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Adnams becomes first UK brewery to carbon footprint bottled beer range

By Benedict Orchard, also posted in News on

Working closely with Adapt Low Carbon Group at the University of East Anglia (UEA), we've measured the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e) for the whole lifecycle of each bottled beer. The lifecycle covers everything from the growth of the hops and cereal, to brewing and packaging, through to the distribution, retail, consumption and disposal of the bottle. Calculated for our current range of ten bottled beers, we ensured that our calculations met the PAS 2050:2011 standard; the latest revision of the British standards document which assists organisations in the calculation of their product carbon footprints. Having done this, we were keen to seek third party verification, so we verified our results with SGS, a company specialising in auditing against industry standards and regulations. As Adnams' Environmental Sustainability Manager, I needed to understand each beer's environmental impact. This is a complicated and intricate piece of work: it’s not as simple as just measuring electricity usage. Everything was considered, from how the hops and cereal are grown through to glass manufacture and label production. Now that we have this solid piece of ground work we can continue to produce results for all the products made by Adnams. After a rigorous six months of data collection and analysis and a further six months for verification and auditing, we have our results.

Which of our beers is the ‘greenest’?

In first place is our much-loved beer Southwold Bitter with a footprint of 529g CO2e, while at the other end of the scale was Spindrift (in blue glass) with a footprint of 711g CO2e. The figure below highlights the full results (you can download a pdf of the results, which is easier to read, here).


  • All results are the gCO2 equivalent emissions per 500ml equivalent bottle [Results for Spindrift and Tally-Ho in their 330ml bottles are 470 and 430gCO2e, respectively]
  • Spindrift figure based on blue bottle - this has now been replaced by a brown bottle
  • Innovation based on 500ml bottle (now packaged in 330ml)

What makes each of the beers different?

The total carbon footprint is a combination of the different lifecycle stages, some stages have much greater influence than others. For example, the dominant carbon-emitting process comes from manufacturing the bottle, given the intense energy requirements to make glass. Having calculated these results we could see what a difference there was between our lightweight 500ml bottles and the heavy blue bottle we used for Spindrift. We have therefore already taken action to reduce the carbon footprint of Spindrift by moving it from the blue bottle to an amber bottle like the rest of our beers. This saw a reduction in its total carbon footprint by 20%. Essentially we went brown to go ‘green’ - you can read more in this blog post. The amount and type of ingredients we use in each beer also has a large impact due to the amounts of agricultural and processing carbon used in its production. Broadside, Innovation and Tally-Ho are strongly flavoured and cereal-heavy beers, which is what causes their footprints to be slightly higher than the rest. Richard Carter, Adnams Retail Management Accountant, comments: “Adnams is fully committed to ensuring its environmental impact is a positive one and as part of this, we continually push to improve our environmental performance year-on-year. Being environmentally aware and taking action to lead the way on the green agenda is fundamental to the way Adnams operates – and has been for many years. This exercise is just one of many initiatives - and we’ve already begun work on assessing the carbon footprint of our other products. Whilst it’s reassuring to know how ‘green’ our beer is, the results of this assessment will help us to improve even further. We have already begun doing this – the results made it was clear that the blue glass of Spindrift was having a higher impact on the environment than we would like, so we switched it to brown glass - brown is greener than blue!" [caption id="attachment_13695" align="alignnone" width="495"]

All results are the gCO2 equivalent emissions per 500ml equivalent bottle[/caption] Environmental awareness is not a new concept for Adnams. In 2008 we were the first UK brewer to produce a carbon-neutral beer, as calculated by the UEA, called East Green. Richard Carter continues, "East Green was a celebration of everything Adnams had achieved to reduce its impact on the environment - the eco-distribution centre, the energy-efficient brewery and reducing the weight of the Adnams beer bottle. Five years on, we believe that there is a growing interest and knowledge of these issues amongst Adnams drinkers ". Chris Blincoe, Adapt Programme Manager comments, “Adapt is delighted to be working with Adnams in pioneering new and greener practices that make good business sense.”

How do our beers compare?

As we're the first UK brewery to calculate the carbon footprint of bottled beer to PAS2050:2011, there are no complete like-for-like comparisons available yet, however, we can look at comparisons from previous standards. •          One pint of Tesco Semi-Skimmed Milk1 = 800gCO2e. Adnams 646gCO2e per pint (1) 

•          One 330ml glass bottle of Coco-Cola regular3 = 360gCO2e. Adnams 375cCO2e per 330ml glass bottle (2)

 •          An economy return flight from London to Sydney is the equivalent of 6245 bottles of our beer (3) 

•          An economy return flight from London to Glasgow is the equivalent of 216 bottles of our beer (3) 

•         One bottle of our beer is equivalent to traveling 5.3 miles on a national train service (3)

(1) Calculated under the previous revision of the PAS 2050 standards; PAS2050:2008. Source: Tesco Product Carbon Footprint Summary 2012 
(3) Using 2013 Defra Emission Factors [based on the average results of our 500ml equivalent CO2e values] 

It would seem that while we are not yet at the stage when we might hear the local conversation in the pub being “What’s the carbon footprint of your beer then? Mine's a real good’ un”, or even that people will consider the environmental impact of a product like they do with price or nutritional value, this is changing. With everyone becoming more environmentally aware we aim to be one step ahead and give people the knowledge to help facilitate that change towards doing the right thing. You can even help us reduce the carbon footprint of our beers by ensuring you recycle the bottle after use. At Adnams we believe in doing the right thing – not just because it makes us feel good, but because it makes business sense. We are very proud to have our efforts acknowledged through receiving top honours such as the Queen's Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development in 2005 and then for a second time in 2012. Find out more about how Adnams does the right thing here.    


Benedict Orchard