Posted on Dec 13, 2011 |
This column appeared in The Washington Post with Bloomberg Business. Read the column here.
By Jennifer V. Orgolini
At a time when many businesses are downsizing or worse, New
Belgium Brewing, which opened in 1991 and has become the third largest
craft brewery in the United States, is profitable and growing. While our
customers have traditionally enjoyed our beer west of the Mississippi,
we grew 7 percent this year by expanding our sales to the District,
Maryland and Virginia. People may be tightening their belts, but they
still want affordable luxuries, including a six-pack of their favorite
We have learned that people want to support a business that
sells a well-made product and treats co-workers and customers with
respect. Visitors to the brewery often remark on the positive energy
throughout the organization. That’s a result of shared ownership and
decision-making with our 425 co-workers. We attract passionate and
talented people because we share the profits, pay 100 percent of health
insurance premiums and match 401(k) contributions. We’re proof that a
business can be profitable while treating co-workers with respect.
Customers and co-workers also support us because of our
charitable giving and environmental stewardship. For every $1 of beer
sold — $700,000 granted in 2011 and $4 million over our 20-year history —
we donate to causes like The League of American Bicyclists, which is
working to create a bicycle-friendly America. Furthermore, we were the
first brewery to commit to wind energy and work to turn our by-products
back into fuel.
In addition to our customers’ and co-workers’
support, our business benefits from national and state regulations. We
welcome a fair playing field that raises the bar for all. It’s one of
the reasons we joined the American Sustainable Business Council, a
network of business organizations advocating for public policies that
address the new realities of the 21st century global economy.
beer has been a heavily regulated commodity since the repeal of
Prohibition, the stability of knowing what is expected of us — and our
competitors — is helpful. Some businesses, usually the ones that lay off
workers while their CEOs take in millions in pay, say regulation is bad
for business, but our experience shows otherwise.
Most of the
100,000 people who visit our brewery each year come from out of state to
drink beer against the backdrop of Colorado’s natural beauty. To us,
the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, Colorado’s oil and gas drilling
rules and other safeguards ensure people will continue to come. Without
these laws protecting the environment, we would see an unrestrained rise
in the destructive practices that contribute to the brewery business’s
biggest threat: climate change.
Beer is an agricultural product
developed from hops and barley. This year, those crops fared poorly due
to unseasonably cold and wet weather. In 2012, the price of barley and
hops will increase while supply decreases. If the climate isn’t primed
to produce high quality ingredients, many of the 1,800 breweries in
America will struggle. We need regulations that promote stability and
sustainability instead of destructive practices that benefit a select
Jennifer V. Orgolini is the director of sustainability and strategic development at New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colo.