BrewDog and the power of ESG for better business performance

By Robert Half on 23rd April 2021

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is quickly becoming a key factor for consumers, employees and stakeholders who want to allocate time and money smartly. Few brands exemplify best-in-class ESG practice like craft beer brewers, BrewDog.

Watch the event: BrewDog and ESG

Thirteen years after their humble start, a company of two men and one dog has become the UK's fastest-growing brand and the top craft beer brand in the world. And the journey has only just begun.

In February 2020, they added 'carbon negative status' to their top five company goals for the year. Fast forward twelve months, and they've purchased a 9,308-acre forest, attained a B-Corp certification, and become the world's first carbon negative beer brand. They now take twice as much carbon from the air as they make.

These initiatives have done more than clean up their business practices. BrewDog has seen a significant impact on business performance and customer perception, both directly linked to their ESG rating.

On Thursday, 21 April, Karen Bates (Group People Director at BrewDog) sat down with Robert Half Executive Search Managing Director, Trevor Dimmock, to discuss the benefits of embracing sustainability as a core business driver and how to engage employees, customers and shareholders with the process.

Inviting employees along on the journey

Employees often see business sustainability as precisely that: a business issue that doesn't affect them directly. BrewDog inspired individual ownership by educating their teams on carbon and the impact of each person's carbon footprint.

“We partnered with a company called Pawprint. You can go in and calculate what your own carbon offset is,” says Karen. “This allows our crew to identify what their own lifestyle patterns were and how they can make changes.”

Turning sustainability into an employee benefit

BrewDog combines employee benefits with sustainability initiatives to increase support and engagement. Employees are encouraged to volunteer to plant trees in the BrewDog forest and can even stay there on holiday. Carbon offsetting is listed as an employee benefit — the company calculates the footprint of each individual (and their dogs) and factors it into the business' carbon negative targets.

In a hiring climate where bonuses and pay rises have been temporarily taken off the table, the addition of environmentally conscious perks can contribute toward a refreshing, contemporary and well-rounded remuneration package.

Read more on competitive remuneration and benefits

Company culture as a catalyst for sustainable habits

Company culture comes from the top, and so does a strong ESG proposition. At BrewDog, the senior leadership team was the first to publish their carbon footprint through the Pawprint app to demonstrate how small daily changes can impact the planet.

Karen says: "By changing behaviours, you can recalculate your 'pawprint' and bring the number down. We're turning the reduction into miles, and we're actually trying to get all the way around the globe as part of a global challenge."

They also implemented a sustainability suggestion scheme that encourages employees to submit recommendations. If a recommendation is chosen for implementation, the person receives double their unicorn bonus.

"At BrewDog, you have a licence to challenge — it's more of a problem if you don't challenge. Our people are very happy to challenge absolutely everything."

Sustainability as a driver for talent acquisition

In recent months, sustainability and community-led initiatives have given BrewDog the edge in the war for talent. "Most recruitment applications that we get through now start with 'we love how BrewDog have pivoted themselves and how they've come across during the pandemic'" says Karen.

When the UK began to run low on hygiene supplies, BrewDog started making hand sanitiser instead of vodka and gin. They offered their call centres as vaccination hubs and handed out water. These initiatives weren't just a way to support the community; they also showed speed, agility and innovation, making them very attractive to top talent.

"We get inundated with spectacular applications," says Karen, "they'll often mention how we're taking our impact on the environment seriously."

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The impact of ESG on customers

There's parity between company objectives and people's objectives. Environment, sustainability and ethics are increasingly important when selecting where to invest or spend. The pandemic saw an uptick in ethical consumerism, with more people looking closely at the brands they associate with.

"The messaging that we get from the customers that we talk to during the different phases of the pandemic is that they absolutely love [recent BrewDog sustainability initiatives]," says Karen. "The link that we're making is that our brand percentage points and our business is doing so well because of the work we're doing around sustainability."

Visit our advice blog for more insights on company culture and talent acquisition. If you’d like more data on 2021 business growth prospects and the predicted demand for talent, you can read our industry insight here.

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