Brewing more sustainably

Brewing more sustainably

‘Most people usually think of Corporate Social Responsibility as measures to protect the environment,’ says Nikki Vreven, project engineer at Haacht Brewery. ‘Although we’ve already done a great deal in that area – with support from KBC – we approach the topic from a much broader perspective.’

By this, Nikki is referring to the Sustainability Compass, a tool used by Haacht Brewery to examine sustainability from four different angles, i.e. people, society, the environment and their product. 

‘“People” refers first and foremost to our own HR policy and the welfare of our employees. This includes traditional types of training and coaching courses, but also “Healthy@Haacht”, through which we encourage the use of bicycles, for example, or provide staff with a weekly fruit package. We also pay attention to stress and how to deal with it.’

‘Society is changing all around us, and this affects brewers as well. One example would be the social issues that stem from excessive alcohol consumption. We’re working to raise awareness in this area and also making donations to social support organisations. That may sound a bit strange coming from a beer brewer, but you have to remember that our range is much broader than that: we also distribute lemonade, coffee and biscuits.’

From water to beer (and back again)

Caring for the environment is an obvious priority for a brewery, which uses a lot of water. ‘For every litre of beer we produce, we need about five to eight litres of water,’ Nikki explains. ‘We now all realise that we have to save water wherever possible. That’s why we recently participated in a pilot project on reusing waste water, and this is something we and other Belgian brewers will be looking at even more closely going forward. We’re aiming to reuse 20% of our water by the end of 2024.’

That said, Haacht Brewery has already begun taking numerous initiatives to make more sustainable use of energy and raw materials. For example, the brewery already has its own water treatment plant to process waste water. The steam boilers no longer run on heavy fuel, but instead use gas, and the steam they produce is condensed for reuse. Whenever machinery is adjusted, as much insulation as possible is added to limit heat loss, and all the old fluorescent lighting has been replaced by LED lights in the brewery’s warehouses. The 188 m2 of solar panels currently in place will also be expanded further. All purchased energy should be green by 2023 and a quarter of the vehicle fleet should be electric by 2025.

‘As far as our products are concerned, we mainly look at the materials used for packaging, which we try to buy from European vendors as much as possible. All our cardboard packaging is FSC-certified, and of course our glass bottles and beer kegs have been reused for a long time now,’ Nikki adds.

When it came to developing our more sustainable brewing process, KBC provided a watertight financial solution.

Boudewijn van der Kelen, Haacht Brewery

Professional expertise

In order to provide the brewery with the necessary professional expertise for these greening activities, KBC advised them to work with Encon, an independent consultancy that helps develop sustainability projects. 

Since May 2021, KBC and Encon have been offering an overarching sustainability proposal that makes life easier for companies. This partnership ensures that KBC Corporate Banking customers can rely on professional, fully individualised sustainability advice that is tailored to their specific business processes and needs, and also be offered suitable options for financing. This approach allows sustainability to grow from within the company, with KBC and Encon acting as catalysts and facilitators in the transition to more sustainable business operations.

In addition to working with Encon, Haacht Brewery was also able to make its brewing process more sustainable thanks to a watertight financial solution from KBC, facilitated in part through collaboration with KBC Lease.  CEO Boudewijn van der Kelen describes the experience:

‘I would like to highlight the flexibility of KBC Lease.  A large industrial project such as a new draught line has a long turnaround time. Originally there was about a year planned between financing being granted and the actual start of the leasing contract. However, delivery problems meant that this period had to be extended by over a year, but even so KBC were supportive all the way. The interest rate to be applied at the start of the leasing contract simply remained the same as the one initially agreed.’