New Belgium Brewing: Beer For Good with Jessi Kauffmann
Meet Jessi Kauffmann
Outside of work, you can find Jessi spending time outdoors climbing and hiking, listening to good music, and currently living out her long-time dream of living sustainability and intentionally in her own tiny home.
They are now the 4th largest craft brewery in the U.S. Dedicated to proving that business can be a force for good, New Belgium is a Certified B Corp and was the first brewery to join 1% for the Planet. AND the brewery has donated over $29 million to charitable causes since 1991.
Their in-house processes are driven by innovation, all the while they’re fighting for better climate policies, clean land and water, and providing spaces for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Truly they are brewed for all. Tune in to hear more!
Jessi’s focus at New Belgium is to make sure that their impact and work is communicated throughout the company and beyond.
“Externally to have our customers know that we don’t just talk the talk and walk the talk, too. So a lot of that means I work with marketing and I get to help strategize and create content that aligns with our values, but then also exemplifies the important work that we do outside.”
New Belgium does an amazing job at grant programming, something that Jessi has been involved in. They have bike-related advocacy programs as well as community initiatives. In Atlanta, they partnered with Ale Sharpton to create and promote “Piano Keys” a beer made to reach the Atlanta community.
“(Ale’s) big thing is to create economic empowerment for the black community and making sure that we get craft beer accessible to all. So one of the beers that we released a couple of times now, different small batches, is called Piano Keys, and it’s this Imperial Vanilla Stout….And the money goes to different nonprofits that we help decide with Ale.”
New Belgium operates on a human-powered business model. This means that they put people before profit, and that spreads into all aspects of their business.
“We are people first and that trickles out to we care about people and we care about the world. Right. Because the environment is where we live. And without that, we wouldn’t be people. So making sure that bringing business as a force for good is actually doing it for the right reasons and doing it to bring humanness and humanity into different business.”
World Class beer for all
Putting people first also means creating world-class beer for all. Building off of their history, Fat Tire was a beer that was created to introduce New Belgium style beer to light beer drinkers without being off-putting or intimidating, while sticking to their values of being extremely sustainable.
“And our goal is to continue to do that is to show that accessibility matters. So, you know, you make something accessible, you make it approachable, you include everyone and it’s only going to open more doors. So that’s a huge part of making World-Class beer for all.”
New Belgium makes beer to suit every taste bud. Perusing through their beer list, you won’t be seeing just an IPA or a lager, but a diverse range of beers so everyone can find something they love.
Environmental and Social Change
On top of the internal energy-efficient practices that New Belgium employs, they also make sure that externally they are promoting sustainability and climate action. One of their most recent campaigns featured Torched Earth, a purposefully bad beer created to represent what the future of beer would look like if agriculture continued to decline due to climate change.
“We highlighted too that though beer would be our last focus if that was the world we lived in. It’s something that really brings the tangible nature to it, because the further we get from things, the more separately we are, the harder it is to actually see the full impact and the reality of it.”
They used this campaign to give individuals the opportunity to request companies to come up with a climate plan through Twitter. Right now over 70% of Fortune 500 companies don’t have any plan in place. For more information on this campaign, visit DrinkSustainably.com.
And speaking of drinking sustainably, New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale earned the title of the first carbon-neutral beer! This was achieved through their energy-efficient model (including water-saving, solar, and wind power) and investing in carbon offsets. Mountain Time, another New Belgium Beer, is now certified carbon neutral as well. I’ll cheers to that!
Investing in local farmers
New Belgium also works to empower people at the source of their ingredients. They have invested in a company called Indigo Agriculture which invests in local rural communities and farmers.
“One of the things that’s like a full circle, like we’re supporting people or supporting their local economies and the planet, and so it’s all very intersectional. And so a lot of those folks just don’t get what they need, especially the way kind of our economy is working in this day and age. So big opportunity for like a global solution that can start in small places.”
Breaking down barriers
New Belgium is currently celebrating its 30 year anniversary, and they’ve been breaking barriers since day one. The measures New Belgium takes should be the norm. We know that other companies in the industry need to create more sustainable practices. Here’s Jessi’s take on why they aren’t seeing other companies take up the torch.
“Unfortunately, just a lot of the issues that we talk about are we are passionate about have been politicized. And so that tends to be a driver for folks not to engage. And so we talk about a lot that a lot of these issues need to be depoliticized because they affect everybody like they’re not just one side or the other or anything. And so there is a huge catalyst for bringing people together, for conversation, for breaking down barriers. So we are unique in our opportunity here. A lot of companies that maybe don’t make the same kind of product. It’s hard to talk about things if they don’t fit your brand if they don’t fit your business sales model. And so we tie it into ours. And that’s the biggest thing that I think like human-powered business is trying to push forward and why we’re trying to encourage companies to land on that is that. That model actually puts people first instead of money first…And so you can use business to do a lot of good in the world. And hopefully, eventually, that means business and good, and our humanness is all tied together instead of maybe separated out kind of that tangibility like we talked about. The closer you are to something, the more you’re going to care about it.”
New Belgium doesn’t just start the conversation with other companies and hope they figure it out on their own, they give resources. Similar to projects they’ve done in the past, they have a Carbon Neutral tool kit that they’ve created in their sustainability team that will be available to breweries small, large, and everything in between. Their goal is to make carbon-neutral beer accessible for anyone who is willing to do the work and make a difference.
Internally, the company has an employee ownership program, which they’ve encouraged a lot of other companies to use the same model. They have also been named one of the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality 2021. Creating a space where everyone feels welcome and included.
“You get hired and you find all these things that make you feel you’re supported and who you actually are as a person. And that inevitably gives you more authentic relationships and allows you to be more yourself.”
Let Your Freak Flag Fly
Let your freak flag fly – Jessi says that she’s a weirdo, and everyone she works with is well.
“I feel like I got hired and I was like, do they really know what they’re doing? And then it turns out, yeah, because everyone’s like weird and great. And we try to bring everyone’s voice. And that’s one of the big things, is like you’re letting your freak fly”
They encourage this through their annual Tour De Fat, a nonprofit fundraiser that supports accessibility and sustainability initiatives. Tour De Fat is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, encouraging people to wear costumes and fill the streets with good food, music, and of course beer. To learn more about Tour De Fat visit the link here.
Making a difference
When I asked how people can get involved with the environmental and social change that New Belgium is advocating for, Jessi said,
”It’s as easy as just making some choices in your own life…You start doing individually could be just like thinking about when you buy things. What is it in? What is that going to go toward in the end result? And so with beer, buying New Belgium beer is always a great option. But I think for a long time, people thought sustainability was like a marketing fad. And we’re jumping on board because of things like that. And we actually see the data that its people are investing in companies that make change. And a lot of people say, oh, are you sure that makes a difference? Like, how do you know? And it’s like, no, we’re seeing that the spending, like our sales, are showing that folks and customers will spend money where true, authentic, credible impact is.”
Are you ready to make a difference? Find out more at New Belgium today!
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