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Carlsberg on sustainability

Sustainability rewrites the innovation agenda

Carlsberg's quest to achieve the four zeros of sustainable business

When businesses incorporate sustainability into their day-to-day practices, they have to be able to quantify its impact. 

That’s easier said than done. New research commissioned by Smurfit Kappa and conducted by Longitude finds that less than a fifth (18%) of organisations currently measure sustainability performance. And less than half say they have the ability to link sustainability to financial performance. 

“Sustainability is now a phrase that can mean everything and nothing,” says Simon Boas Hoffmeyer, Senior Director, Group Sustainability & Communications at Carlsberg Group. “We believe that the best place to start is to professionalise sustainability within your company.” 

That approach has helped it to quantify sustainability’s value to Carlsberg, which is determined to put numbers on its progress. “What you measure, you can manage,” says Boas Hoffmeyer.  

Eliminate the negative, create the positive 

The first steps towards measuring sustainability, explains Boas Hoffmeyer, are to find out what is of material importance to stakeholders, set your targets, and define exactly what you want to measure against. 

Carlsberg launched its Together Towards Zero initiative in mid-2017. The sustainability programme aims to achieve four zeros: zero carbon footprint, zero water waste, zero irresponsible drinking, and a zero-accidents culture.  

“We have chosen these as our areas of focus,” says Boas Hoffmeyer, “because we truly believe we will be able to eliminate the greatest negatives and create a positive impact in society.” 

The brewer is completely rethinking the way it approaches packaging, and its Green Fibre Bottle is one innovation. As the world’s first ‘paper bottle’ – made from sustainably sourced wood fibres – it will be fully recyclable.  

“That’s one of the things that can come out of having a global corporate sustainability target,” says Boas Hoffmeyer. “You unleash inventiveness and give your innovators, brand marketeers, and supply-chain colleagues licence to step out of the status quo.”  

Safeguard the future 

Clearly defined and quantifiable sustainability goals are intended to help Carlsberg to future-proof its business.  

“We already see some UK retailers starting to say that they are not interested in having products on the shelf with certain types of packaging,” says Boas Hoffmeyer. “Reducing our carbon emissions from packaging will make us more resilient against increases in a carbon price in the future.” 

But the huge task of reducing carbon emissions is not something any business can achieve on its own. Along with a collection of other European brewers, Carlsberg has been working on the development of EU product environmental footprint rules.  

“This is incredibly important,” says Boas Hoffmeyer. “We need to create a level playing field and a consistent methodology for how we measure the carbon impact across our products.” 

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