Beyond the Pale (Ale): An exploration of the sustainability priorities and innovative measures in the craft beer sector

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The aim of the research presented in this exploratory paper is to present the sustainability priorities and measures focused on by craft beer SMEs and to highlight a number of innovative measures pursued by brewers to promote sustainability. The materials and methods for the study included an Internet survey of craft breweries with a sustainability profile, followed by an in-depth analysis of 70 shortlisted craft beer websites. The research finds that, as a whole, craft brewers have a broad interpretation of sustainability, encompassing environmental and socioeconomic parameters. Areas strongly profiled by brewers include energy & climate, water efficiency & conservation, spent grain reuse, and community involvement in its many forms. A strong focus on the "local", including both environmental and socioeconomic aspects, by this group points to unique sustainability priorities of SMEs. The findings also reveal that these priorities are often differentiated on company websites by environmental sustainability and community engagement activities. Furthermore, among he breweries analyzed, more specific discoveries also showed that the age of the brewing operation, in general, impacts how much emphasis is placed on company sustainability efforts, with breweries established in the 1980s and 1990s highlighting their sustainability efforts more profoundly. Despite the general broad interpretations of sustainability, numerous individual breweries profiled only a limited number of sustainability priorities. To broaden perspectives, it is suggested that active measures be taken in the industry promote more robust understandings of what sustainability is and how processes to promote sustainability in an integrated manner can be more concretely operationalized among this group of SMEs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4108
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Nov 9

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Food Science
  • Business Administration


  • Breweries
  • Community engagement
  • Craft beer
  • Environmental parameters
  • Small & medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • Sustainability


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