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It is difficult to narrow down just one innovation when examining New Belgium Brewing They are a company that was born of innovation--with innovation listed as one of their ten core values and beliefs. It seems, however, that a central innovation that paves the way for every subsequent groundbreaking change or initiative at NB is the empowerment and engagement of the employees. Not only does New Belgium talk the talk of employee engagement, it walks the walk--it is 100% employee owned. Employees of the company are all empowered to make decisions, innovate, and take risks everyday. When speaking with Penelope Gilliland, whose job title is Mothership Hostess, it is clear that New Belgium takes this empowerment seriously. Every coworker at NB is energized by the triple bottom line: benefiting the people, the planet and, in turn making profit. They take pride in their BCorp status and are excited about the growing community of B Corporations with whom they can collaborate.
Before co-founders Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch even sold their first beer they crafted their future company's values and beliefs. It is of this intentional, holistic DNA that New Belgium Brewing has grown into an industry and community leader in sustainable practices that benefit the environment and its people. Their innovations are innumerable, but it seems that they all stem from this initial intentional culture of employee engagement and empowerment. New Belgium is 100% employee owned. Employees are encouraged to innovate at every level. This empowerment to create in line with the company values leads to an incredible amount of environmentally sustainable and community strengthening initiatives. If you check out New Belgium's website you will be overwhelmed by the drive the company puts towards caring for the environment and its community.
There are metrics and goals regarding water usage, waste, and emissions-each with a myriad of innovative solutions aimed at meeting these goals. Some examples of this company living its values include sourcing materials and partnerships from other B-Corporations, investing in wind-power, and sourcing power from methane gas that is a by-product of their own on-site water treatment plant. The company hosts bike-in movie nights and fundraisers through a series of national events deemed the "Tour de Fat." It is hard to find a piece of the New Belgium puzzle that is not at some point an employee-created innovation. They even have a line of beers called Lips of Faith through which employees can playfully create new and innovative beers to bring to market. This is born of one of their greatest innovations: a sour beer called La Folie or "the folly" which has a story highlighting the benefit of risk and innovation all in its own. New Belgium Brewing does not fear failure and basks in the greatness of risk.
In chatting with Penelope, it is clear how impactful the leadership and legacy of co-founders Kim and Jeff has been on inspiring the culture and employees of New Belgium Brewing. Penelope expounds, "[I am inspired by] Kim and Jeff being incredibly brilliant and inspirational people. How visionary they were in starting a company with values in mind first. And a great product." Beyond the founders, coworkers inspire one another. They live their values and passions. Employees are encouraged to follow their interests and passions, moving around to different roles within the company. Penelope explains that she loves to watch people try new things and "find their place," where they really thrive.
Says Penelope, "In the grand scheme of businesses we are a small fish, and we like to think that we make ripples that eventually turn into waves. I like to think that we are making impact here in Fort Collins and across the country." It is hard to tease apart the impact of the town of Fort Collins on the Brewery from the impact of the Brewery on the town, but when you walk down College Ave, you feel the same cultural elements that are felt walking through the brewery. The beer-loving town is steeped in a passion for the outdoors. Signs for New Belgium Brewing line the street in bar windows alongside a myriad of other small craft brewery logos. You can't walk the street without spotting at least a handful of bike-commuters (it isn't unusual to spot one of the bikes NB employees are given when they become an employee-owner). Whether New Belgium had a hand in creating the culture, or is a product of the culture it most definitely is delivering this fun-loving environment, protecting community, and building beer-worshipping brand to the country at large.
New Belgium Brewing is a testament to the idea of "doing good to do well." Their unrelenting commitment to the betterment of their town and their place in the world coupled with their incredible success proves that business can be a benefit to world betterment. As if leading by example isn't enough, New Belgium "puts their money where their mouth is," so to speak by choosing the organizations they do business with wisely. They drive the economy in the direction of business as a world benefit by choosing to give their business to other Type B Corporations. In general, New Belgium Brewing operates with an incredibly high level of integrity towards their purpose.
One of New Belgium Brewing's core values is, "kindling social, environmental and cultural change as a business role model." This value is clearly presented in each living breath of their business. They take care of their community from the inside out, empowering their employees to make socially, environmentally, and fiscally responsible decisions. They go beyond basic responsibility and redefine their impact from doing no harm to doing good. Their ripples turn into waves as their unrelenting passion inspires people from all walks of life either on brewery tours, through their community events, or through business to business relationships. New Belgium Brewing is a business of the future, and I am excited to see what they come up with next!
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Penelope Gilliland, Mothership Hostess/ Proud Employee Owner