The Dutch beer company Heineken is comprised of 160 breweries. The brand is committed to company-wide GHG emissions reductions of 40 percent from 2008 levels by 2020. Heineken is third leading beer company in the world in terms of brand value. They also own the world’s first zero-carbon brewery. This carbon neutral facility is located in the small town of Göss, Austria. This brewery started in 1860 and beer has been brewed in the town since 960AD.
Heineken produces 1.4m bottles of beer a day at the Göss facility. They have managed to slash their CO2 emissions from about 3,000 tonnes a year in 2003 to zero in 2016. The entire beer industry is increasingly sustainable and Heineken is leading the way.
The Göss plant is powered by hydro-electricity and 40 percent of heating is provided by a nearby sawmill’s waste heat. Another 10 percent comes from recovering the facility’s own waste heat and 3-5 percent comes from a solar thermal plant. The rest comes from biogas generated by a newly installed anaerobic digestion plant that uses the spent grain from the brewing process. The residue of this process, the digestate, is sold as a fertiliser.
“What we have here is a great role model for how you can connect one story of best practice to many different parts of the business around the world and connect the sustainability agenda in a very effective way to the business agenda,” says Dickstein. “What’s happening at Göss is about risk mitigation, eco-efficiency and commercial opportunities.”
Other Heineken brands are getting all their energy from solar power. This includes brands such as Tiger in Singapore, Birra Moretti in Italy and the Netherlands’ Wiekse. These brands are marketed under the heading market them under the tagline “brewed by the sun”.
Heineken prides itself on its local sourcing of ingredients and Heineken’s efforts in Austria “demonstrate what is possible through working creatively with the local landscape and stakeholders,” says Jenny Lopez, sustainability adviser on food and energy at Forum for the Future.
“It is about the company thinking long-term to understand and redefine how sustainability issues are material to their business, and how this fits within the company’s long-term strategy and vision.” Lopez said.
The Paris climate agreement at “COP 21 helped because it became clear that the national plans required targets that implied an even bigger shift towards renewable energy,” Dickstein said.
Heineken has cut the amount of water per litre of beer from five litres to 3.9 litres in just two years. Their wastewater is currently treated at most sites and by 2020 all of Heineken’s breweries will treat their waste water.
Dickstein acknowledges that Heineken cannot resolve water issues alone. He says: “We are trying to build water stewardship into planning how much water we take out of a watershed but we know we can’t resolve these issues on our own. We need a more comprehensive approach. We need the local authorities and the private sector to contribute to solutions.”
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