CORK-based brewer Heineken Ireland is making steady progress towards meeting its sustainability goals such as protecting water resources and reducing CO2 emissions, as well as hosting health and safety initiatives and engaging with its local communities.
The brewing company’s newly released 2016 Sustainability Report shows a company enjoying a series of benefits from intertwined business and community commitments. Last year, it sourced 100% of its malted barley from Irish farmers, supporting local jobs and families, and it spent €100m in the local economy supporting local suppliers.
Heineken is on a ten-year sustainability journey with its ‘Brewing a Better World’ programme. Launched in 2010, it’s on track for its ambitious targets; it has reduced its environmental impacts despite increasing its output volumes and its range of products.
“We are 100% committed to our sustainability programme. It’s a core part of our overall business growth strategy,” explained Sandy Boundy, Heineken Ireland’s communications and CSR manager. “Our volumes have increased and the complexity of our production runs has evolved. Having more complex runs means the tanks have to be cleaned more often.
“Our operations team monitors our water usage and thermal emissions. Everybody plays a part in meeting our targets. It’s a power collaboration. To be honest, it takes a significant investment from everyone but it is paying off.
“That said, we are human. We missed our thermal target by 4% in 2016 because of a blind spot with our metering, which we missed. That’s now back on track. We are very much on track for our 2020 targets. For instance, in our distribution, C02 is down 13.6% on our 2008 base year; our target is a 20% reduction by 2020.”
A full 100% of Heineken Ireland’s draught beers that are brewed in the iconic Lady’s Well Brewery in Cork use Irish malted barley. The ‘local first’ approach is paying dividends.
Its CO2 emissions have decreased by 52% since 2008, and it is now sourcing 100% of electricity from renewable resources.
The Lady’s Well Brewery is an impressive stone building, respectfully preserved and now in its 161st year of brewing in Cork. Since 1856, it has brewed Murphy’s Stout, acquired by Heineken in 1983.
It still brews Murphy’s, along with an evolving suite of Heineken products. In fact, Ireland was the first market in Europe to launch Heineken Light with lower ABV and lower calories.
Part of the company’s commitment to local communities involves advocating responsible consumption, and promoting health and safety. It also commits to “growing with our communities”, notably via its strategic partnership with Cork Simon and its Addiction Aftercare Programme.
In 2016, a full 10% of the Heineken brand media budget was used to promote responsible consumption. Also last year, employees were encouraged to become actively involved in their communities through a volunteering programme which resulted in donations of almost €10,000 and 1,600 volunteer hours.
Since March, employees are also participating in ten new GIY gardening groups. The Star Growers groups are delivering GIY workshops, offering a €300 seed fund to help communities with garden projects, and giving up a half-day to help them get started.
“This is year one,” said Sandy Boundy. “We haven’t done an official launch yet. We want to give the groups time to make some progress. We started by getting people internally on board, and now we want to identify groups to work with in communities.”
Heineken staff brought a bit of humour to the GIY project, notably with Oriental ‘al desko’ gardens and a number of staff growing plants in their cars. Four community groups in Cork and two more in Dublin have already connected with the project, and the company is on the lookout for others nationwide. That strong sense of community probably owes a lot to Heineken’s sourcing 100% of its malted barley from Irish farmers since 2010. That commitment has not gone unnoticed.
“Of course, there were times over those years when it might have been cheaper to source malted barley from abroad, but that’s a commitment we’ve stuck with,” said Sandy Boundy. “We spend around €4.5m in the local economy each year. We buy from two maltsters, who gather their supplies from a huge number of local farmers.”
In all, Heineken sources 98% of its total cereals from local growers. The main component it the other 2% is imported wheat and roasted barley, which are not available locally.
“We’re committed to sourcing sustainably,” she said. “These values form the foundation of our company. Our community commitments and our business values are closely aligned. We genuinely believe that the future has to be about the broader community; and, for Heineken Ireland, that means thinking ahead to the next 161 years in business here.
“In some ways, sustainability can be a hard story to tell. We start by communicating the message with our employees. Each year, we ask everybody to take a half-day to support their chosen community group.
“We’ve had some HR people who have done health and safety training with Simon Community. Some of our marketing people helped the older persons charity Alone to develop a marketing plan. Others have worked with Reimagine Cork putting up plant boxes on the wall on Leitrim Street.”
Some staff members worked with Cope Foundation, some with Cork Penny Dinners, others with Age Action. Some participated in a fundraising cycle with Simon Community, others worked with a hospice in Wexford delivering services to cancer patients.
The firm’s green goals
Launching the ‘Brewing a Better World’ 2016 report, Maggie Timoney, managing director of Heineken Ireland, said: “We are 100% committed to sustainability. We can only achieve our ambition via the ongoing efforts of our colleagues and stakeholders and we are very grateful for the great work undertaken to date. In the past year, we’ve exceeded many targets and sourcing local is key to this.”
Heineken Ireland’s key achievements, as reported in its 2016 Sustainability Report, included:
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