Ontario craft brewers move towards more sustainable suds

Sponsored feature: presented by B Corps

“Pretty much everything we do is focused on trying to make interesting and tasty beer,” says Steve Beauchesne, co-founder of Beau’s Brewing Company. “The second part of that is trying to make the world a better place and be a force for good.”

While the crowded craft beer scene in Ontario is closely associated with a mentality that supporting local businesses is a good idea, there aren’t many examples of breweries in this province that are emphasizing this mission front-and-centre as part of their identity. 

In 2013, Beau’s became a certified B Corp, which is a designation accorded by the international nonprofit, B Lab. B Corps are companies – such as NOW – that demonstrate an ongoing commitment to meeting high standards for environmental and social impacts. The central belief for many B Corps is that business can and should make positive contributions to society that go beyond maximizing profits. 

These values closely aligned with the direction Beauchesne and his father, Tim, were already fostering within their company, so becoming part of the global movement made a lot of sense to them.

“To be a B Corp you need to get a lot of things right,” he explains. “You’re not certifying a product or service – you’re certifying your company. You can’t be a ‘green-washer’ or a green marketer. You have to really walk the talk.”

The beers from Beau’s are all certified organic and their brewery uses electricity exclusively from wind and hydro through Bullfrog Power (another B Corp). They also introduced an employee share ownership plan (ESOP), which means that everyone who works at Beau’s can have a real stake in how the business is run. 

Beauchesne says that a lot of the businesses he’s encountered in the B Corp community share similar views on the purpose of doing business. “It’s a force to create impact,” he says. “The concept that wealth should be the only thing a business tries to do is grossly flawed.”

Ted Clark, founder of High Park Brewery, has been building his business around a similar ethos. As he prepares to launch his brewery’s first brick-and-mortar location later this year, the mission to do things right couldn’t be more important. 

The brewery he’s building already has features like a condenser, which prevents gasses from escaping into the atmosphere and changes them into water vapour. High Park Brewery will also be utilizing the spent grain from brewing in menu offerings from the kitchen, which will be part of the customer-facing side of the brewery. 

Clark says that being more environmentally conscious and community-minded as a brewery might be more expensive, but it represents the values he wants to showcase in his business. 

“You just have to make the choice,” he says. 

The massive growth in Ontario craft beer has reached a fever pitch in recent years, and now Clark sees a lot of consolidation going on in tandem with more physical locations opening up to enhance direct-to-customer distribution. 

All the while, much larger beer companies are looking for ways into the craft market, though the commitment to the craft mentality has yet to be seen on this scale. Clark explains that big business and good business aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. 

“If one of those big brewers decided to embrace all these practices, the impact could be huge,” he says. “They’re losing market share and craft breweries are all gaining it. And we’re gaining it because these values resonate with our customers.”

His vision for High Park Brewery is to make even more efficient ties between supply and distribution – such as partnering with local farmers for grain and cycling all reusable waste back into the brewery to reduce its footprint. 

As the craft beer industry continues to mature, it’s important to see more breweries embrace the values promoted by B Corps because of the potential environmental impacts associated with beer-making.

But brewers like Beauchesne recognize an even larger goal that reaches beyond making tasty beer. 

“If humans were only expected to become as wealthy as possible, we’d be living in a pretty terrible society,” says Beauchesne. “And the fact that we’ve allowed businesses to behave that way has led to a lot of things that shouldn’t be happening. I think B Corps are a way to start fixing that.”

Find out more about B Corps here

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