BrewDog goes carbon negative: ‘Carbon neutral is no longer enough’

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

BrewDog's sustainability report - titled 'Make Earth Great Again' - sets out how it is becoming carbon negative. Pic:BrewDog.
BrewDog's sustainability report - titled 'Make Earth Great Again' - sets out how it is becoming carbon negative. Pic:BrewDog.

Related tags BrewDog Sustainability Carbon dioxide

Scottish craft brewer BrewDog says it has become the world’s first carbon negative international beer business. Through £30m ($39m) of green investments, it will remove twice as much carbon from the air than it emits each year.

All of its breweries will become carbon neutral over the next two years: while investment in local brewing sites reduces the distance beer needs to travel to consumers.

Its efforts also include the purchase of a 2,050 acre site – to be named the ‘BrewDog Forest’-  in the Scottish Highlands. It will plant one million trees here in the coming years, as well as restoring 650 acres of peatland (both are ‘some of the most effective carbon offset methods’).

BrewDog: 'F*** you, CO2!' 

BrewDog – which was launched by James Watt and Martin Dickie in 2007 as a small maverick craft brewer – has grown into an international beer business with 102 bars across the globe and exports to 60 countries.

With beer ‘that blows people’s minds and has kick-started a revolution’, BrewDog also launched a pioneering crowdfunding initiative, Equity for Punks, which has seen the company raise £73m over six rounds and thus allowed the brewer to ‘scale up without selling out’.

It is now announcing it has taken the 'unprecendented step' of becoming carbon negative: "Carbon neutral is no longer enough, and businesses should be having a positive impact on the planet,'" ​says the brewer. While it is reducing emissions over a fast-track 24 month plan, it is also creating ways to take in carbon from the atmosphere by planting its BrewDog Forest.

Green infrastructure projects currently underway at BrewDog include:

  • The brewery and UK bars are now wind powered
  • BrewDog turns its spent grain into green gas to power the brewery
  • It is building an onsite anaerobic digester to turn wastewater into clean water, and produce CO2 to carbonate beers
  • It is electrifying its vehicle fleet
  • In building local brewing sites across the UK, EU, US and Australia, it has significantly reduced the miles its beer travels to reach the consumer.

As part of its efforts, BrewDog has also purchased 2,050 acres of Scottish Highlands just north of Loch Lomond, to create the BrewDog Forest. Here, it will plant one million trees over 1,400 of broadleaf native woodlands. Meanwhile, it will create 650 acres of peatland restoration.

“As well as sequesting carbon woodland creation also promotes bio-diversity, natural flood attenuation and drives rural economic development,”​ explains the brewer.

brewdog inset Make Earth Great Again (1)

Work on the BrewDog Forest is expected to start in early 2021. In the meantime, it will work with offset partners on a series of projects.  

James Watt, BrewDog CEO, said: “The scientific consensus is clear: we are sleepwalking off the edge of a cliff. Unless the world confronts the urgent carbon problem, science tells us that the results will be catastrophic.

"There has been too much bulls*** for too long. Governments have proved completely inept in the face of this crisis.

"The change our world and society needs, has to come from progressive business and we want to play our role and nail our colours to the mast.

“Huge change is needed right now, and we want to be a catalyst for that change in our industry and beyond.”

'Make Earth Great Again'

Over the past few months BrewDog has been working with lead scientific advisor Professor Mike Berners-Lee (author of ‘There’s no planet B’ and ‘How bad are bananas?’) and his team at Small World Consulting, who penned BrewDog’s Sustainability Report (titled 'Make Earth Great Again').

“After decades of inaction we have a full on climate crisis on our hands,” ​says Berners-Lee. “The scale and speed of the change we now need is enormous, and cuts right across politics, business and every corner of society.

“The good news is that if we are smart about our transition, we can make our lives better at the same time as more sustainable.

“But we have learned that it is no good waiting for our politicians to lead the way. And so far, almost the entire business world has dragged its feed with a mixture of denial, greenwash, apathy and fear.

“BrewDog is raising the bar for the business world. Both in their strong carbon cutting action and their straight talking. And this is just the start. Going forwards they won’t be perfect. They’ll make mistakes and they’ll need to be honest about them. They won’t need to beat themselves up but they mustn’t let themselves off the hook, either. The message they send to the rest of the business world is that – if they can say it like it is – everyone else had better do likewise.”

Other initiatives from BrewDog cover reducing waste and using byproducts from its breweries. This includes:

  • Repurposing cans: ‘Due to print ready processes, minimum run sizes, errors and production and errors in forecasting, almost one billion perfectly good drinks cans never get used every year. We have one million old-branded cans ourselves… which we have re-labelled and launched on our ecommerce platform. And we will continue to repurpose any wasted can into a PUNK IPA beer’.
  • Mega beer: This beer replaces 20% of barley with surplus fresh bread.
  • Bad beer vodka: Brewdog is using its beer that would otherwise be wasted (such as beer that does not meet quality standards or is too old) to develop a zero waste vodka.
  • All the fruit it uses in its Overworks Sour Beers is surplus fruit that would otherwise be wasted (from being cosmetically defective or near the end of its shelf life)
  • Dog biscuits: Spent spelt is used to make dog biscuits.

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