings, your big stainless steel tanks, but your people.  “I truly feel as though I am a member of this New Belgium family and more than just an employee.”  This wholistic approach to business has been maintained in nearly all aspects of the company’s operation since it’s founding in 1991. Comprehensive asset analysis and True-Cost evaluation go hand in hand at New Belgium, and the brewer has been one of the most visible examples of a manufacturer keen on addressing eco-responsibility in all aspects of their product line. New Belgium Gear

Their staff even voted to make use of all-renewable electricity back in 1999!  Since then they’ve been the largest private consumer of wind-power electricity, buying all of their electricity through the first city-sponsored wind program and off-setting through credit purchase any non-renewable fuel consumption.  Despite the increase in cost per kilowatt-hour of 57%, which impacted employee’s profit sharing pool, staff were all for it from the get-go, and the company remains one of the most visible advocates for renewable fuel in the business world.

The New Belgium tasting room is adorned with dynamic art installations championing bicycle culture and responsible yet Bacchanalian celebration.  Works titled “Salvation from Consumption” and “Grain to Glass” entertain visitors while they sample the newest brews.  Such pieces illustrate, quite colorfully, the details of their cradle-to-cradle approach to production, with stats on CO2 generation following emissions from harvest to packaging and frosty pint glass.  Says Wallace, “A beautiful and distinguishing aspect of Sustainability in the business world is that it is a very collaborative and transparent effort. By commissioning a Life Cycle Assessment of the Greenhouse Gases emitted during the entire life of a 6 pack of Fat Tire, New Belgium has started to look beyond its limiting walls.  Through sharing this enlightening information, we hope to inspire others to do the same.”

Indeed, education, and New Belgium’s signature “Advercacy” campaigns (advertising + advocacy) have reached throngs of consumers, partners, vendors and competitors, helping steer the beer market toward greater environmental and social responsibility. Their “Follow Your Folly” campaigns  and programs such as their well-known Tour de Fat festival serve to highlight environmental causes while also providing advertising space for New Belgium’s delicious beers.  The Tour de Fat has raised more than $1 million over the years for local non-profits in the cities it visits.  Says Wallace, “When we feature environmental organizations in our ‘advercacy’ campaigns, we give them the art so they can use it to get the word out through their own avenues.  All of these efforts have helped to highlight the good work that New Belgium is doing while positively affecting the environment and local communities.

And, my friends, bicycle advocacy, recycling, and water conservation have never tasted so good! As I raise up a smooth pint of their very winter-friendly 1554 Enlightened Black Ale, I’ll leave you with New Belgium’s working definition of sustainability, that we all may gain a taste of such delightful inspiration:
“With regard to environmental sustainability, we believe in:
* Lovingly caring for the planet that sustains us.
* Leadership through environmental stewardship.
* Stewarding natural resources by closing the loops between waste and input.
* Minimizing the environmental impact of shipping our beer.
* Reducing our dependence on coal-fired electricity.
* Protecting our precious Rocky Mountain water resources.
* Focusing our efforts on conservation and efficiency.
* Supporting innovative technology.
* Modeling joyful environmentalism through our commitment to relationships, continuous improvement, and the camaraderie and cheer of beer.”

Well put.  Very well put.

Posted in Sustainable Business.

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