What steps can your business take to reduce its carbon footprint?
PUBLISHED: 08:46 13 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:35 13 June 2019
Adnam's sustainability manager Benedict Orchard discusses some of the innovations that make the East Anglian brewer a leading environmental champion,
If you are looking for a business in the region that is doing innovative work around sustainability then brewer and pub operator Adnams would be high on your list.
The company, which has its brewery and head office in Southwold, has won a string of awards for it efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to make its activities more efficient.
When I call Adnams' sustainability manager Benedict Orchard, he is fresh from having picked up another gong on behalf of the business. This time it's a Footprint award - a food service industry honour - for the development of a heat and water recovery system between its distillery and brewery operations.
Mr Orchard tells me that Adnams has either won or come runner-up in around 15 awards for sustainability during his seven years at the company. But, he says, the business doesn't just enter awards for the recognition - there is a bigger picture. The awards are "a great platform" to share best practice around sustainability, he says, and that this is important because it is only through sharing and promoting things that work that innovation and ideas can be pushed forward and their adoption increased.
"If we can get information out there it adds to the collaboration and knowledge sharing," said Mr Orchard.
"When looking at making a business more sustainable, there is often no right answer - quite often you have to make a choice and learn from them,"
He tells me the company calls its continuous march towards reducing its carbon footprint: 'The Adnams Sustainability Story' - meaning it's an ongoing process of looking for improvements, sometimes trying things, finding out that some might not work as hoped, learning from it and trying again.
And having spent a number of years working through this process, there are some lessons Mr Orchard can share about improving a business's environmental footprint.
Sustainability starts at the top
Mr Orchard says Adnams is "fortunate to have very innovative leaders who are open-minded about looking at sustainable solutions". He says acting sustainably is something that all business leaders should have at the forefront of their minds. Being kinder to the environment and reducing carbon is not only a positive in its own right - it also makes good business sense, he says
If you are going to reduce your carbon emissions, it's important to have a full picture of what resources your business is already consuming. Mr Orchard says Adnams' energy use can be roughly divided into three equal areas: electricity, gas and diesel. It's also important to understand the carbon intensity of the energy sources you are using and the impact that reducing them will have. For example, coal and petrol has a higher energy intensity and emits more carbon per kilowatt hour than gas, so if you can reduce their use, more carbon will be saved as a result.
The 3Rs for recycling are Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Once you've looked at reducing energy use, Mr Orchard says businesses should start thinking about reusing energy and taking a circular approach to business processes.
A case in point is Adnams' recent introduction of heat transfer technology at Southwold, which enables it to recover heat and water from the distilling process and use it again both for distilling and in its brewery next door.
Electricity and efficiency
Mr Orchard says Adnams has replaced older lights with more energy efficient LED lighting and also looks to update pumps and motors with more efficient ones. All of the electricity used by the company now comes from renewable sources.
Adnams has invested in one electric vehicle (EV) so far - a Nissan van used by staff at its Southwold shop to deliver customer orders - and the company is looking to transition to more electric vehicles as its older diesel vans and trucks come up for replacement.
EV charging points have also been installed in car parks at Adnams' pubs. "This allows our customers to invest in EV themselves as one of the limiting factors to EV adoption is the limited charging infrastructure," said Mr Orchard.
Over the past decade Adnams has worked with its glass maker O-I to produce lighter beer bottles, which weigh less and use less glass. Following a first round of improvements in 2007 and then a second iteration in 2015, Adnams' 500ml bottles now weigh 280 grams, shaving 38% off the weight of the original bottle.
Mr Orchard said these innovations have brought savings of 100 tonnes in carbon emissions each year.
"While this doesn't directly reduce our own emissions, it does, in effect, mean we are offsetting a third of our own emissions," he said.
"They looked at how we can mould glass differently but still provide the same quality to hold beer under pressure and not let too much light in which affects the quality of the beer. This has been done by thinning out parts of the bottle and slightly changing some of the angles."
Other innovations include working with another supplier so that Adnams' aluminium beer cans today are made up of 90% recycled content.
As for the future, Mr Orchard says there are a number of technologies that already exist that will be developed further and could help Adnams and other companies reduce their carbon footprint
He talks about the "electrification of heating", whereby electricity from renewable sources could be used to power heat source pumps and believes that bio-methane and anaerobic digestion (AD), which processes food waste and plant materials into energy, both have a role.
With transport now the largest contributor to UK carbon emissions and air pollution a national health concern, Mr Orchard points to innovation in electric vehicles - such as improved battery design offering better driving range - as important for the future. Hydrogen fuel cells will also be a technology that could provide some of the solutions, he says.
He also expects to see a transition away from plastics and oil-based packaging towards packaging made from natural materials like corn starch. He says, in a bid to reduce packaging, Adnams has trialled an in-store refill tap for its beer in the past but had little take-up at the time. But with public perceptions changing, he said it's something the company may look to offer again in the future.