Carlsberg Group acknowledge mounting climate pressure and have certainly been receptive in some realms; however, other than their changes to packaging, the manufacturing process of Carlsberg lager has not changed in anything other than an experimental and geographically localised capacity. This mirrors the claims made by the Carlsberg Group in 2019 which imply that they do not see their role as ‘leading the way’ in the Brewing Industry in terms of sustainability, but rather adapting to appease consumer pressure and gain a marketing edge. Consequently, an evaluation of the sustainability of Carlsberg Beer raises points of contention in the elusiveness of claims of manufacturing processes.
Carlsberg Group is actively seeking sustainable packaging: work on PET as a lightweight non-returnable bottle for the future has stopped and Carlsberg is working to produce biodegradable cardboard versions. Plastic film wrap removed from large multipacks at the end of March 2020 and 100% cardboard sleeves replacing plastic rings from carling and Coors light by March 2021. Molson Coors is investing around £7.5m to implement these changes and announced a set of new global packaging goals to reduce plastics in its packaging, aiming for 100% of its packaging to be reusable, recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025. The brewer should be held to these standards as a minimum in order to reduce waste as a result of Carlsberg consumption.
Carlsberg Group is also taking significant steps to promote sustainable agriculture through crop innovation, investing DKK 50 million in raw materials such as barley.
By 2030, Carlsberg aim to eliminate carbon emissions at breweries and cut beer-in-hand carbon footprint by 30% compared with 2015 and aim to reduce water usage at breweries by 50%, thereby specifically catering to two prominent UN Sustainable Development Goals. The making of beer has a roller coaster of temperatures; air is cooled to malt the barley and the green malt is kilned to gain colour and maltiness. It is then cooled and increased again for pasteurisation. This uses a lot of thermal energy in the brewhouse; meanwhile, processing uses the most electrical energy
However, nothing has been done to reduce carbon emissions during transportation along the supply chain. Technological advancement e.g. installing heat-recovery systems at the brewery in Estonia, thereby reducing heat consumption by 8% compared with 2018 are very geographically localised. This needs to be reproduced fast and on a much larger scale to have any impact.
Modern brewhouses will recover much of this energy including heat recovery from kettle vapour but the spent grains still go out hot. Incidentally Queens University in Belfast has turned spent grains into activated carbon, others have tried to make biscuits. They can also be mixed with recycled plastic granules and made into garden furniture. Krones has its Dynafill concept where bottle filling and crowning is done on the same unit saving flushing CO2 by 20% and allowing a fill at 30oC which means the incoming beer passes through a heat exchanger and yields useful chilling capacity for use elsewhere. A-BI has tried direct printing of ‘label’ designs on to bottles thus doing without the paper and getting designs into the marketplace faster. A-BI in Belgium has passed spent alcohol from making low alcohol products to Ecover for inclusion into its Too Good to Waste detergent.
According to the latest employee survey (2019), over 90% of employees believe they work for a socially and environmentally responsible company. Employees see what we really do every day, so their feedback is really important. The Carlsberg Group signed the Business Ambition for 1.5 degrees Pledge at COP25 in Madrid, reconfirming their commitment to fighting climate change and pursuing science-based targets that align our business with the more ambitious level of the Paris Agreement. They also had promising targets on responsible drinking, thereby encompassing social sustainability./