How does sustainability factor into the success formula for a beer company?
Most Canadians associate beer with sun, fun, patios and pitchers. Increasingly, however, Canada’s newest generation of brewers want you to know that good suds also means social responsibility and sustainability.
Leading this movement is Toronto-based Steam Whistle Brewing, whose dedication to quality pilsner is matched only by passion for green energy and community building. Steam Whistle was founded on the premise that business success stems from three commitments: creating a quality product; establishing a reputation as a good employer and business partner; and contributing to the community.
In their 2015 book The Psychology of Green Organizations, authors Jennifer L. Robertson and Julian Barling named Steam Whistle a case study in environmental innovation. The founding partners, the authors said, have exhibited “transformational leadership” in introducing such innovations as all-natural, GMO-free ingredients, signing on early to using renewable electricity from Bullfrog Power, and designing more durable bottles – which means they can be recycled more times than competitors’ bottles.
We did not want to be just a manufacturer of beer, but to also contribute to society at large.
Sybil Taylor is the wife of Steam Whistle co-founder Greg Taylor, and the company’s communications director. “Our founders wanted to do things differently, to be a brand that cares,” she says. “We did not want to be just a manufacturer of beer, but to also contribute to society at large.”
Founded in the year 2000, it wasn’t until 2007 that the Steam Whistle team began to speak openly about their sustainability efforts. The positive public reaction encouraged them to seek more external partnerships and so in 2011, intrigued by the work of RSI (Rethink Sustainability Initiatives), Sybil attended one of RSI’s earliest town hall meetings and liked what she heard. “Organizations and events like the one RSI hosted encouraged us to continue with our efforts,” she says. “We exchanged ideas amongst other like-minded people, and it spurred us to do more.” (In fact, Sybil soon became a founding member of RSI’s Marketing Committee.)
Steam Whistle has since learned that sustainability is a never-ending journey – and one that can change the character of a business. Steam Whistle’s commitment to sharing its vision of sustainability with its employees, and encouraging them to pursue new environmentally-friendly ideas further reinforces this belief. And the company’s environmental committee, chaired initially by Sybil, encourages all staff to question existing management practices and propose new sustainability projects.
In an interview, Sybil Taylor discussed Steam Whistle’s environmental journey and her experience with RSI.
The key is to start to build a culture of future-readiness
Make Sustainability and Collaboration Part of your Culture
Soon after attending her first RSI event, Sybil arranged for Steam Whistle to support the organization via the marketing committee and as an event product sponsor. “We were impressed by the calibre of the speakers as well as the attendees,” she says. “The event was not a lectures series, but a format for exchanging ideas. We witnessed how RSI encourages connections and collaboration.”
You need to practice hard-work, creativity, imagination, pushing boundaries and challenge yourself.
Serious Fun: Sybil Taylor will be a guest speaker at RSI’s April 27 event, Serious Fun