New Belgium Brewing: Environmental and Social Responsibilities New Belgium Brewing Company’s (NBB) mission statement is “to operate a profitable brewery which is socially, ethically and environmentally responsible, that produces high quality beer true to Belgian brewing styles. ” Does New Belgium’s mission statement make an ethical stance for the business? Does it even have any bearing on the products and their beliefs? It seems to when it comes to operating a profitable business and the “green” way they are doing so and the benefits given to its employees.New Belgium addresses several environmental issues, the first being air pollution. In an effort to “do their part,” they switched from coal burning power to wind power. NBB were the first brewing company to a make such a bold move. The change to wind power has allowed NBB to reduce CO2 emissions by 1,800 metric tons each year.
Another environmental issue addressed by NBB is the reduction of energy costs. To this end, NBB reuses the hot water used to boil its hops and barley. This water is used to provide heat to flooring and loading docks.The hops and barley used in the brewing process do not go to waste either: they are stored and offered “free of charge” to local live stock farmers to be used as feed. This not only benefits the environment, it adds a sort of feed subsidy to the local farmers thereby helping them lower their feed costs.
This can be shown as both an environmental and social benefit to the community. In addition to the environmental items above, NBB also uses sun tubes to provide natural lighting to the plant, again cutting down on energy costs.Finally, and perhaps the most unconventional, NBB offers each employee, after one year of employment, a bike that can be ridden to work. The last seems more of show of good effort than a true environmental savings.
Is NBB being socially responsible for the greater good of its consumers or to increase the bottom line and further market their product within the community; are they “appearing” concerned or are they genuinely concerned? NBB’s strategic approach to the environmental issues is two-fold. One, it shows the public that even through they are a beer company, which can be ooked at as not being social and environmentally good, they are still concerned. And two, it helps reduce their operating costs. NBB’s social incentives are part of a strategic philanthropy. It is in their best interest to show that NBB is a company that sells alcohol but is still, in the grand scheme of things, a company that believes in giving back to the community. Are they doing because it is ethical? They do it because it gives them good press in the community.
NBB sells their beer at many of their supported biking events such as “Best Damn Bike Tour,” a ride for the MS Society.True, the MS Society benefits from this event with the money raised, but is this right? One would have to say yes because they are doing good for society, it is your choice whether you purchase their products or not. One concern around the selling of products during these kinds of social events is does the company have legal responsibility if someone gets drunk and hurt? Another is the “responsibility factor” of offering alcoholic beverages at events where children are encouraged to participate.Is biking and drinking, which carries stiff penalties in the eyes of the law, the best image to portray to our kids? These are questions we may not be able to answer at this time.
Still, the question remains: Is NBB doing all of this – the environmental cleanliness and philanthropic outpouring – because of the values of the company or does NBB do this because it looks good and what that means to the public? Based on the case one would believe it is because it is truly the company’s values. It would be hard for NBB to take any further steps to show they are ethical and socially responsible.It gets to a point where there actions begin to outweigh the actual belief that they would be dong this for society versus economic gain. There’s no doubt that NBB is acting socially responsible in their own eyes and much of the community’s; doing almost everything they can to contribute to society. Although some individuals or groups would argue that a brewing company cannot be socially responsible due to the nature of their product. Ultimately, their “to do” list will never end, and no matter how much they give back or enhance their operations to be more environmentally friendly, it will never be enough.
In essence, some believe the cost of human lives due to irresponsible drinking, will always outweigh the good produced. Although a fair argument, NBB could easily apply Mill’s utility or ‘greatest happiness principle’ to their business and support the notion that “the morally right action is the one that maximizes aggregate good. ” In other words, the happiness that is felt and produced by the organization, employees, non-profits receiving donations, and consumers outweigh the unhappiness felt by a small percentage of society.The alternative for them would be to do nothing, which would be morally wrong and produce unhappiness. The question is, who determines what is best for society and how can you put a price on the cost of a human life lost due to over-indulgence or drunk driving? Furthermore, does NBB continue to focus on their contributions to the environment, to overshadow or reduce the proven facts that alcohol can be an addiction and harmful to some consumers? Speaking of Mill’s utility aspect of the case, does NBB educate other companies about going green?Do they hoard their technology or share it for the benefit of the world? After all, wouldn’t the true “greater good” be a utopian brewing society where everyone could operate as NBB does and still remain profitable? To that end, NBB has teamed up with the Chicago Climate Exchange to decrease and trade their greenhouse emissions.
They must comply with CCX regulations to remain within their legally binding commitment with CCX. 1 NBB is also working with a local Fort Collins company called Solix Biofuels to buy NBB’s CO2 emissions to create a biodiesel fuel from algae. Being socially responsible has multiple benefits for the environment and communities. As mentioned before, one must consider that an alternative would be to do nothing. It would be just as profitable for NBB to brew, package and distribute its beer without and regard for the environment, perhaps even more so. After all, “being profitable” is a part of the company mission.
In the end, it’s important to support businesses such as NBB and recognize them for their efforts. Does it really matter what the motivations behind their actions are?As Mother Theresa’s pilgrimage across the world to help the poor and the sick, no one ever questioned her motives. However, upon further reflection it is clear as to what she was looking to gain from her actions: entry into heaven and a seat with God. Wouldn’t it be fair to argue then that all of the good she accomplished was motivated by selfishness? We assert that it makes no difference why a person or company acts in a socially responsible manner. The important thing is that they do.
Another ethical dilemma faced by NBB, in our eyes, pertains to its employee stock option plan.NBB, a privately held company, offers a percentage of ownership, in the form of stock and voting rights, to employees who have worked there for one whole year and beyond. They feel that it will give the employees a feeling of control over decisions being made within the company. NBB believes that if they provide an “open-book policy” to their employees they will have greater motivation to improve productivity and reduce costs. In the most recent data we were able to find pertaining to this issue, NBB had 32% employee ownership.
3 NBB’s offering stock options to its employees could potentially pose problems within the company.With employee’s having a vote and a vested interest in the company, personal issues could outweigh the best interest of the company. It would be difficult to divorce oneself from the family-like atmosphere NBB fosters. Stockholders make tough decisions each and every day.
Items such as downsizing or salary wage freezes would prove difficult for an employee comprised board to vote on, seeing as it negatively affects the employees personally. Hypothetically, let’s say there were newly found health problems related to alcohol consumption. No doubt this would cause big problems for NBB.Or worse yet, perhaps there were another Prohibition, for whatever reason. NBB would have to deal with massive layoffs or downsize to balance out the profit of the company. Some, including NBB, might argue that employee stocks (and voting rights) make the employee more accountable for his or her day-to-day actions as it relates to the bottom line, it is much more so problematic when these types of tough decisions need to be made.
What would happen if a drunk driver killed an employee’s family member? Where would the loyalty of the employee lie in that situation?Would the employee continue to work for a company that may or may not have contributed to the death of their relative? Furthermore, what happens to their stocks at that time? While we recognize the ability of any person to refuse a beverage, we have to understand that this does not always happen. It is unfortunate that drunk driving deaths occur, and while we do not blame the brewing companies or alcoholic beverage industry as a whole, one might find it difficult to report to work everyday with such a burden weighing heavy on his or her heart. Remedying this situation is difficult.It seems, on the surface, employee stock options are an incentive to employees working there. But are they really? The corporate culture in place at NBB is one of social responsibility and philanthropy.
The Founders and CEO have made it widely known that their priorities lie in focusing their efforts outward. While profitability is nice, and essential, their altruistic missions are paramount. As partial owners of the company, does it bother the employees that $1 from every barrel sold is donated to a local charity instead of being paid in dividends to them as stockholders?This can reach almost $200,000+ a year. With roughly 130 employees, this results in a loss of about $1,500 per year, per employee.
Who’s to say whether this amount would be more or less than the employee would give on his or her own in a given year? In a sense, NBB is participating in corporate tithing. Regulatory, self-imposed standards may help deal with this issue. If employees are given options and limitations regarding their stocks, the CEO may be able to circumvent any problems the may arise from having employees with such a large share of the company.If it is made explicitly clear, for example, that employees are not allowed to sell their stocks should they fall on economic hard times, if their vote on company issues counted less than the CEO (1/3 to 3/3) or if employees were not able to access their stock until a longer tenure with the company, the CEO may stand on much stronger footing. Being socially, ethically and environmentally responsible is of utmost importance to New Belgium Brewing Co. Their corporate culture is one in which they foster an environment of family, friends and philanthropy.
When one questions NBB’s motivation behind their actions, ultimately the conclusion is a big “who cares! ” With the strides NBB takes to improve the condition of our environment, or at least not make it any worse, and their unbelievable employee loyalty, it is clear that NBB is doing what works for them. They are the profitable, socially, ethically and environmentally responsible company they set out to be. Works Cited 1. www. buyblue. org (CCX cite) 2.
www. rockymountainnews. com (solix biofuels cite) 3. 2004, www. buyblue. org