Giving Back to the Community throuugh Human Powered Business
- Community Engagement
Through its products and services, New Belgium Brewing seeks to contribute to the creation and development of a society in which customers and all participants in the value chain are connected with joy. To achieve this goal, we contribute to community through the establishment of the “Human Powered Business” model.
Overview of New Belgium Brewing
New Belgium Brewing was founded in Fort Collins, Colorado in 1991 by Jeff Lebesch and his wife, Kim Jordan. Jeff, a homebrewer, had developed a recipe for a Belgian-style beer, and with Kim’s background in social work and business, they turned his passion into a successful venture. The following year, they introduced Fat Tire Amber Ale and other beers in Colorado, and the brand’s popularity quickly spread to other states. The company continued to grow and expand over the years, opening locations in Asheville, N.C. (2016), Denver, Colo. (2018), and San Francisco (2021). In 2022, we acquired Bell’s Brewery, a like-minded pioneer in craft beer known for its quality and human-first approach to business. Today, New Belgium’s lineup includes Fat Tire Ale (America’s first certified carbon neutral beer), Voodoo Ranger IPA (America’s #1 IPA brand family), Two Hearted IPA (voted best beer in America four years in a row), and Oberon Ale (which inspired an official Michigan state holiday). New Belgium is a certified B Corporation; leads on climate with aggressive, science-based 2030 GHG reduction goals; has donated more than $31 million to support positive social and environmental impact to date; maintains TRUE Zero Waste certification; and was the first craft brewery to achieve a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. With over 1,300 coworkers, New Belgium’s pioneering and humanized approach to business has made it a top-performing brand in the U.S. craft beer market in terms of sales volume and growth.
A Human Powered Business
New Belgium was co-founded by a social worker who built the company the only way a social worker would: People first. Since then, we have pioneered and developed a model we call Human Powered Business, based on a simple but radical truth: Business is a human endeavor. People drive our business forward, and, in return, the business puts coworker and community wellbeing at the center of everything we do. This fosters a self-fulfilling culture of individual empowerment and collaborative action that drives better business results in the long term. In other words, the business benefits when the people who power it prosper.
The result? We’re at the top of the U.S. craft beer industry. We enjoy incredibly low turnover and consistently high engagement among our workforce. New Belgium didn’t lay off a single coworker as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team comes to work every day invested in the quality of our product and the success of our company, because the company invests in the quality and success of their lives everywhere we can.
Four Principles of Human Powered Business
The Human Powered Business model is comprised of four core principles – all working together to drive outsized long-term success.
1. We Do Right By People
People are at the heart of New Belgium – and always have been. We support our coworkers and communities, promoting comprehensive wellbeing, including financial, social, environmental, and physical health. As we’ve grown, we’ve invested even more in our coworkers, with initiatives like financial transparency, pay equity, and quality healthcare, including an on-site wellness center. Our coworkers’ dedication to the company’s health has only increased.
2. We Make World-Class Beer for Everyone
From the beginning, we’ve focused on our superpower – making great beer, and doing it responsibly. Our coworkers are skilled experts, with talents honed over time, who take pride in their craft. Over the years, we’ve won 34 medals at the Great American Beer Festival – starting with a Gold for our original Abbey Ale in 1993, and most recently winning Gold for our Trippel in 2021.
3. We Inspire Social & Environmental Change
We believe in using business as a force for good by addressing social and environmental challenges. Our commitment to accountability began in 2012 when we became a certified B Corporation. We have since used various tools, including a climate action plan, scalable philanthropy, advocacy, and brand mobilization to donate over $30 million and support important movements for change.
4. We Have a Hell of a Lot of Fun
We prioritize fun in our business to foster connection, inclusivity, and innovation. We encourage risk-taking and authenticity because groundbreaking ideas come from diverse experiences. We cultivate an intentional culture through programs like custom bikes for one-year anniversaries and paid sabbaticals at 10- and 20-year milestones.
Our internal company norms, as developed collectively by coworkers, are as follows:
B Corp certification
B Corp is a certification granted to for-profit companies by B Lab, a non-profit organization, that recognizes companies committed to utilizing their operations to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. B Corps aim to minimize inequality and poverty levels, while promoting healthier environments, stronger communities, and good jobs. Companies are assessed based on their impact on coworkers, communities, customers, and the environment, as well as how well their practices are anchored within company governance.
New Belgium has been a certified B Corporation since 2012, using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems since our founding. Our B Corp certification enables us to track our progress over time and compare ourselves to other values-driven companies, allowing us to continue protecting our culture and values. Our commitment to social and environmental accountability starts at the foundation of our corporate structure, and we leverage every tool at our disposal, including a leading climate action plan, a scalable philanthropy model, vocal advocacy in the policy arena, and a long tradition of using our brand to mobilize customers in support of the world’s most pressing movements for change.
New Belgium key communities
Community involvement and partnering with community organizations have always been a part of New Belgium’s ethos. We work with nonprofits across the country to positively impact communities where we do business, to give back to those who have supported us along the way, and to advocate for a future that’s bright for all.
As a relationship-based company, we strive to do right by our customers and their communities, regardless of location, and we’re particularly committed to supporting our hometown communities where our breweries are located and where most of our coworkers live. To that end, we provide quality healthcare, a living wage, and work daily to provide a welcoming and inclusive culture to our employees. Furthermore, we donate money and volunteer time to support the health of local watersheds and the communities we call home. In 2022 alone, we donated a total of $566,729 to our hometown community partners and charitable organizations, with specific amounts of $116,631 in Asheville, NC, $181,225 in Fort Collins, CO, and $268,873 in Michigan (Comstock, Kalamazoo, Escanaba).
We also prioritize key markets where we are driving racial/ethnic diversity, inclusion, and equity in craft beer. We recognize that Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) are underrepresented in the craft beer industry, comprising only 15% of craft beer drinkers despite representing 41% of the total population. Moreover, BIPOC Americans continue to experience a lack of access to social services, employment opportunities, and representation among top decision-makers in government and business, which perpetuates marginalization. As a key driver of the American economy, we believe that businesses have a role to play in improving equity among underrepresented citizens.
We have taken several initiatives to promote racial and ethnic diversity, inclusion, and equity in the craft beer industry. In 2018, we formed a multicultural marketing initiative, now led by a multicultural marketing manager and her team, to develop new relationships in underrepresented communities such as Atlanta, New York City, Miami, and Los Angeles. The multicultural marketing team works to introduce community members to craft beer, donate philanthropy dollars to uplift the community into economic prosperity, and provide exposure to the careers available within craft beer. Additionally, in 2021 and 2022, our Brewed For All on-premise sales program brought our Human Powered Business Principles to the marketplace and supported LGBTQ+ rights and outreach. In 2023, in partnership with HospitableMe, we launched Poured for All, a completely free digital training available to any bar or restaurant that seeks to provide a welcoming and inclusive space for all.
We have also established several systems to encourage employees to make a difference as individuals. These include the New Belgium Coworker Assistance Fund, which provides financial support to coworkers experiencing personal hardship or catastrophic disaster, and the Beer Scouts Volunteer Program, which sponsors volunteer events and offers paid time off and funding for coworker participation. Additionally, the company has a direct giving program that involves a coworker grants committee allocating funds to worthy organizations and a practice at retail locations where coworkers decline tips and pool the money to support local charities. These programs are part of New Belgium’s commitment to a high involvement culture that shares wealth, opportunity, and responsibility among its employees.
Outcomes in Climate action, DE&I, and Thriving Communities
Through our community engagement activities, we have achieved significant positive outcomes. Specifically, in terms of climate action, we have helped build the early stages of a transition from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy that prioritizes fairness and equity for workers, communities, and the environment. Our efforts have also strengthened the resilience of social, economic, and ecological systems to withstand and recover from climate-related shocks and stresses, particularly related to our supply chain.
Regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we have made strides in the early stages of diversifying the craft beer industry to accurately represent our country’s diverse population. We have contributed to efforts ensuring fair participation in the economic system and protection of all citizens’ ability to participate fully in society. Furthermore, our initiatives have promoted inclusive access to the outdoors for people of all ages, ethnicities, abilities, and income levels, making sure that our public lands and waters respect all cultures and engage all people actively.
Lastly, we have helped create sustainable, inclusive, connected, and fun local communities where everyone has better ability to thrive. We are committed to promoting resilience, relief, and recovery during times of disasters while also encouraging the responsible enjoyment of beer.
Leveraging our Human Powered Business model to meet the most pressing issues of our time
Our world faces historic challenges – including economic inequality, climate change, and racial injustice. Corporations must play a role in promoting real solutions. Unfortunately, despite well-publicized promises to change, corporate America continues to struggle to center the wellbeing of coworkers, communities, and the environment in their actions. The past four decades have seen corporate America become increasingly dehumanized.
Human Powered Business seeks to reverse these trends. If widely adopted, we believe Human Powered Business will greatly accelerate the pace of solutions to our biggest challenges – while also building stronger, more profitable, and more resilient businesses over the long term. We invest in our coworkers, and, in turn, they invest themselves in the business and our broader purpose. Our coworkers don’t work for us; we work for them.
These practices may seem costly at first glance. However, the cost of enormous challenges like climate change, widespread inequality, and systemic racial injustice are exponentially more expensive in the big picture for each company, and for society as a whole. And, in the long run, businesses that invest deeply in the wellbeing of people and our planet show more growth, greater resilience, and better financial performance overall.
No business is perfect, and that includes New Belgium. We’re also a medium-sized company, and ultimately, we can only have a medium-sized impact. Our goal is to tell our story transparently – the ups and the downs – in the hopes that other companies may start adopting the Human-Powered Business model and join a movement for a more prosperous, equitable, and people-centric economy.
New Belgium’s business as a Force for Good
New Belgium believes in being a force for good. Our philanthropy funds are not simply charity. These programs are about being in relationship with the communities in which we do business. In this way, we maintain a more humanized approach to business which we, our coworkers, and our communities find more meaningful and fulfilling. This approach deepens our customers’ loyalty, attracts new customers, and ultimately benefits our business, making it a true win-win.
This was all inspired by our founder/former-CEO, who was a social worker prior to starting the brewery. She paid great attention to the human side of business. Instead of building the brewery in the industrial center and creating an industrial culture, New Belgium chose a dilapidated piece of property that could be fixed up and beautified for our community. Our brewing locations are always in the center of town, allowing us to be not just a factory, but also a meaningful gathering place for our communities. This has inspired a community-centric way of doing business that ultimately operates in a way that drives both business value and social value.
Social Impact Senior Manager
New Belgium Brewing Company
Meghan Oleson is a part of New Belgium’s Environmental Social & Governance (ESG) team. She is responsible for leading and implementing social impact programs as they relate to community investment, volunteerism, corporate and coworker giving programs, and company purpose.
*Stated information as at the date it is made
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