Brewing Up Purpose and Profit

Quality craft beer that positively impacts people and the planet may sound too good to be true. Yet Scottish-born brand and SAP customer BrewDog is not only proving successful at creating delicious varieties of beer and expanding its global market share, but is also leaving a positive impact on the environment while taking care of the communities it serves.

BrewDog is on a mission to become the most sustainable drinks company in the world. It already operates as a carbon-negative business and is actively moving toward zero waste in its operations, all while staying profitable and growing 30% over the course of the last year.

Indeed, BrewDog, and a growing number of customers across industries, are not only proving that purpose and profit can coexist, but that the circular economic model is the only viable one for the future. In this scenario, companies recognize the critical role of transparency, collaboration, and innovation in enabling the disruptive innovation needed to design out waste and keep materials in use for longer, accelerating the transformation to a circular economy.

First, a successful transition to a circular economy, one focused on the principles of “re-source, recover, reuse,” requires radical transparency. Radical transparency in a circular economy involves stepping back and looking at the integration of these principles through the lens of an entire industry. Siloed transparency will never fully address circularity, as one business alone cannot adequately solve these challenges.

BrewDog practices transparency by providing visibility into its end-to-end supply chain – a comprehensive understanding and analysis of material inputs and outputs throughout the product life cycle. This large-scale effort requires letting go of “trade secrets,” looking beyond the four walls of the business, and working closely with producers, suppliers, and all other parties across the value chain. As an example, BrewDog has partnered with SAP on the COP26 Waste Insights Project with the aim of extending the life cycle of consumer products — and therefore the traditional scope of value creation — through a collective approach to more effective management and utilization of resources.

Second, it’s virtually impossible to implement circular economy principles and run a sustainable business without strong collaboration. Undoubtedly, COVID-19 reinforced the interconnected nature of organizations. The successful execution of circular practices at scale, ones that successfully reimagine the role of waste and carbon in business operations, requires a resilient supply chain and a networked approach.

Internally, BrewDog fosters a unified and collaborative culture. Leadership encourages employees across all departments to integrate sustainability into the business processes they specialize in. This way, every individual can contribute to BrewDog’s sustainability efforts. Externally, BrewDog is constantly redefining what’s possible and focuses on mobilizing and empowering a network of global changemakers to create new industry standards. As a certified B Corporation, BrewDog harnesses the expertise of this community of purpose-driven business leaders committed to using business as a force for good.

Technology provides businesses with the insights needed to reinvent the old business model of “take, make, waste.” It standardizes metrics, allows for instantaneous information sharing, facilitates operational efficiencies, and supports socially equitable processes.

BrewDog uses SAP Business One to track metrics across various lines of business, including finance, manufacturing, and supply chain, and as a result, make informed, data-backed decisions for sustainable process execution. SAP Business One helped BrewDog achieve carbon negativity, as well as embark on a journey to become waste-free, an ambitious vision for a product that traditionally requires an extensive amount of water. Tangible actions to advance these efforts include converting spent grains and waste liquids into green gas (biomethane) for use in the brewery boilers and logistics trucks, using green CO2 in the beer, reusing clean water in the brewery, producing organic fertilizer for the local farms that grow the barley used to make the beer, using wind energy as its sole electrical source in the UK, and upcycling food waste. BrewDog also purchased BrewDog Forest, 10,000 acres of land, where it plans to restore 650 acres of peatland and plant a million trees.

BrewDog proves that it can break away from the old model and generate long-term value through business model innovation, powered by financial and non-financial insights, that pushes the boundaries of what business can achieve.

When working alongside leaders like BrewDog, creating new industry standards founded on circular economy principles powered by transparency, collaboration and innovative technology doesn’t seem like an impossible feat. Indeed, all companies could learn something from this brewery and pub chain’s ‘disrupt with purpose’ approach.

After all, as Martin Dickie, founder of BrewDog, points out, “If we don’t have a planet to operate on, then [our whole] business is pretty pointless.”

Watch Martin Dickie and Scott Russell dive deeper into these topics in a conversation from the SAP Sustainability Summit, “Reimagining Businesses for the Circular Economy.”


Scott Russell is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE.

This article first appeared on the SAP News Center.