How green manufacturing has benefitted Adnams

‘Green manufacturing’ is that which involves “reducing pollution and waste by minimizing natural resource use, recycling and reusing what was considered waste, and reducing emissions”. But is it a comprehensive definition, well known to all? To be honest, it is not a common term within Adnams because it is moulded into what we do; to define ‘green manufacturing’ for Adnams would be to call it ‘business as usual’.


Successful ‘green manufacturing’ means being able to see beyond the immediately quantifiable economic business benefits, identify those more intangible business benefits and grab hold of the opportunities to innovate and earn a sparkling individuality to stand out from the rest. With that, the process of ‘green manufacturing’ begins to develop its value, a value which can then be related back to your bottom line.


Having a metric to value those more intangible benefits however is not set in stone. Each business will have their own way of valuing assets such as brand improvement, staff satisfaction or reduced supplier risk.


We believe, and have done for a while, that manufacturing is not about repetition and simplicity – it’s about innovation, sustainability and having integrity in all we do; simply what we like to call ‘Doing the Right Thing’.  We have taken a two-pronged approach to ‘green manufacturing’ in that we look at our environmental impact at both a company-wide level and at a product level.


At a company level, we have 100% direct control of how ‘green’ our beer and spirits are. This is why, in 2006, we moved our distribution centre from the centre of Southwold to two miles down the road into what was once an old gravel pit. Built from the ground up, our new environmentally-friendly building uses locally grown hemp bricks, it houses Britain’s biggest Sedum roof, has solar thermal water heaters and is supported by the longest sustainably-sourced Glulam beams ever delivered to the UK.
Investment: a £5.8m brand new build
Tangible benefits: each feature of our distribution centre helps reduce energy bills in one way or another. It is built in such a way that we completely removed the need for any artificial cooling or heating, most of the hot water on site is provided by the sun and we use natural rainwater in our largest water user on site – the lorry wash.
Intangible benefits: the Adnams brand is something we take great pride in maintaining and have earned our reputation as an innovator, leader and responsible brewer. This investment saw our brand recognised beyond our loyal regional base and reach the interests of peers both nationally and globally. What we had built actually became one of the first industrial buildings to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating and earned a reputation as one of the greenest warehouses in Britain. However, brand reputation doesn’t just lie within your customer base; it is about the community you operate in. When our distribution centre moved out of Southwold – so did around 60 HGVs, 20 vans and 60 employee cars per day that caused traffic, noise and pollution. With this move we were able to convert the old warehouse into a larger version of our flagship Cellar and Kitchen store; necessary for our ever-increasing sales.


Then 2008 saw us refit our Victorian brew house, maintaining its charm but bringing its efficiencies into the 21st Century through the installation of an energy recovery tank and water reuse systems.
Investment: an £3.5m refit
Tangible benefits: immediate financial payback through reduced gas consumption of around one quarter and reduced water use ratio to just 3.3:1
Intangible benefits: through maintaining our brand reputation, this investment was another way of giving back to the community we operate in and beyond. It brought about new products, increased sales, increased visitors and contributed towards numerous awards. This is a cyclical process that brought about greater brand reputation and greater income. In addition, we were also able to reuse some of our old copper vessels to provide a unique seating area in our café.


Looked at from a product level (across the whole lifecycle including upstream and downstream suppliers) it is slightly different, in that you do not have 100% control over environmental impacts and cannot therefore implement direct ‘green manufacturing’ practices. This is why in 2012 we initiated a rolling investment research programme into the environmental impact across the lifecycle of our individual products. Beginning with our bottled products, we have now moved on to our casks, cans and spirits range.
Investment: rolling investment program
Intangible benefits:  this investment is intended to place us in a good position for what we see as a changing market, as people begin to consider the environmental impact of the products they buy. This research places us with greater knowledge of the wider scale environmental impacts of our company and its products,  further enabling our ability to carry out ‘green manufacturing’ as part of our business as usual. Research along the product level also led us to becoming the first UK brewery to get a 500ml beer bottle below 300g (a 34% reduction) and to becoming the first UK brewery to produce a carbon neutral beer.


The overall market of ‘green manufacturing’ has advanced in line with the progression of the global environmental agenda and although it is becoming ever more considered in the board room, those who put the wheels in motion on a regular basis are still the minority.  Certainly it is our belief that our investments have not only improved brand reputation to our customers, but also within our own and other industries. We are respected by suppliers and stockists who choose us for our pride and passion.


Providing tangible and intangible benefits will only aide so much, you must also be at a stage where environmental awareness is not seen as an inconvenience or a side project, and where the business case stands on its own without trying to put a value on everything. Don’t see ‘green manufacturing’ as a cost, see it as potential – potential to innovate and be proactive, not reactive. Intertwine it in to your green agenda, and make it become the social norm. How we all get there, moving from the margins to the mainstream, will take commitment like any other business goal and it will require real passion from the company of question.  Development has to have top down and bottom up support, belief in the less tangible benefits and an acceptance to take risk. But if more companies do it, inherently the risk reduces as the physical technology, personal awareness and overall acceptance of ‘green manufacturing’ improves. Soon enough we will all be ‘doing the right thing’ for ‘business as usual’.

Summary of benefits from ‘Green Manufacturing’ within Adnams


  • Brand Reputation – earned a brand which sees us very highly regarded within the brewing industry and in the environmental industry. E.g. numerous collaborative brews with other brewers, numerous requests for case studies and blogs, great networking potential as people actively seek us out.
  • Supplier buy in – have built a great relationship with lots of our suppliers due to our company ethos’ (social and environmental); we are a trusted supplier and stockist.
  • Employee engagement – Our latest staff survey showed 94% of our employees are proud to work for the company and 93-95% said Adnams environmental policies were important or very important, and that they agreed or strongly agreed that they understood our approach to the environment and that we were making a positive difference. The increased staff awareness has removed a big first hurdle in behavioural change.
  • Relationships – have developed vital expertise relationships due to work undertaken which has led to future work and collaboration. E.g. Adapt Low Carbon Group at the University of East Anglia helped us to produce ‘East Green’ in 2008 who were then very keen to work with us on our carbon foot printing programme and bring with them their expertise. Also have great relationships with local resources such as RNLI, National Trust and Suffolk the Greenest County
  • Graduate interest – identify great potential in the future generation and are actively involved in helping them get to where the want. E.g. Internships within the company to develop degrees, mentoring with local university, phone calls, e-mails and meetings to help out in projects and career development. They all actively seek us due to our brand.
  • Community spirit – our complaints record is practically non-existent because we take the time to actively involve our local community in all that we do and have earned our licence to operate.
  • Customers – we have developed a very strong loyal customer base due to our brand which has brought with it significant income.


Written by Benedict Orchard, Environmental Sustainability Manager for Adnams plc

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