Can Do: BrewDog’s Regeneration Plan to Make Earth Great Again

As a BrewDog Equity Punk investor I was extremely happy to take part virtually in their online EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting) which took place yesterday afternoon. This meeting had been organised by the Scottish brewery in order to make what they decalred as “the biggest day in their history as a business”. While many investors had thought that this would most likely be a financial announcement about BrewDog’s IPO (initial public offering), it actually began with founders James Watt and Martin Dickie saying that the ‘E’ stood for ‘environmental’.

James Watt and Martin Dickie

James Watt and Martin Dickie

For the last few months BrewDog have been working with Mike Berners-Lee, one of the world’s leading authorities on carbon footprinting and sustainability on their sustainability strategy. While BrewDog have been developing many sustainable initiatives in the last few years, such as removing plastic from their supply chains and recycling, as Watt said, as BrewDog’s team continued to educate themselves they were “hit by the blindingly stark realisation that they were not doing anything like enough. In fact what we were doing was almost pitiful and that we were part of the problem.”

Photo: BrewDog

The first announcement to be made was therefore that BrewDog are now carbon negative. What this means is that moving forward, their plan is to remove twice as much carbon from the atmosphere than they emit as a business. To back up their claims, BrewDog have published their sustainabilty plan which is an attempt to demonstrate the systemic nature of their thinking, examining sustainability across the whole supply chain.

BrewDog's sustainability ecosystem

BrewDog Tomorrow

BrewDog have included the publication of their carbon calculations in their sustainability report. This includes the following

  • Scope 1: Direct emissions from company owned vehicles and facilities, including fuel combustion and emission leaks;
  • Scope 2: Indirect emissions from purchased electricity, heat, steam and cooling;
  • Scope 3: (Upstream) Indirect emissions throughout supply chains of business activities and purchases.

The figures have been verified by Mike Berners-Lee and his team at Small World Consulting and environmental consultants Carbon Architecture.

A table showing BrewDog's 2019 carbon footprint, 67951 tonnes in total

Following this announcement, Watt and Dickie also announced The BrewDog Forest. BrewDog have purchased 2,050 acres of land in the Scottish Highlands just north of Loch Lomond, which is currently used as grazing land. Their plan is to plan one million trees, thereby creating 1,500 acres of broadleaf native woodlands and an ecosystem with the Woodland Carbon Code accreditation program. In addition to sequestering carbon, the woodland creation will also promote biodiversity, natural flood attenuation and drive rural economic development.

Photo: BrewDog

This project will be complemented by a second initiative dedicating 550 acres to peatland restoration, working with the Peatland Code directly, due to the way in which peatlands are highly effective for CO2sequestration.

BrewDog's advert F**k You CO2BrewDog are accompanying these activities with a marketing campaign which starts tomorrow. As Watt says, the campaign was designed to represent BrewDog’s historical activism supporting both environmental and social causes, wanting to “shock people into thinking differently about the planet and the impact we have”.

Dickie closed the announcement by saying that “we can no longer sit back and wait for things to happen. We need to be the change”. BrewDog plan to be at the very front of this movement doing “every single thing that they can”.

Despite the Covid crisis and the impact it has had on BrewDog’s revenues, Watt remarked how this action could not wait. BrewDog hope to be “a catalyst for change in their business, in their industry and beyond”, aiming to “set a new standard when it comes to sustainability”.

The full EGM can be watched in the video below, with Watt and Dickie’s presentation starting at 24.55. Mike Berners-Lee’s presentation starts at 50.10.

This presentation was then followed by a hugely inspiring presentation from Mike Berners-Lee who spoke not only about BrewDog’s sustainability plan and initiative to regenerate the Highlands with their forest and peatland restoration, but also about the coming climate crisis and what we can all do to play our role through values and changing our thinking. Due to the detail involved and the excellent observations and level of analysis in his presentation, I will be covering the talk in a second article soon.

When you look at BrewDog’s sustainability and regeneration strategy as a whole, you will see that it is systemic, circular and covers the entire supply chain. What is interesting is that through this initiative BrewDog in their irreverent manner are able to reach a much wider audience than can sometimes be the case with many other excellent regenerative initiatives which often only remain inside of the global sustainability community.

Simon Robinson with Erika Thais Rocha

Simon Robinson with Erika Thais Rocha, GM of BrewDog São Paulo

While clearly not everyone enjoys BrewDog’s approach to marketing, Brand Finance recently named BrewDog as one of the world’s top 20 beer brands with more brand value than Stella & Carlsberg, which shows just how much of a global platform and impact they now have in relation to their sustainability and climate change initiatives. This growth has been achieved through BrewDog’s cutting-edge approach to crowd funding and collaborative co-creation with it’s community of Equity Punk investors, and for this reason Maria and I have been charting BrewDog’s trajectory, for example writing about BrewDog as an in-depth case study in our Harvard Business Review Brasil article Não comece um negócio, comece uma cruzada (Don’t Start a Business Start a Crusade) and also with James Watt’s contributions to our book Customer Experiences with Soul: A new Era in Design.

BrewDog also offer a model of what it is to be authentic, transparent and are the first to admit when they get things wrong. They will continue to publish their sustainability plans, actions and results and this will be important for those of you with a technical sustainability background and who wish to analyse this initiative independently. But for now I really admire their can do attititude and congratulate them for their desire to make as much positive impact on the planet as they are able.

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