New Belgium Brewing Company’s efforts to embody a sustainability-oriented business has paid off with a very loyal following—in fact, the company expanded the number of tours it offers of its facilities due to such high demand. The company has also been the recipient of numerous awards.
Past awards for NBB include the Business Ethics Magazine’s Business Ethics Award for its “dedication to environmental excellence in every part of its innovative brewing process,” its inclusion in The Wall Street Journal’s 15 best small workplaces, and the award for “best mid-sized brewing company of the year” and best mid-sized brewmaster at the Great American Beer Festival. New Belgium has been awarded medals for three different brews: Abbey Belgian Style Ale, Blue Paddle Pilsner, and La Folie specialty ale. Many applaud New Belgium Brewing Company’s sustainability and philanthropic initiatives. According to David Edgar, former director of the Institute for Brewing Studies at the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colorado, “They’ve created a very positive image for their company in the beer-consuming public with smart decision-making.” Although some members of society do not believe that a company whose major product is alcohol can be socially responsible, NBB has set out to prove that for those who make a choice to drink responsibly, the company can do everything possible to contribute to society. NBB also promotes the responsible appreciation of beer through its participation in and support of the culinary arts. For instance, it frequently hosts New Belgium Beer Dinners, in which every course of the meal is served with a complementary culinary treat.
Although NBB has made great strides in creating a socially responsible brand image, its work is not done. It must continually reexamine its ethical, social, and environmental responsibilities. In 2004 it received the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional Environmental Achievement Award. It was both an honor and a motivator for the company to continue its socially responsible goals. After all, there are still many ways for NBB to improve as a corporate citizen. For example, although all electric power comes from renewable sources, the NBB plant is still heated in part by using natural gas. Furthermore, continued expansion requires longer travel distances to distribute its products, which increases the use of fossil fuels. Perhaps as a way to deal with these longer distances and expand production capacity, NBB opened a second brewery in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2015. In addition to addressing logistical challenges, NBB is part of an industry where there is always a need for more public dialogue on avoiding alcohol abuse. Practically speaking, the company has a never-ending to-do list. NBB executives acknowledge that as its annual sales increase, the company will face increasing challenges to remain committed on a human level while also being culturally authentic. Indeed, how to boldly grow the brand while maintaining its perceptions of a humble feel has always been a challenge. Additionally, reducing waste to an even greater extent will require more effort on behalf of managers and employees, creating the need for a collaborative process that will require the dedication of both parties toward sustainability. NBB also faces increased competition from other craft breweries.
It remains behind D.G. Yuengling and Son, Boston Beer Co. (maker of Samuel Adams beer), and Sierra Nevada in market share. Like NBB, Boston Beer Co. and Sierra Nevada have plans to expand. Boston Beer allocated $35 million for capital investment projects at breweries in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Ohio in 2012. NBB must also compete against craft beer alternatives released by traditional breweries, such as MillerCoor’s New Moon Belgian White. It must constantly engage in environmental scanning and competitive analysis to compete in this increasingly competitive environment. Every six-pack of New Belgium Beer displays the phrase “In this box is our labor of love. We feel incredibly lucky to be creating something fine that enhances people’s lives.” Although Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan are divorced and Lebesch has left the company to focus on other interests, the founders of New Belgium hope this statement captures the spirit of the company. NBB’s most important asset is its image—a corporate brand that stands for quality, responsibility, and concern for society. Defining itself as more than a beer company, the brewer also sees itself as a caring organization that is concerned for all stakeholders