By:Emily Haggstrom Issue: Conscious Capitalism Section: Jewel Of Collaboration
Increasing Fiscal and Sustainable Profits by Including Mother Earth as a Stakeholder
Just slightly north of Old Town Fort Collins, Colorado, set against the picturesque views of rolling fields leading up to the base of the Rocky Mountains, lies a new age log cabin type building with a rustic Colorado mountain feel. In the parking lot bikes and cars sit together as naturally as barley and hops. When you enter the building, just inside the bright wooden doors that make up the entrance, guests will meet the unusually happy staff of the New Belgium Brewery (NBB) within. In fact, these employees are so happy it’s rare that anyone ever leaves. And they’re not just happy to be there, they’re excited, and they have a lot to be excited for. \When you ask Kim Jordan, CEO, and Jennifer Orgolini, Sustainability Director at NBB, how collaboration with both their peers and the community at large help sustain their operations; you will receive one of those long awkward pauses. And just as you start to second guess the question, Kim responds, “We had to picture what collaboration looks like here because we’re so immersed in this reality that for us it’s as natural as breathing. So we needed to take a moment to tease out that dynamic a little bit to even be able to answer a simple question like that.” It’s as easy as breathing. In fact, collaboration is so easy for New Belgium it’s the hallmark that sets them apart from other craft brewers in the industry.
In capitalistic America it is often difficult to find businesses that thrive not only for profit, but for sustainability. New Belgium has continuously climbed, year after year, to the top of the corporate consciousness ladder to produce a quality product and a method for sustainability that even their employees are addicted to be a part of. The interplay of people, planet and profits with a triple bottom line approach helps evaluate their performance as a business while measuring their impact environmentally, economically and socially. Since becoming a commercial brewer in 1991, New Belgium has nurtured and refined their core values and beliefs, helping them experience consistent growth for over 15 years. Moreover, with each successive year New Belgium invests its profits into new innovations to improve their current means of renewable energy.
Cutting Edge Community Collaboratives
This year happens to be a very special year for New Belgium, who will become a pioneer in the craft brewing industry, as a test case for the Department of Energy’s new research grant, funded under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. New Belgium along with other energy conscious businesses, Colorado State University, and the City of Fort Collins, will be one of the recipients of the Smart Grid Investment Grant program that was awarded to aid in the growing initiatives of FortZED. FortZED is a collaborative public private enterprise focused on creating the world’s largest active zero energy district on the emergent Smart Grid infrastructure.
New Belgium chose to participate in the FortZED collaborative for a variety of reasons. Going forward, NBB felt that their continuous growth would eventually lead to higher energy usage and that by aligning themselves with the project they could be role models in implementing change while acting as a real world case of taking intelligent energy conservation theory and putting it into practice. The grant outcomes are expected to demonstrate peak load reduction, which reduces energy use during peak hours on the national grid infrastructure. Energy Conscious at All Levels
As part of the project, New Belgium will demonstrate that when energy is peaking they can reduce their loads by generating power onsite or load shedding. Since receiving the grant in October, NBB has already started installing solar panels for their solar electricity system which will provide a percentage of power to their buildings. This solar array will support New Belgium’s efforts to reduce the use of non-essential motors, fans and pumps that will be able to be turned off on-demand.
Besides solar, there are additional load-shedding activities at the brewery. The largest daily electricity draw is from thermal storage and fermentation. To address this energy surge, New Belgium is developing a system to generate cold water at night when it is easier to cool, reducing power off of the grid. Because the issuance of the grant is so recent, each of these projects and many more are in the planning phases. But, NBB hopes to have both projects completed within the next two years.
Other than helping save Mother Earth one new project at a time, NBB is also extremely focused on its corporate culture and has been from the very beginning. It’s the reason why very few employees ever leave. They have created a sustainable model for employee retention that gives back to the very people who make up the core of the business and work to contribute to its success. It is why after a year of service employees get a “fully loaded” cruiser bike. And, it is why every employee receives part ownership in the company after only one year of service.
And because employees are new owners it’s only fair they know what their bottom-line is. Through an “open-book management” approach each employee is truly contributing to something that’s theirs. It gives them a sense of accountability. It creates a living with meaning.
There is an ethos that permeates through the walls of NBB that gives employees the feeling of being accepted for who they are. “They never have to hide behind their true personalities. So no matter what they do or who they are, they still represent a whole. They are New Belgium,” says Jordan.
And speaking of bikes… have you used yours to participate in the funky scavenger hunt they call Urban Assault, or meandered into the Tour de Fat, possibly pledged your commitment to Team Wonderbike, or parked your bike and spread a blanket at the Bike-In Cinema on the New Belgium lawn?
If you’ve said no to any or all of these you’re really missing out. New Belgium works tirelessly to make their nationwide events major successes, while drawing attention to environmental sustainability along the way. In fact, at every event NBB aims to lessen their carbon footprint while raising money to give back to the local community where they serve beer. Each event comes fully equipped with recycling and composting receptacles from groups in town that partner with New Belgium to divert waste from local landfills.
Increasing Fiscal and Sustainable Profits by Including Mother Earth as a Stakeholder
So while participants ride bikes in crazy costumes, slurp on one of New Belgium’s amazing brews, or land themselves some groovy giveaways they can feel good knowing they’ve contributed back to NBB’s bottom-line. Through event participation, attendees contribute to the brewers overall investment into community involvement, serving up their corporate culture to people all over the U.S., and reinforcing environmental sustainability all while breaking out in a good sweat and reducing environmental impact. Hey, it’s all in a hard day’s bike event.
Considering the community collaboratives, environmental stewardship, corporate culture, and community service initiatives, it is important to note that I haven’t even scraped the barrel of “groovy” things New Belgium takes part in continuously every day, every month, and every year.
How many businesses, let alone brewers do you know that make significant investments in renewable energy? How about any businesses that focus on partnering with local non-profits, non-governmental organizations and environmental agencies to make collaborative efforts and leverage their influence to make a large concentrated community endeavor? How many companies do you know that encourage healthy activities daily by promoting on-site yoga or biking into work? What about a business who steps into a role of advocacy to promote progressive plans that change the face of watershed, offer alternative forms of transportation or create a ground swell of enthusiasm over wind power?
You might find that other businesses can focus on only one issue at a time in addition to focusing on profit. This is where NBB sets itself apart, because there is a firm belief that each task contributes to the bottom-line and is mutually reinforcing the next.
Why does New Belgium do it? Because of that great beer born on “fat tires” rolling through the streets of Belgium.
Emily Haggstrom has a B.A. in Journalism and Media from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is a member of the Level One Society in Denver, Colorado and sits in on various charity committees. In an effort to impact her local community she also volunteers for Whiz Kids Tutoring, Inc. as well as Denver Health Medical Center.