ADNAMS HAS carbon foot printed its bottled beers, but what will it do with the data?
Adnams has become the first brewer to calculate the carbon footprints of its bottled beers. The lifecycle assessment covers everything from the growth of the hops and cereal to brewing and packaging, distribution, retail and even consumption. “We had to make a few assumptions along the way,” says the environmental manager, Benedict Orchard, “such as consumers storing their beer in the fridge for two days on average.”
With any such exercise there are constraints and assumptions. Orchard, along with analysts at the Adapt Low Carbon Group based at the University of East Anglia, followed the PAS 2050:2011 standard – the latest revision of the British standards document to assist those wanting to calculate the carbon footprints of their products. This is much more complicated than assessing a company-wide footprint or energy use, as even the likes of Tesco have found. The supermarket committed to carbon labelling all of its products in 2007 but gave up last year because it wasn’t catching on among competitors, leaving nothing to compare the figures against. But it’s not just competitive advantage that has driven Adnams down this path.
“When Tesco tried this it was maybe a box-ticking exercise, but we do green things because they make commercial sense,” says Orchard. “We’d already been the first company to produce a carbon neutral beer [East Green in 2008], and we report on our company carbon. But we wanted to understand the carbon impacts of our products and portray that to our customers and shareholders.”
Adnams, of course, had 10 rather than 50,000 products to assess, but that data is already being put to good use. For instance, the dominant carbon-emitting process comes from manufacturing the glass – an energy-intensive process. Adnams noted a difference in the lightweight 500ml bottles it used compared with the heavy blue bottle for its Spindrift beer. Most of the bottles had a glass manufacturing footprint of around 250gCO2e (grams of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions), but Spindrift’s blue bottle was over 415gCO2e. So Adnams has switched to an amber bottle for the beer and cut Spindrift’s footprint by 20%. “Essentially we went brown to go green,” says Orchard.
So where are the other big impacts? “The amount and type of ingredients we use in each beer also has a large impact due to the amounts of agricultural and processing carbon used in its production,” Orchard explains. “Broadside, Innovation and Tally-Ho are strongly flavoured and cereal-heavy beers, which is what causes their footprints to be slightly higher than the rest.” This means that potential adjustments to the malting process could cut the footprint of these beers significantly. The beauty of this exercise is that emissions hotspots can be identified so carbon reduction efforts can be focused on the biggest wins.
Adnams is also keen to use the data externally to raise awareness of carbon footprinting. It’s not likely to be the subject of regular pub chat any time soon, but comparing the figures with, say, a train journey (a bottle of beer emits the same as 5.3 miles on the train) will increase people’s awareness of what Orchard feels is “an unknown topic”.
He hopes that others will follow their lead. “It would be good for us if someone else goes out and footprints their beers and finds they have a lower footprint because that creates competition.” This is where Tesco’s efforts hit a brick wall – but perhaps they gave up too soon?