by Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

The Guiness Brewery.Do you like green beer? Not the dyed frothy beverage some people drink on St. Patrick’s Day, but beer that’s made with sustainability in mind. If so, you’re not alone. These days, many beer enthusiasts are even willing to pay more for sustainable beer. In fact, this focus on sustainability is found across consumer markets: a global Nielsen study found that 66 percent of respondents would pay more for products made by sustainable companies, and a Cone Communications study found that 76 percent of Americans expect businesses to address climate change.

Some might say this expectation could negatively affect a company’s bottom line, but studies show that sustainability is good business. An eight-year study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group found that companies can profit by implementing sustainability practices. A study by CDP shows that companies that do this enjoy an 18 percent higher return on investment (ROI) than companies that do not. And a Harvard Business School study shows that one dollar invested in 1993 in a portfolio of companies focused on environmental issues while growing their business would have increased to $28 in 2013 – nearly twice the ROI as a dollar invested in companies focused only on growth in the same time period.

While a global circular economy may seem impossible to some, industry leaders, such as Google, Philips and Unilever, are looking for ways to make it work for them.

Two pints of Guiness.This brings me back to the beer: as a closed-loop model, a circular economy relies heavily on waste prevention and natural resource conservation, and it just so happens one company operating in Baltimore County is leading the way toward a sustainable future by changing its approach to waste.

Located in Halethorpe, Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House is Baltimore County’s newest and largest brewery and the brand’s first U.S. brewery in more than 60 years. Over the last several years, Guinness’ parent company, Diageo, has made great strides in sustainability, most recently making the Global 100, which places them among the most sustainable companies in the world. In addressing waste, the company is wasting no time, with a target of eliminating waste to landfill from their operations by 2020. Besides recycling, their methods for doing so include:

  • Phasing out plastic straws and stirrers in their establishments.
  • Making packaging more sustainable by reducing the overall packaging weight, increasing the level of recycled materials used in packaging, and ensuring all packaging is recyclable or reusable.
  • Using waste for agricultural purposes. Brewing and distilling by-products are now being used by farmers as animal feed.

Diageo has also committed to establishing sustainable supply chains by working with local suppliers, encouraging suppliers and business partners to adopt similar sustainability standards, and by providing training to help their suppliers do so. Diageo also seeks to use and waste fewer natural resources by improving water and energy efficiency, sourcing low-carbon or renewable energy and using new technology to eliminate unnecessary materials from operations.

Since 2009, Diageo has reduced packaging weight by eight percent, increased recycled material in their packaging by 40 percent, and improved the recyclability of their packaging by almost 99 percent. The company has reduced waste going to landfill by 90 percent and absolute carbon emissions by 36 percent since 2007.

Lastly, Diageo and Guinness undertook a massive “upcycle” project by rehabbing old buildings that housed an historic whiskey distillery instead of building new structures for the brewery site, using recycled and low VOC (volatile organic compound) materials in the process.

Visit Diageo’s website for more information about the company’s zero waste to landfill target and efforts to reduce its environmental impact. To learn more about the brewery, visit guinnessbrewerybaltimore.com.