Carlsberg is setting new goals to reduce its carbon footprint and water usage, but admits consumers are still less likely to pay the premium for sustainable products.
The Danish beer giant is celebrating its 170th birthday this week with a series of events put together by FCB Happiness in Copenhagen, and used this as a reason to talk about its ‘Together Towards Zero’ commitment for the first time. Its goals includes 0% carbon emissions at its breweries, using 100% renewable electricity and reducing water wastage. It is also keen to tackle irresponsible drinking in its own marketing campaign.
Carlsberg’s sustainability director Simon Boas Hoffmeyer, speaking to Marketing Week in Copenhagen, says the aim of the goals is to create “a better tomorrow”. While they were drawn up in response to changing consumer lifestyles, he believes it is up to brands to lead the way, instead of being led by consumer demand for change.
“[Consumers] can’t come to me and say ‘I’d like a specific type of barley that will reduce energy consumption’ – that would never happen. But we do see them wanting to live more sustainable lives, and question more how companies are playing a role in that,” he says.
As part of attempts to push its sustainability credentials, Carlsberg built a zero carbon ‘windmill bar’ in Copenhagen. The bar is powered by an integrated windmill, although there is also a bicycle that visitors can use to generate enough power to pour their beer in case there isn’t wind. Using windmills and bicycles is also a nod to Calsberg’s Danish heritage, which it is increasingly focusing on in its marketing in a bid to stand out from competitors.
The push to premium
One of the issues with switching to more sustainable business practices is the cost. And Boas Hoffmeyer admits there are still questions over whether consumers are willing to pay a premium for more sustainable products. The way to get round that, he thinks, is with a focus on quality.
“The good old question is: ‘Do consumers want to pay more?’ We don’t completely see that yet, but we do see that they want to pay more for high quality and different experiences. And for me, we can use sustainability to create different experiences through innovations such as low-carbon beer for example,” he explains.
“In future, if something is sustainable, it will be seen as high quality. Today that’s not necessarily the case, it still has this bamboo feeling. That will change in the future and we want to be part of that.”
Boas Hoffmeyer is also keen to ensure Carlsberg’s sustainability focus isn’t seen as greenwashing. The way to do that, he says, is to ensure it is relevant to consumers’ lives and that it is easy to make the link between its products and the difference to the planet.
In future, if something is sustainable, it will be seen as high quality. Today that’s not necessarily the case.
Simon Boas Hoffmeyer, Carlsberg
“With our Together Towards Zero strategy, we’ve really struggled with cutting out all the details, because as a professional you get caught up in them. So making it accessible is a different case. I hope we are doing that with our strategy, but only time will tell,” he explains.
Carlsberg currently has no plans to launch a separate campaign for its sustainability initiative, but says it will be talking about the strategy on social and digital channels and is hopeful consumers will look for more information about the products themselves on its website.
He concludes: “To me it needs to be tangible for people to understand it. It won’t be [talked about in] a general campaign, it will be specific. Either about not drinking and driving, or about low-carbon beer or beer that is powered by the sun. That is how we’ll communicate it to consumers.”