Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Green Confessional

"Hi, we're New Belgium, and we pollute."

That is one of the company's banners for trade shows. Even though New Belgium Brewing has been widely honored for its work toward acheiving a triple bottom line, the banner plainly states the truth. We hope it also gets people to realize that everyone contributes to pollution, and everyone can be part of a journey to heal our planet.

Almost all acts of consumption create environmental damage- the question is whether this damage can be minimized. Much like earlier work on eliminating defects in Total Quality Management, there can be improvements to a product or company's eco-footprint, but it is difficult to eliminate the fooprint entirely. And everyone is implicated. Producers and consumers.

As a former student once wrote me, "if it's not fun, it's not sustainable." I, for one, can't imagine a planet without good beer. Who would want to live there? But I am willing to consider my "drinking footprint." This is partly about what brand of beer I chose to drink (and how and where it was made), but it is also about how far I walk or ride to buy the beer, how I store it (basement or frig), and what I do with the bottle, can or growler when I am done. I think New Belgium, and some of the other craft brewers, are taking a broader view of what "drinking responsibly" means.

Companies working toward a triple bottom line struggle with how to communicate what they do. Choices include: 1) stay quiet, so you don't get criticized (but then you are less likely to have ripple effects on others), 2) ignore the critics, and keep plugging away, or 3) listen to the critics, and see what they can teach you.

New Belgium is trying the third path. The New York Times has a posting today on the how it is learning from the experience.

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