The Sawmill Brewery in Matakana afer it was ravaged by fire. Photo: Supplied

Fire-damaged Sawmill Brewery wins Sustainability Award

The Sawmill Brewery has been awarded the New Zealand Brewers Guild Sustainability Award - a welcome win after the site was gutted by fire.

On Saturday night the independent Sawmill Brewery won the inaugural New Zealand Brewers Guild Sustainability Award - two weeks after a major fire closed the Matakana brewery down for the foreseeable future. 

Breweries around the country have offered Sawmill tank space so they can keep brewing, and Sawmill Brewery director Kirsty McKay thanked the "extraordinary" number of people who had been in touch since the blaze, saying it meant the world to the Sawmill team. "There are great opportunities for collaboration and we know we can turn this really unfortunate event into something great for Sawmill drinkers."

According to the Brewers Guild, the Sustainability Award recognises "businesses from throughout the grain to glass supply chain in New Zealand that are implementing projects, policies and initiatives that have a positive impact on the environment".

“We know most people aren’t buying Sawmill because of our sustainability credentials," said McKay. "But environmental responsibility is not a compromise in running a successful business. From an operational perspective, it requires a huge focus on efficiency. It also makes us a better employer and ultimately of more value to our community. And all of this is compounding – you become more resilient, more innovative. We want Sawmill to be around and relevant in ten years so we need to be thinking about what business will look like then.”

The win was off the back of Sawmill's numerous environmental initiatives, including the fact they capture all the water from their roof – nearly a million litres annually – and all waste water is treated on site and goes back on to the surrounding land as irrigation. Sawmill has also been using solar energy since 2006. In Feb 2019 they installed a new system in the Matakana brewery with 54 panels which generates up to 97% of their power use in summer and about 78% in winter.

Other environmental policies include plastic free packaging, on-site composting, chemical recycling, PVPP-free fining and annual waste auditing. Sawmill is B Corp certified, meaning their systems are independently tested to make sure they meet sustainability standards (Allbirds, Ben and Jerry's ice cream and the outdoor brand Patagonia are also B Corp certified).

The premise of B Corp is that ‘good’ business is not just about profit, it’s about making a positive overall impact on the environment and the community and being accountable for that commitment.

Sawmill head brewer Mike Sutherland says greenwashing is a risk to the authenticity of sustainability efforts, and independent verification is crucial. “We operate responsibly not as a strategic marketing advantage but in order to have a positive impact on our community and environment and to show other manufacturers what can practically be done.  We stand by the saying ‘We don't need a handful of people doing sustainability perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.’

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