What makes a sustainability leader? Meet award-winning brewer Toast Ale
With the 2021 Sustainability Leaders Awards entry deadline approaching, this new feature series showcases the achievements of the 2020 winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up next: The winner of our SME of the Year, Toast Ale.
Toast Ale was launched in 2016 by seasoned green campaigner Tristram Stuart, with the aim of creating alcoholic beverages that are compatible with circular economy principles without compromising on taste and quality. The result of this vision was a craft beer where one-third of the grain used for brewing is replaced with surplus bread.
The Yorkshire-based firm has gone from strength to strength – both in terms of its financial performance and its perception in the sustainability space – since it underwent a major rebrand in 2019. The company’s initial branding and marketing featured the tagline “brewed with bread”, but this was changed to “here’s to change”.
Toast Ale also added aluminium cans to its packaging range – previously based around brown glass bottles - and printed “planet-saving” on the front of all packaging. It raised £40,000 through a crowdfunding campaign in order to roll out the cans, after an external audit by Advance London found that the life-cycle impact of cans would be lower than bottles in Toast Ale’s context. This is largely because the cans are lighter and easier to stack, saving weight during road transport.
The new packaging and marketing format is an effective sustainability storytelling mechanism, challenging consumers to explore the impact of the products they consume regularly and to connect with Toast Ale on a personal level.
It is, of course, so effective because it is rooted in the brand’s purpose. As a B-Corp, Toast Ale walks the talk when it comes to social and environmental sustainability and must regularly prove that it is fine-tuning its approach.
Aside from the fact that reducing waste is literally baked-in to its business model – Toast Ale has diverted more than 1.7 million slices of fresh surplus bread from waste to date – the circular economy model has climate benefits too. Wasted food left in landfills emits greenhouse gas emissions, so, by saving it, Toast Ale estimates that it has mitigated more than 44 tonnes of CO2e equivalent. The actual brewing process is low-impact, too, with the brewer using energy recovery technologies. Toast Ale has also invested in measures to reduce the land and water use across its barley supply chain.
Elsewhere in its packaging approach, Toast Ale has never used plastic-based packaging in consumer-facing offerings and publicly discloses where plastics are used in the value chain and why. It is notably the only beer to sell packaging-free through Waitrose’s ‘Unpacked’ offering.
On the social sustainability piece, Toast Ale donates all profits to charity partners that are working to change food systems to tackle the root causes of issues such as emissions from agri-food and food poverty and hunger. It also has a food redistribution scheme which has delivered more than 46,600 meals to those in need across the UK and a popular employee volunteering scheme. Despite being a small business, with just 13 UK-based employees at the time of its application for this award, Toast Ale has clocked up more than 117 full volunteer days.
Our expert panel of judges called Toast Ale “quirky, fun and constantly innovative”, praising the business’s approach to engaging partners and consumers with the sustainability agenda.
“Food waste is a critical issue of our time and this winner has a massively positive impact for our climate and food systems,” they said. “Toast Ale has taken a brilliantly innovative approach to trailblazing a solution in this space.”
Are you our next winner?
Now entering their 14th year for 2021, the RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are a unique opportunity to shout about the achievements you and your company have made during this challenging year.
In a digital event on 3 February 2021, entrants will get the chance to celebrate virtually with leaders from across the sustainability, CSR and energy space. Some exciting new categories have been added for 2021 to recognise excellence across the spectrum of sustainable business.
The 2021 Sustainability Leaders are now OPEN for entries. The entry deadline is Friday 30 October 2020, so don't miss your chance to get the recognition you deserve. The Awards will then take place virtually on the night of Wednesday 3 February 2021.