Meet the Sustainability Leader: Water Management – Adnams

With entries now open for edie's Sustainability Leaders Awards 2020, this new feature series showcases the achievements of the 2019 winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up next: The winner of our Water Management Award, Adnams.

Meet the Sustainability Leader: Water Management – Adnams

Benedict Orchard (centre-right) and Richard Carter (centre left) collecting the Water Management Award from Michaela Strachan(right) and Anya Ledwith (left)

After winning this award in 2017, Adnams redoubled its efforts and implemented a large step-change project to achieve further savings. Crucially, the brewer has shifted to a circular economy mindset, framing waste as resources across all business areas. Integrating this approach into the company environmental framework has improved Adnams’ resource, energy and water efficiency, boosting business resilience and enabling the firm to launch the UK’s first de-alcoholised beer.

Adnams monitors absolute water consumption and efficiency ratios per product, which allows for the impact of growth within the data. The firm has also undertaken a water lifecycle assessment of its products to understand and improve its impacts across the supply and demand chain. Because of that, Adnams understood the hotspots and that water management is about the quality, quantity, location and timing of its water cycles.

The brewer identified the opportunity for this step-change after its sustainability team visited the National Trust in North Wales. After seeing their marine source heat pump, they explored similar options and sought out renewable heat sources near its brewery and distillery. Eventually, Adnams identified that it still had unused heat within its distillery. Sound knowledge of the production process quickly allowed the brewer to identify uses for that energy. The company’s environment manager Benedict Orchard created a plan to extract heat from two waste sources in the distillery and pass that to the brewery. He prepared a business case with clear environmental and economic benefits, which he presented to the board for approval. As with all of Adnams’ sustainable business projects, those financial benefits have been verified post-implementation.

This project, and others like it, go a long way towards offsetting other market cost pressures and keeping the company’s products at an affordable price, as well as preparing the business for the future.

Adnams has pursued water efficiency for many years (from rainwater harvesting to reusing steam) and has very low usage compared with the rest of the industry. However, consumption across the distilling industry is much higher than most, and with a greater variation between product type. Moreover, Adnams’ home, Southwold, is one of the driest parts of the UK. To improve its efficiency, Adnams identified a method of removing the heat from its ‘cooling water’ and sending the heat to the brewery. In this way, the water becomes cold again and can be reused for cooling. This can continue indefinitely, with very little additional fresh water required.

The project was delivered on time and to budget in April 2018 and delivered both direct and indirect business benefits. Adnams has saved 90% of its distillery water (40% total spirit water) and reduced its hot brewing liquor energy bill by 15%. The energy savings are already good, yet the company is still refining the new process.

In this case, the project even enabled the launch of a new, innovative product – Ghost Ship Alcohol Free. Removal of the alcohol molecules from beer is a water-intensive process and, had Adnams not reduced its distillery consumption, the company wouldn’t have had sufficient capacity to manufacture the new line. Fundamentally, the revenue streams provide a positive return on the investment, but the product will, in itself, enable social change.

All in all, the project has generated significant water and energy cost savings, which give a financial payback of around three years (regardless of alcohol-free revenue). Yet again, Adnams offers a very clear example of water efficiency generating real resilience for its business: it’s helping to reduce energy, reduce effluent and reduce consumption. This is critical in a rapidly changing industry that’s responding to very real changes in both the climate and consumer behaviour.

“We’re really delighted and very proud to have won this [award],” Adnams’ then-head of finance and sustainability Richard Carter told edie at the awards ceremony. “It’s a perfect illustration of how an environmental sustainability project really does lead to business resilience and innovation.”

What the judges said: “Though its ‘resource, not waste’ approach, Adnams has shown a clear commitment to water [management] within the wider sustainability agenda. The judges were impressed by the brewer’s innovative process for heat extraction from cooling water, which generated impressive results that have allowed new products to be developed.”

Since winning the award, Adnams has announced that both its environmental sustainability manager Orchard and Carter are leaving the company. You can find out more about Orchard and Carter’s new ventures, as well as Adnams’ future sustainability plans, by clicking here.

edie’s 2020 Sustainability Leaders Awards

Now entering their 13th year for 2020, the RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are sure to be one of the biggest nights of the year in the sustainability and energy space, with some exciting new categories added to recognise excellence across the spectrum of sustainable business.   

The 2020 Sustainability Leaders are now OPEN for entries. The entry deadline is Friday 27 September 2019. The Awards will then take place on the night of 5 February 2020 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster. 


edie Staff


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