Carlsberg targets zero-emission breweries under industry-leading sustainability strategy

EXCLUSIVE: Carlsberg has launched a new "industry-leading" sustainability strategy that aims to push beyond the company's own group strategy and exceed science-based recommendations by eliminating carbon emissions and halving water usage at breweries by 2030.

Together Towards Zero sets 2030 targets for carbon, water, zero irresponsible drinking and a zero accidents culture that are “much bigger in scale and scope” than previous aims

Together Towards Zero sets 2030 targets for carbon, water, zero irresponsible drinking and a zero accidents culture that are “much bigger in scale and scope” than previous aims

The Together Towards Zero strategy, launched on Tuesday (13 June), realigns Carlsberg’s sustainability efforts to the timeframes and goals of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. It sets intermediate targets, such as using 100% renewable electricity at all breweries, for 2022, which is the year that its SAIL'22 corporate strategy will be completed. However, Carlsberg’s sustainability strategy stretches beyond its corporate one, with 2030 goals in place to achieve a zero-carbon footprint and zero water waste at breweries.

Speaking exclusively to edie, Carlsberg's sustainability director Simon Boas Hoffmeyer revealed that the success of the previous strategy, which included goals with a 2017 timeframe, and demand from external stakeholders had “fuelled our purpose to go further on sustainability than we have done before”.

“We’ve been doing work on who we are and our quest for purpose is something we’ve been discussing a lot at management level,” Hoffmeyer told edie. “We have a purpose, and it comes from the founders of our breweries, we’ve pulled it from our history and heritage – they had a vision for a brewery that was in harmony with its site, and we need to live that heritage.

“I can say that this is a first for Carlsberg, in that we have this level of ambition on sustainability. We’re building on all the good stuff we’ve done in the past on circular economy, partnerships and reducing our footprints, but now we’re really taking it to the next level.”

Zero carbon

In 2016, Carlsberg embedded sustainability into the SAIL’22 Group strategy, as part of an aim to create a “winning culture” throughout the business. Although intermediate targets are in place for 2022, Together Towards Zero sets 2030 targets for carbon, water, zero irresponsible drinking and a zero accidents culture that are “much bigger in scale and scope” than previous goals.

Since 2010, the company has reduced emissions by 28% and has since worked with the Carbon Trust to set a science-based target for emissions reductions for breweries (scope 1 &2) and for beer-in-hand emissions (value chain or scope 3). Based on modelling conducted using SBTI methodologies, it was calculated that a relative carbon reduction target of 36% by 2030 against a 2015 baseline, would be in line with climate science. 

However, Carlsberg have decided to push beyond this target, instead aiming for zero carbon emissions at breweries and a 30% reduction in beer-in-hand emissions by 2030. The carbon pillar of the strategy also includes 2022 targets to eliminate all coal use at breweries, reduce brewery emissions by 50% and beer-in-hand emissions by 15%.

Specifically, the beer manufacturers are aiming to convert to 100% renewable electricity by 2022. Currently, 45% of electricity is generated onsite and from renewables. Hoffmeyer said that the new ambition will cover longer-term purchasing agreements and the increased capacity of onsite renewables.

Carlsberg Circular Community

The beer-in-hand emission reductions will be targeted through the Carlsberg Circular Community (CCC), which engages partners in the value chain to reduce emissions through closed-loop practices. Carlsberg has a 2017 target to induct 17 members into the CCC, and as part of the new strategy, this target will be extended to 30 by 2022.

There are currently nine members in the CCC, and while no target has been set for 2030, Hoffmeyer claimed that the circular economy was being elevated from a quantitative target to be used as the framework to reach carbon and water reductions.

"What we’re doing with the new strategy is to take this circular way of thinking and use it as a framework for creating our projects to achieve our targets,” Hoffmeyer said. “The realisation we’ve had is that we have to expand it and look at it from zero-carbon and zero-wastewater angles as well. We’re lifting the concept and aiming them at our quantitative targets and using it as a lever rather than being a target itself.”

This way of thinking is also being applied to Carlsberg’s goal to receive Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) accreditation for three products. C2C is only awarded when products fit into biological and technical cycles that produce no waste streams, and the Danish brewers have achieved two certifications for Somersby and Carlsberg cans in 2015 and the Kronenbourg 1664 bottle in 2016.

According to Hoffmeyer, Carlsberg is one track to achieve the third accreditation in 2017, at which point the C2C concept will be embedded into the strategy, rather than set as an outright target. Carlsberg will continue to run C2C analysis in the design process for products, using it in the “thinking and framework” of the strategy.

Zero wastewater

Closed-loop practices will also form an integral part of the zero-wastewater target. Carlsberg has already worked with WWF to identify breweries situated in areas with a high water-security risk and has developed targets accordingly.

Since 2010, Carlsberg has achieved a 9% reduction in relative water consumption at breweries, and as of 2016, its water efficiency was 3.2 hectolitres (hl) per hl of production.

For breweries located in the high-risk areas, predominantly Asia, Carlsberg is aiming to reduce water consumption below 2 hl/hl well below the global best practice average of 3.4hl/hl. By 2022, Carlsberg aims to reduce water consumption by 25% in breweries, with the more ambitious targets placed on high-risk sites.

In total, Carlsberg is committed to reducing water consumption by 50% by 2030, bringing the company to a “world-class standard” of 1.7hl/hl in breweries. Hoffmeyer claimed that this target justifies the ambition of zero-wastewater because Carlsberg will have to do “everything humanly possible” to reach that goal, before technology and innovations begin to integrate into the marketplace.

Elsewhere, the company will only buy low-impact coolers that use natural refrigerants from 2022. No specific waste reduction targets will be outlined under the strategy, but Hoffmeyer claimed the closed-loop ethos being adopted by Carlsberg will mean that waste management is essential to hitting the water and carbon goals.

“We haven’t got direct waste targets as part of Together Towards Zero, but it’s an implicit part of the strategy,” Hoffmeyer added. “If we reduce the waste from our breweries, we’ll reduce our carbon footprint and reduce the water usage. It will also be part of creating better uses for our products.”

On example of where the circular way of thinking is already being applied is at the 18 Carlsberg-owned biogas plants. Any wastewater produce is cleaned to be used as service water in breweries, or used to recharge groundwater, while the biogas extracted from the process is used for renewables and any by-product used as fertilizer.

In order to achieve a “total circular motion”, Hoffmeyer suggested that the company will look at creating renewable energy from the solid waste and not just from the wastewater treatment.

Matt Mace


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