Last week many participating B Corp members converged upon Portland and then Skamania Lodge for its annual meetings and Champions Retreat. This group of businesses also includes a growing list of breweries. Three of these breweries met up at Hopworks Urban Brewery for an International Brewery Panel that discussed many aspects of what it means to have a B Corp certification in the world of craft brewing.
In attendance at the International B Corp Brewery Panel were Steve Beauchesne, Co-Founder and CEO of Beau’s All Natural Brewing, Christian Ettinger, Brewmaster and Founder of Hopworks Urban Brewery, Kris Spaulding, Owner and Sustainability Director, Brewery Vivant, and Katie Wallace, Assistant Director of Sustainability at New Belgium. Hopworks own Sustainability Manager, Nate Young, moderated the informative panel.
According to the B Corp website, B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Today, there is a growing community of more than 1,000 Certified B Corps from 33 countries and over 60 industries working together toward 1 unifying goal: to redefine success in business.
The panel opened with a few interesting tidbits. Spaulding from Brewery Vivant proudly stated that her brewery is the first LEED certified commercial brewery in the nation. New Belgium is in its third year as a B Corp certified brewery. And the once small brewery on SE Powell, Hopworks now employs 132 people.
From these more general statements the panel dived into what it means to be sustainable. Beauchesne mentioned that “beer is more than just liquid…its part of the DNA of the brewery.” Spaulding jumped in “sustainability is part of our employees year end reviews. Our employees multitask to bring sustainability to be part of the work culture.”
When a brewery decides to become a more sustainable entity and begin taking steps to become a B Corp all three breweries offered up some advice, even things that seem basic can be overlooked. Beauchesne mentions, “Little things matter and you can’t do it all overnight.” At HUB when the brewery decided to pursue its B Corp certification Ettinger suggested for other breweries interested becoming part of this group to “start small, don’t get too overwhelmed.” Also don’t be afraid to ask other breweries for assistance. New Belgium fields a lot of inquiries. Wallace mentions, “We are an open book with one another. B Corp is one way to unite under one battle cry.”
These brewers also assist and field questions from other breweries interested in increasing its sustainability and potentially becoming B Corp certified. Along with this comes the assumption that it’s an expensive endeavor to do so. Wallace mentions, “There are different opportunities depending on the size of the brewery. Look at incremental cost. Investing in people is important. People who are happy and well are more creative.”
In Michigan at Brewery Vivant, Spaulding emphasizes about not shying away from low priced labor. “We use local interns. Never shy away from interns.” Wallace adds that at New Belgium “All of our co-workers want to help.”
It’s also suggested to get the local community involved. In Vankleek Hill, Ontario where Beau’s All Natural Brewing is located its challenge is to engage a town that has very few residents. Beauchesne states “We are located in a town of 1800 people and 2000 cows. We are driving people to us.” Here in Portland, HUB allows local community organizations to come in and use parts of its space for meetings and fundraisers.
When interviewing potential employees the brewery’s sustainability aspect is a question that many of these candidates inquire about. “Its part of the job description,” adds Ettinger. At Brewery Vivant Spaulding offers a sustainability course for new hires. New Belgium will have potential candidates interview for a position at the brewery based on the brewery’s B Corp certification.
So what is the end result of a brewery being a B Corp? “Its a good indicator that the beer is going to be wonderful. It all comes down to the beer,” states Beauchesne. “Vote with your dollar. Its up to us to tell our story,” adds Ettinger.
D.J. is a Portland, Oregon based writer that spent his formative years in the Midwest. With over 20 years under his belt of drinking beer at festivals across America and the world, he has developed a strong appreciation and understanding of craft beer and the industry that surrounds it. He can be found in any of the great breweries or beer bars that make Portland the best beer city in the world. His writing can also be found in Northwest Brewing News and can be followed on Twitter at @hopapalooza.