Sustainability Won’t Sell Your Beer. So Why Do it?

Sustainability is a critical concept that has gained significant attention in recent years as breweries seek to balance environmental, social, and economic goals. While some may view sustainability as a costly investment without a direct return on investment, its importance cannot be overstated. 

“It’s a way of being responsible with the things that you’re doing in this world, and a way of connecting with other outfits that you think, share the same sort of values and can be something that you can contribute to,” summed up Kevin McGee, CEO of Anderson Valley during the 2023 California Craft Beer Summit.

Since his family took over the company in 2019, McGee has been digging into the sustainability aspects the brewery has available to it … without even knowing it, including being the world’s first solar-powered brewery and the in-depth water system on the property.

“[We want] to engage people with a lot of these stories and a lot of this history because like that water system has been running for 25 years. And nobody knows about it,” McGee said to the audience in the conference’s expo hall. “The world’s first solar power brewery, nobody knew about it. That’s another aspect of why we think that sustainability is important to us in particular.”

READ MORE: The Ways Anderson Valley Solved Solar Panel Challenges

The brewery is in the midst of switching from an older solar array that sends 40-50% of its total power back to the grid for credits from its power company to producing and storing up to 110% of its energy and giving back the extra. It will allow the brewery to work on battery backup for up to a week even if needed without the use of diesel generators or other fossil fuel energy generation.

Anderson Valley CEO Kevin McGee speaks at CCBA’s Tap Talk stage

“And that’s something that’s replicable by everybody,” McGee said. “One of the best things about solar is you don’t actually have to know anything about solar. It’s become such a well-worn path or corporate and business development and facility development that there are firms out there that will do a lot of the thinking for you.”

The bottom line, he pointed out, is that sustainable business practices are good business practices. 

The way that AVBC has been able to structure this new program is that the cost of doing it can be on a purchase basis rather than a rental basis. 

“Within 12 years, for the exact same amount of cash that we’re spending on power right now, we will own our entire power generation system,” McGee said. “It means that at the end of the day, we will be both power and water independent within the fence line of the property.”

But by adopting sustainable practices, a brewery can mitigate its environmental impact, enhance their reputation, and build long-term resilience. Moreover, many consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable products and services, making it imperative for businesses to prioritize sustainability if they want to remain competitive in today’s market. 

No, none of this will sell you brewery’s beer. It can endear consumers to your brand, but it won’t sell what you make. While sustainability may not always offer a quick financial return, it is undoubtedly a smart long-term strategy, McGee feels, that can yield significant benefits for both companies and the planet.

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