If businesses had middle names, New Belgium Brewing Co.’s might be “Sustainability,” or “Charitable,” for that matter.
While the company’s main matter of business is brewing award-winning beers such as Fat Tire, Abbey and Trippel, owners Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch haven’t stopped there. New Belgium is known regionally and nationally not only for its Belgian-style brews, but also for its commitment to the environment and its community. Such endeavors have earned Jordan, Lebesch and New Belgium the 2005 Bravo! Entrepreneur Regional Spirit Award.
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The Bravo! Regional Spirit Award honors a company, individual or organization that demonstrates commitment to the growth and well-being of the region through good corporate citizenship.
New Belgium demonstrates its commitment to bettering the community through its various charitable and environmental efforts.
The company donates $1 per every barrel of beer produced to causes in the following areas: social, cultural, environmental and drug and alcohol awareness. The donations are dispersed by an employee-run philanthropy committee. In 2004, the company sold about 285,000 barrels.
In addition to the per-barrel donations, New Belgium works to support the local community in other ways.
For the last two summers, the company held outdoor, bike-in movie nights. Proceeds from beer sales during the events were donated to Arts Alive in Fort Collins.
Bryan Simpson, spokesman for New Belgium, headed this effort. He said that by choosing Arts Alive as a recipient, the donated money would be dispersed to various small-scale art projects throughout the area. This year, the event raised more than $10,000 for Arts Alive.
Corporate citizenship at doesn’t end with fiscal support. New Belgium is known nationally for its various programs and projects aimed at environmental sustainability.
New Belgium was the first brewery in the nation to be completely wind powered. In 1999, New Belgium signed onto the wind energy program through Platte River Power Authority, and it did so at a cost. According to Simpson, wind power cost about 2.5 cents more per kilowatt/hour.
“We took an employee vote,” he said. The company would have to dip into the employee bonus fund in order to institute the program. Simpson went into the meeting feeling that it would be a hard sell.
“It was a unanimous vote,” he reported, adding that the vote speaks to the company culture.
Not only can New Belgium take pride in its own reduction in carbon dioxide, but also in its role as a pioneer in the industry.
“One of our core values is to be a business role model,´ said Simpson. At least two breweries have followed in New Belgium’s footsteps by converting entirely to wind power. Both New York-based Brooklyn Brewery and Utah’s Uintah Brewing Co. made the switch to wind power and cited New Belgium’s commitment as a source of inspiration.
The company now supplements its wind power by generating about 10 percent of its energy needs on site. New Belgium began operating a water treatment facility that treats the company’s wastewater. The process, in turn, runs a co-generation engine for an average of five hours per day.
In 2004, these projects and others earned New Belgium the Environmental Achievement Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Core corporate values
In addition to the wind power and water treatment programs, New Belgium institutes a number of other measures to reduce waste. One of the first innovations came from Lebesch through a brewing process he instituted while still brewing in his basement. He used a closed heat loop to capture steam that in turn is used to heat the water. This process has been put to use on a much larger scale in the facility.
The brewery boasts a 98 percent diversion rate, meaning that only 2 percent of the company’s waste actually goes to a landfill. The rest is either recycled or reused in some way. Also, New Belgium attempts to use recycled materials whenever possible – even the carpeting is recycled.
For Jordan, the decision to run the company through good corporate citizenship was common sense.
“We’ve had core values and beliefs as a company before we ever made any beer,” she said. Fifteen years later, she is still amazed by how helpful it is to have the company’s values be the foundation for everything else it does.
For New Belgium, success isn’t measured by barrels produced or revenue, Jordan explains. Instead, it’s measured by how the company’s actions measure up to its values.