People, Planet, Profit: How Company Culture Can Help Sustainability

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On Friday, April 9, 2010 at the Craft Brewers Conference in Chicago, speakers representing New Belgium, Squatters Pub & Brewery, and Great Lakes Brewing Company lead the annual conference’s first ever seminar on employee engagement and sustainability.

Katie Wallace, Sustainability Specialist for New Belgium shared their approach to achieving potential, and attributes New Belgium’s low turnover rate to employer loyalty and the valuing of employee opinion. New Belgium has a 12-member interdisciplinary team that forms its Sustainability Management System.

James Soares, Director of Environmental and Social Responsibility for Squatters Pub & Brewery advocated creating a value statement rather than a bottom-line statement, which can leave employees confused about direction, purpose and objective. Instead of simple hierarchies within the company, Squatters has cooperative teams and distributes intelligence equally throughout the company.

Saul Kliorys, Environmental Programs Coordinator for Great Lakes Brewing Company urged attendees to start by identifying the environmental factors that are of most concern to the brewery and the surrounding community, including water and food quality, energy conservation, and financial incentives. He then suggested coming up with viable solutions that are fun and foster a sense of pride.

Each speaker reiterated the core belief of the panel that employees are a company’s number one asset, and each addressed the specific ways their breweries upheld the triple bottom line—economic, ecological, and social consciousness. These brewery employees held that an enduring, profitable and environmentally mindful business model must be one that seeks out and values the input of employees, incorporates sustainability into employees’ daily practices, and is constantly reevaluated to keep activities exciting, relevant, and at the forefront of people’s minds.

Lindsay Husted
Brewers Association