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Sustainability and beer?

Beer companies know about yeast, barley, and hops. But they’re not typically experts in greenhouse gases and abatement curves. That’s why a global brewer turned to McKinsey for help when it set itself the ambitious goal of cutting emissions in half—and saving $200 million in the process.

Sustainability and beer

The first thing the company asked us was,“Is this feasible, or have we, the executive team, brewed up an impossible mission?” The McKinsey team assessed the feasibility and possible impact by developing four brewery archetypes based on different sizes and the structures of their operations; through that, we then identified 150 different carbon abatement levers. These opportunities to reduce emissions were located across the entire operating spectrum—from the brew house itself to bottle washing in the packaging area.

The next stage was to develop a working model that sequenced the programs for maximum efficacy, using carbon-abatement curves to determine what should be implemented first, for maximum impact—across 100 sites worldwide.

Finally, we created a 5-year rollout plan that included management practices, technologies, investment needs, and anticipated savings. We worked with the client to determine their capabilities for making this happen, and to discover where there were gaps that needed to be filled. Our team also helped draw up a stakeholder-engagement plan to communicate the strategy and initiatives to senior management, regional rubs, and individual sites, and to activate the culture.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this work—and the reason we call it an “inspiring engagement” —is that we demonstrated that emissions could be cut dramatically, as much as 50 percent, without adding cost. In fact, the total potential savings identified by the program exceeded $200 million. This became a case history that was used by global advocates of sustainability to demonstrate that profits and principles can work hand-in-hand.