By Kim Marotta, Director of Sustainability, MillerCoors
When Miller Brewing Company and Coors Brewing Company came together five years ago to form MillerCoors, we knew sustainability would be a vital component to becoming America’s best beer company.
Five years ago, we rallied around a simple theme – “Great Beer Great Responsibility” – to ensure our commitment to sustainability remained engrained in MillerCoors. And from creating the first 100 percent recyclable aluminum can to our leadership in water stewardship, sustainability thinking has ever since been a part of our culture.
As we recently shared in our 2013 Sustainability Report Brewing for Good, the accomplishments of the last year stand out as some of the best in our five-year history – in large part to the efforts of our employees. For example, their insights and ideas helped us decrease our water use by 9 percent in 2012, to a record company low of 3.51 barrels of water per barrel of beer – below the industry average of 4.0 barrels of water per barrel of beer [BIER 2013].
We also drastically reduced our waste streams and achieved landfill-free status at five of our eight breweries, including at our Golden brewery -- America’s largest single-site brewery in the U.S
Bringing these initiatives to fruition takes a lot of innovation and passion from our employees and we actively encourage them to bring ideas to the table that will have a positive impact on our business – regardless of their role or title. But despite their belief in our sustainability work, it's not always easy. Here's what has helped us stay focused, enthusiastic and innovative in our journey:
1. Know Where You Stand
Start by asking your employees what sustainability means to them. Do they care about the company’s effect on the environment? Do they understand the business' environmental footprint? Is working for a company that is dedicated to social and environmental responsibility important to them? How do they want to make an impact?
We annually measure employee opinions, including their views on our sustainability goals, opportunities to learn and grow, etc. We’ve noticed that engaging our employees in the development of our programs and goals not only makes a difference in their attitude and commitment, it ultimately dictates our progress.
2. Invite Employees To Be Sustainability Ambassadors
We’ve developed a Sustainability Leadership Council comprised of 35 volunteers from all areas of our business who come together quarterly to share our sustainability strategy and brainstorm how to be most effective when enlisting partners, sponsors and stakeholders.
The Council has been invaluable in elevating and strengthening the areas that our most important to our business: water stewardship, packaging, employee culture, brewery operations, and integrating sustainability into the commercial organization. The Council is constantly bringing fresh perspectives to the table and in the end includes some of the biggest champions for sustainability in our company.
3. Be Global, Act Local
Employees should feel and know that they have a significant stake in how their company impacts their local community. MillerCoors has eight major breweries across the country and we’ve put programs and partnerships in place at each of them according to what matters to our local employees. For example, we created Great Water Month as a national water conservation platform to empower our senior leaders and employees in field offices and breweries to dedicate time to protect local water resources. This gives them the chance to work hand in hand with local partners, like Flint River Keeper in Albany, Ga., and Friends of the Chicago River, and make a direct impact on their community.
4. Market Sustainability
While our employees share our commitment to sustainability, a few years ago we struggled to fully integrate it into our brands and marketing initiatives.
So, we created a new position, Sustainability Marketing Brand Manager, to work across all of our brands, excite our marketing teams and integrate sustainability initiatives into our brand personas. It’s working. Our Coors Light and Coors Banquet brands launched a national recycling promotion in February and partnered with Recyclebank to promote and educate consumers on recycling through specially designed packaging.
Meanwhile, the Coors Recycles Facebook posts reached 1.66 million users and generated 61,000 engagements from February to the end of March. We are also discovering different ways to promote responsibility messages through our sponsorships. Earlier this year, we created a TV spot featuring NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski that delivered the importance of a designated driver (with a little touch of humor) to beer drinkers. It became one of the most watched Miller Lite commercials on YouTube ever.
5. Share Your Stories
This year, we launched an externally facing blog titled Behind the Beer, featuring contributors from across our business. The blog provides our employees with a space to share their stories and accomplishments and gives beer drinkers, stakeholders and future employees a sneak peek inside the walls of MillerCoors and how we value sustainability. A group of our employees have also come together to form a Twitter Tribe, a group who is active on Twitter and acts as ambassadors for our products and sustainability efforts. With their participation, we’re able to spread our message to newer audiences every day.
We know our employees and their passion for sustainability brings MillerCoors closer to our goal of becoming America’s best beer company. Sharing experiences and stories with other companies has always been a huge part of our company’s growth, and I’d love to hear about your experiences. Please send me a note on Twitter @KimMarotta!
And to learn more about our most sustainability journey, check out our 2013 Sustainability Report Brewing for Good.