Brewing Sustainability into a Successful Business

Brewing Sustainability into a Successful Business

Great Lakes Brewing Company

2. Zero Hunger 3. Good Health and Well-Being 4. Quality Education 5. Gender Equality 6. Clean Water and Sanitation


Irish brothers, Pat and Dan Conway founded Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) in Ohio City in 1988. They wanted to boost the neighborhood’s image by bringing a sophisticated and diverse selection of craft beer. They created a brewing company that is a dynamic place to work, makes great beer and cares for the environment.


Janelle Chamberlin

Janelle Chamberlin


Ursuline College

Ursuline College


Nurete Brenner

Nurete Brenner


In 2014, GLBC installed a 12-panel solar thermal array to offset 108 Mcf of gas, which is the equivalent of an average American household. This installation preheats city water for the brewpub's water processing system. GLBC is also innovative with waste management through traditional methods such as recycling and waste diversion. GLBC employs non-traditional methods as well, such as constructing an eco-friendly Fatty Wagon that operates on straight restaurant vegetable oil. The Fatty Wagon helps transport restaurant diners to and from downtown Cleveland, which in return supports economic growth.

In 2014, GLBC increased the percentage of their workforce pay at or above the market rate by an additional 7%. Moreover, GLBC understands the importance of employee wellness, which helps boost their productivity. GLBC provides free staff training and wellness activities in diverse disciplines. These disciplines aid in the promotion of healthy living and preventive care. In addition, the staff receives free yoga and massage sessions, counseling services such as legal advice, financial planning guidance, and stress reduction courses to mention just a few. Greater product demand increases injury risk. To tackle such concerns, GLBC has implemented innovative measures to develop a safety culture; it systematically analyzes accident causes to ensure they do not reoccur.

Since 2007, local food has accounted for 30% of total food purchases for its joint restaurant. Moreover, GLBC spent $1.4 million on local foods, handing the funds to aid local farmers.

Brewing Sustainability into a Successful Business


GLBC from day one has focused on putting the community first and revitalizing Cleveland's historic neighborhood, Ohio City.

Overall impact

GLBC innovations have been built around three sustainability goal categories: environmental, social and economic. By investing in the community, their positive impact is notable. GLBC helped spark re-development trends that have noticeably enhanced the quarter's life quality. GLBC has helped attract businesses to the area, creating hundreds of jobs.

Business benefit

The mission of GLBC is based on the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit), which is why the company is highly sustainable in economic development. In this competitive market, it is important for GLBC to focus on product quality, which promotes its successes. GLBC follows the strategic planning from the 4D cycle with Appreciative Inquiry: Discover, Dream, Design, and Deliver. By using the 4D cycle with Appreciative Inquiry, GLBC can determine which business imperatives must be met and which initiatives should be put in place to meet their commitment to social and environmental benefit.

Social and environmental benefit

GLBC implemented the idea of environmentalism to the community from several initiatives. GLBC saw the opportunity to improve key areas, such as water and energy efficiency, waste management, and food and farming in many innovative developments. First, due to the amount of water needed to make beer and rising water costs, GLBC has worked to reduce the barrels of water drawn/barrels of beer sold ratio. Water apart, GLBC also strives to improve energy efficiency, specifically natural gas and electricity through on-site control and usage. These water efficiency efforts have impacted the environmental and financial perspective. GLBC’s latest environmentalism effort includes purchasing food from local farmers. GLBC also strives to make an impact on social sustainability.

Since its inception, GLBC has put forth every effort to support the social economy first through their workforce and expanding to the community. GLBC acknowledges that in order to retain a skilled workforce, fair compensation is pivotal.

Appreciative inquiry is also embedded in GLBC's DNA. Applying the appreciative inquiry strategies has helped achieve just that and crystallize the vision that the founders had in mind since the beginning. When difficulties arise, the founders and the management team rely on staff feedback by using the appreciative perspective to resolve problems rather than using a blame culture. Teams are formed throughout GLBC to achieve targets that the company has set and provide vital feedback on what works and what does not.

Lastly, from a community perspective, since 2011, GLBC has committed to donate one percent of sales to philanthropic causes. These funds are managed and monitored by two staff members. GLBC shows support toward the arts, culture and environmental non-profits and their commitment to helping new businesses in the region to flourish. Furthermore, GLBC is committed to helping spur new business developments in the city of Cleveland.


Saul Kliorys, Sustainability Manager

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Great Lakes Brewing Company

Great Lakes Brewing Company

Cleveland, OH, US

Business Website:

Year Founded: 1988

Number of Employees: 51 to 200

Two Irish brothers with limited brewing experience. A city that shuttered its last production brewery in the early 80's. A neighborhood in serious need of a face lift. In 1986 when Patrick and Daniel Conway opened their fledgling operation in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood, the odds were stacked against them. Fortunately, they surrounded themselves with a staff of passionate, knowledgeable people, and from the start committed themselves to bringing a sophisticated, diverse selection of craft beer to their home state. Two decades, multiple awards, and a whole lot of stories later, Pat and Dan Conway celebrate over two decades of brewing exceptional beer for their adventurous and discerning customers.