Last week, FastCompany’s Ariel Schwartz wrote an article about MillerCoors’ detailed sustainability report, and asked the question “Is MillerCoors the Most Environmentally Responsible Brewing Company?” My immediate visceral response to this question was, “No.” As individual companies, both Miller and Coors have spent years advertising to sports-watching alpha males. Rather than sustainability, I associate with these brands catchy slogans like “Tap the Rockies” and extreme skiers, un-PC jokes and Super Bowl sponsorships. On the other hand, there are several smaller craft breweries like Full Sail that have been talking the sustainability talk, and seem much more believable. Why is that?
With a little more research, MillerCoors is legitimately making a lot of the right moves on the sustainability front. As a mega-company, each step they’re taking will have a positive impact on the environment. MillerCoors very well may be the most environmentally responsible brewing company. The problem is, many consumers may have the same issue as me – overcoming years of built up brand perception. To be fair, Full Sail has a much easier job to do in marketing sustainability to the local microbrew-drinking beer connoisseur (a polite term for snob. Disclaimer: I can be a beer snob at times.) That said, they’re doing a lot of smart communicating in the process.
So, what is Full Sail doing that makes them seem like a more believable “green” company than MillerCoors? After all, both companies have developed well-thought out, detailed reports about their sustainability efforts. (Check out the MillerCoors report and Full Sail report online.)
The language in each of these reports is drastically different. Full Sail says, “As much as we’re stoked about making award winning ales and lagers, we’re equally driven to reduce the amount of waste and pollution that comes from running our brewery.” As a consumer who may buy their beer, this statement seems accessible to me. It makes me feel as if there are real people running a brewery and they’re “stoked” about preserving the environment around them.
To contrast, MillerCoors’ report is written with a more corporate tone, with sentences like, “We hold a strong belief that in order to be a responsible corporate citizen, we need to manage the materials that other companies regard as waste stream.” In reading this, I’m not convinced that the brewery operators really care about this belief. Have they been forced to “manage materials” by corporate?
Granted, not every beer drinker is going to sit down and read a sustainability report before making a choice between Coors and Full Sail at a liquor store. But MillerCoors missed an opportunity to communicate directly to an audience of environmentally-minded consumers that are doing their research (and making conscious choices based on what they read, see, and hear). It’s going to be a battle breaking down years of brand perception to become the responsible beer company, but straight talking the consumer is a good start.