Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

New Belgium Brewery: Sustaining Earnings, Employees, Environment and Beer Culture

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

New Belgium Brewery: Sustaining Earnings, Employees, Environment and Beer Culture

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

New Belgium Brewery, headquartered in Fort Collins, Colorado, has earned a national reputation for great beer, community involvement and environmental stewardship. Putting into action a sustainability plan that focuses on preservation of the natural environment through reduced dependence on coal-fired electricity, conservation of water, innovations in technology and minimizing waste in its operations, New Belgium seeks to live out the ideals of its founders, Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan, who began brewery operations in the basement of their home in 1991.

Coupled with the emphasis on environmental stewardship is care for the company's 325 employees through a high-involvement culture and the realization that for any of these dreams to be lived, the company must produce popular products that return a profit. New Belgium's sustainable business practices entail increasing efficiencies in the brewing process, using green design throughout the brewery buildings, treating its waste water to obtain methane and sludge rich in nutrients, using methane byproducts to create electricity and heat for the brewery and purchasing wind-power electricity. The company sets "lofty goals" to reduce its carbon footprint and water usage and to increase its landfill diversion rate.

Inspiration for the company began as the result of Lebesch's bicycle trip through Europe in 1989 where he sampled the local beers. On returning to Fort Collins, the electrical engineer used modified dairy equipment to build a home brewing kit in the basement. His first two beers were a brown dubbel he called Abbey and an amber beer named Fat Tire, apparently as a reflection of his bicycling trip. He and his wife, Kim Jordan, a social worker, began sharing these creations with friends and neighbors who convinced them to start labeling their Belgianstyle beers and sell them to the local populace.

Abbey and Fat Tire have been joined over the years by the likes of Sunshine Wheat, Mothership Wit Organic Wheat Beer, Blue Paddle, Trippel Belgian Style Ale and several seasonal creations. The company also raised its community profile and cemented the connection between bikes and beer by establishing the Tour de Fat, an event in 1 1 western cities that celebrates the societal positives of bicycle transport and the judicious consumption of European style beer. The bicycle theme continues to drive many of the company's community activities. For more information about New Belgium Brewery, please visit

Before they ever sold the first bottle of beer, Jeff and Kim took a hike in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park where they established the core values and beliefs that would guide New Belgium Brewery from its inception. Kim, now New Belgium's CEO, and Jennifer Orgolini, a longtime employee who serves as the company's sustainability director, recently discussed those guiding principles, the company's focus on sustainable business practices, and beer. This interview is the first in an occasional series on sustainable business practices.

Authors: The purpose statement of New Belgium Brewery (NBB) is to operate a profitable brewery that makes our love and talent manifest. Could you talk a little bit about how your love and talent have been expressed at NBB?

Kim Jordan: Sure. We were living something very similar to that before we actually came up with that purpose. So when we decided to more carefully construct the vision framework and get language around what it was that we were living, we got all of our co-workers together, and began to craft the vision that for us is the bucket that holds the whole thing. Inside ofthat is our purpose; the thing that we're on the planet to do, our core values and beliefs; how we're going to behave as we do that and what we're going to make more important in the hierarchy of decisions and our mission; what we're going to strive for in a time-bound period.

What I think you would find if you spent some time at NBB is that people here are palpably engaged with one another. …

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