Green shoots: how can the on-trade be more environmentally friendly?

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Green consensus: 'As the pub sector begins to recover and welcome back guests, acting responsibly on climate change will drive positive sentiment and the reputation impact of your business,' according to Mark Chapman, CEO and founder of the Zero Carbon Forum (image: Getty/josewsy)
Green consensus: 'As the pub sector begins to recover and welcome back guests, acting responsibly on climate change will drive positive sentiment and the reputation impact of your business,' according to Mark Chapman, CEO and founder of the Zero Carbon Forum (image: Getty/josewsy)

Related tags Sustainability Health Environment Beer Restaurant Waste Plastic Heineken Sky Brewdog

With COP26 on the horizon and sustainability on the nation’s lips, The Morning Advertiser measures up some of the steps being taken by the on-trade to cut its carbon footprint, and how it can help bounce back from Covid in a ‘green’ way.

According to Martyn Cozens, UK on-trade director at Molson Coors, there is an “overwhelming consensus” that the economic recovery from Covid-19 must be a green one, and that the UK on-trade and has a massive role to play alongside the brewers, distillers, cider and winemakers that supply it.

And while both pub groups and independents are already making huge strides in recent weeks, months and years – leading the charge on tackling single use plastic straws, for instance – there’s a general consensus that further action is imperative. 

“With hospitality responsible for a considerable amount of the UK’s carbon emissions, it’s clear that we need to work ahead of the Government’s 2050 timeline to counteract harmful effects on the planet, not only as an industry, but as individual operators,” Mark Chapman, CEO and founder of the Zero Carbon Forum – a non-profit sustainability consultancy for the hospitality sector – tells The Morning Advertiser (MA)​.

“As the pub sector begins to recover and welcome back guests, acting responsibly on climate change will drive positive sentiment and the reputation impact of your business. 

“Not acting on carbon reduction really isn’t a viable option so it’s down to all of us in the sector to play our part in driving action.”


The future of any business has to be one that puts doing good and having a positive impact at the centre of its strategy, according to BrewDog’s president.


Following the company’s success in taking the title of Sustainable Business of the Year at the Publican Awards, David McDowall said sustainability was key to BrewDog's operation.

He added being sustainable made a “tonne of commercial sense” and all operations should be focusing on it. “In five- or 10-years’ time the businesses that are most successful will be the businesses that are most sustainable and have the most positive impact.

“That’s the future of business, a business that puts doing good and having positive impact right at the centre of its strategy, as opposed to a bolt on to its corporate social responsibility plan.

“It’s absolutely at the centre of every decision we are making as a business right now, and it’s our intention for that to be amplified in the years ahead.”

The company worked with independent advisers to devise its strategy and challenge itself. “In the main what we’re trying to do is put a really aggressive plan in place to reduce our carbon, double offset all our remaining carbon emissions and use the BrewDog platform to raise awareness of how important it is that we address this issue.” 

One example of that in practice is the launch of Lost Lager, a product that has sustainability at its core, and promotes itself as a “planet-first lager”.

McDowall said: “We use a third less water in brewing process than traditional process – it’s powered solely by wind energy in the production and we address, in a small way, the issue of food waste because we take some of the malt out of the recipe and replace it with bread that would have gone to waste from the sandwich and food production process.”

While the pandemic might have shifted focus from the issue for some operations, McDowall said it had the opposite effect in BrewDog.

“Being right in the midst of our sustainability plan when the pandemic hit was a complete tsunami of challenge for us here at BrewDog, but in many ways it galvanised us to get things done.

“I don’t think the timeline for what we’re dealing with allows us to hesitate in dealing with this issue, that’s the harsh reality. In the medium to long term its okay for business to fail, but not for the planet to fail.”

Marianne Matthews, Sky’s head of responsible business and Publican Awards judge, said: “It’s really clear that sustainability is at the core of who BrewDog are and everything they do and everything they say.”

She said Sky has been acting on the environmental issues for 15 years and it’s been at the core of what they do for many years and now they’re looking to inspire others to follow in their footsteps with the launch of the Sky Zero Footprint Fund.

The scheme, part of Sky’s campaign to be net zero carbon by 2030, is a £2m initiative to support brands that are committed to driving positive behavioural change.

Open to media agencies, creative agencies and brands, the fund will support businesses to accelerate and amplify their initiatives to change the world for the better through the power of TV and advertising.

The winning ideas will be selected by a panel of credible and knowledgeable judges with strong views on advertising, creativity, and sustainability. 

Debbie Klein, group chief marketing, corporate affairs and people officer at Sky, said, “We want to use our knowledge and passion to help others make a difference. The Sky Zero Footprint Fund builds on our track record and commitment to reducing our impact on the environment. 

“At Sky we have pledged to be net zero carbon by 2030, but we understand that we’re all in this together and as a media industry, we have a duty to use our voice to drive tangible change. We’re delighted to announce this new initiative to realise the combined benefits for our planet when we work together."

Tim Pearson, managing director of Sky Media, commented, “Using the power of TV we truly believe we can help transform attitudes and inspire real change. The Sky Zero Footprint Fund is designed to support businesses that want to foster positive change and protect our environment. We believe there is no better way to demonstrate this than through the scale, reach and storytelling capability of TV/Video advertising."

The deadline for the Sky Zero Footprint Fund is at midnight on Wednesday 19 May 2021

‘Drinking in the last chance saloon’

As reported by The MA​, two new initiatives​ supported by Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), Net Zero Now and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) have been launched across the UK on-trade.

The Net Zero Pubs and Bars initiatives will dissect what “net zero” means for the UK on-trade, offer guidance on how operators can assess and reduce carbon their emissions and set a standard against which progress can be measured. 


This aims to hand businesses the tools for a coherent and ambitious climate strategy through a three-step – calculate, mitigate, compensate – approach, and overcome a lack of relevant in-house expertise and resources highlighted in a recent report from the British Standards Institution (BSI). 

What's more, sites which are successfully net zero certified under the new schemes will be able to display their Net Zero Pub or Net Zero Bar accreditation in venue and on point-of-sales materials made available to help them showcase their achievement.

“A growing number of businesses across the whole hospitality sector have been telling us for some time that they want to be part of the solution,” SRA managing director, Juliane Caillouette-Noble, said of the new scheme. “For many, the concept of net zero can feel intangible and unachievable.” 

“It’s become increasingly clear that we’re all drinking in the last chance saloon,” Simon Heppner, CEO of Net Zero Now – an initiative designed to help small and medium businesses create credible net zero targets – and founder of the SRA, added.

“For too long practical action has been stalled by confusion about what we need to do. With Net Zero that has changed; there’s now a very clear destination and this important initiative will give pubs and bars a pragmatic, accessible and affordable way to be at the forefront of the race to net zero.”


Inch’s is a new, sustainable apple cider on draught – created to bring vibrancy back to mainstream apple cider and engage younger consumers.

Screenshot 2021-04-28 at 16.43.10


Made from 100% British apples, grown and sourced within 40 miles of its mill in Herefordshire, Inch’s is a lightly sparkling, ‘medium apple cider’ that goes that “extra Inch” by turning ALL its apple cider waste into green energy. 

Consumers aged 18-34 prefer to buy brands that have a social and environmental commitment1​, meaning Inch’s has the green credentials to appeal to a younger generation of drinkers.

Perfectly balanced between sweet and dry, Inch’s has exceptional taste credentials, with four out of five 18 to 34-year-olds preferring the taste to that of the nearest competitor2​ , whilst containing less sugar and fewer calories.  It is also gluten free and vegan3​. 

About 5m pints of apple cider are poured in the on-trade every week4​ and mainstream brands account for every two in three pints of apple cider5​, yet the introduction of Inch’s is set to inject some much-needed excitement into a declining category6​. Delivering the widespread appeal of a modern, refreshing cider, Inch’s is a sustainable option for a new generation of drinkers.

Click here​ for more information on Inch’s Cider. Contact your Heineken Sales Representative or Local Wholesaler for more information on stocking Inch’s on draught.

1) YouGov 2021, CCS 2020  2) Versus a leading competitor. Cardinal monadic liquid test (120 18–34-year-old L4W LADs drinkers) – September 2020 3)​ 4) CGA Strategy, 28th December 2019 5) CGA Strategy, 26 Dec 2020 6) CGA Strategy – 26 Dec 2020

Packing a green punch 

Who can forget the vivid scenes from the BBC’s Blue Planet​ of floating plastic continents clogging up our oceans and stifling eco-systems beneath the waves?

And while pubs and bars are already passing on plastic in their droves, there’s work to be done to cut down the amount of food and drink packaging heading for landfill.  

According to Nick Brown, head of sustainability at CCEP, around 40% of the glass used in the bottles they distribute to the hospitality sector is made from recycled glass. 

“It can be recycled indefinitely without any compromise to its quality, and only takes as little as one month to be recycled into a new container,” he explains.

“We have a history of light-weighting our glass bottles, which have reduced in weight from 240g in 2002 to 190g in 2018,” he adds. “This is hugely beneficial in reducing carbon emissions in the manufacturing and distribution process.

What’s more, the drinks giant has also invested in a £20m line at our its Edmonton facility in London which makes bag-in-box products.

“With no consumer packaging and less water, the format is the most sustainable way to deliver soft drinks, saving the equivalent of 48,400 tonnes of CO2​ per year,” Brown explains. 

Vessels for change

A number of drinks makers have shown bottle in their attempts to drive towards a sustainable future. Here The Morning Advertiser (MA)​ pours over a few examples of brands which have been a glass apart when it comes to eco-friendly drink containers.

Flown in glass bottles from winemaking heartlands in South America, Australia, New Zealand and southern Europe – wine’s carbon emissions are in the red.


However, Garçon Wines​ has developed a compact wine case with a unique packing orientation, allowing 10 bottles to be packed in a case that would otherwise deliver just four traditional round, glass vessels of the same volume – offering a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and overall logistics costs. 

Garçon’s 100% recycled bottles are made of food-grade, pre-existing PET rather than single-use plastic, are 87% lighter than traditional glass bottles and weigh 63g versus an average 500g for glass.

Premium vodka brand Absolut​ rolled out a prototype paper bottle from 25 January, initially in both the UK and Sweden. The drinks maker described the project as the brand’s first step to achieving a fully bio-based bottle able to contain spirits.


Absolut’s prototype is made up of 57% recycled paper and 43% recycled plastic – with the plastic making up a thin layer within the bottle that can be successfully recycled after use. 

If Carlsberg did sustainable bottles, they’d probably be the lowest carbon in the world. At least that’s Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company’s​ claim after it began a trial with glass bottle supplier, Encirc – which uses 100% biofuel and increases recycled content of glass bottles to 100% – in February. 


According to the beermaker, its latest partnership cuts the carbon impact of each bottle by up to 90%, with potential to transform the bottle from the highest-carbon-impact packaging type to the lowest.

What’s more, both Molson Coors​ and Heineken​ announced trials with Encirc in 2021, with the former producing 2m glass bottles for its Staropramen brand and the latter pledging to create 1.4m bottles of beer using up to 100% recycled glass and low carbon biofuel, replacing high carbon natural gas.


Finally, the maker of Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, Baileys and Tanqueray, Diageo​, got into the spirit by working in tandem with Encirc on a pilot project to pioneer what it claims are the lowest carbon footprint glass bottles ever produced for a Scotch whisky brand.

The collaboration the glass manufacturer and leading industry research and technology body Glass Futures, produced 173,000 bottles for Diageo’s Black & White​ Scotch whisky.

Having a gas

However, carbon dioxide is important at various stages in the process of both making and delivering drinks, meaning that the onus is on brands to find sustainable supplies.  

The gas is a crucial component in brewing and production and is used in the carbonation of packaged beers, the purging of road tankers, and the pressurising of kegs, for example. 

Cornwall-based brewer and pub operator St Austell recently took a sizeable step in reducing its carbon footprint as both its main brewery and its sister site, Hare Brewery – home of Bath Ales – by making the switch to a 100% renewable and sustainable carbon dioxide supply. 

The brewery’s new supply is sourced locally from green energy specialist, BioCarbonics, which generates green carbon dioxide from maize grown in the South West. The maize is broken down naturally via a process called anaerobic digestion, which produces the gas.

“We go to great lengths to be environmentally efficient and are always looking to go further,” Andrew Holden, head of procurement and property at St Austell Brewery – a recipient of the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development in 2018 – said. 

“Our partnership with BioCarbonics represents a double win: carbon dioxide that is both 100% renewable and sourced locally here in the South West, resulting in fewer road miles to reach our two sites. 

“We’re proud to be doing our part in protecting the unique and beautiful environment we call home.”


Create a best cellar

While John Gemmell – on-trade category and commercial strategy director at Heineken UK – describes enjoying a beer in the pub is “a cultural institution”, he acknowledges that there’s scope to make the life cycle of pints born in the cellar and raised at the bar​ more sustainable.

“Some 90% of beer and cider volume is sold on draught, however, collectively we lose an estimated £261m worth of drinks per year due to the wastage poured in drip trays – which has an environmental knock-on effect,” he explains.

“A good cellar management routine helps produce quality pints and increases operational efficiency, which also has environmental benefits such as lower energy consumption.”


He stresses it’s therefore vital to ensure your equipment is well maintained. 

“Keep cellars at a constant temperature of 11 to 13°C by installing a wall-mounted thermometer, regularly top up cooling equipment with water, check fans and condensers are free from dust and blockages and keep a planned schedule of maintenance to avoid costly breakdowns.

In addition, it’s important to train your staff to deliver on cellar management and perfect pour – inexperienced bar staff can pour good beer into the drip tray when there is too much fobbing, which affects yield, increases costs for your business and contributes to wastage.”

Case study: Springwell, North Brewing Company

In November 2020, Leeds-based North Brewing Co revealed that it would be moving to a new home boasting twice the capacity of its former abode.

Springwell in north Leeds will also see a new 500-person taproom built in the 21,000sq ft former tannery and will mean brewing output will increase to 16,000 hectolitres – 2.8m pints a year.

“At Springwell, we’ve been making a conscious effort to focus on sustainability and taking steps to reduce our environmental impact as part of our strategy, Sarah Hardy, North’s marketing Manager explains. 

“The brewing industry can get quite bad press for its carbon output, with the large machines that use a lot of power, single-use packaging, and all the energy is required to keep operations running.  

“We’ve been taking steps to reduce our impact because we know as an industry we still need to do better. However, we’re starting to see a change in attitudes towards sustainability and it is inspiring to see how many breweries have been putting it at the heart of their business, just like us.

“We are keen to collaborate with like-minded businesses and have been working with sustainable merchandise suppliers and other breweries and manufacturers with the same values. It’s great to see the change in mindset in the beer industry and we’re excited to see how this will shape the industry’s future.” 

“Adding a renewable energy solution at Springwell was an easy decision for us to make, since we were looking to become more sustainable in our operations as well as reducing our energy costs,” Christian Townsley, founder of North Brewing Co, adds.

“It has been an exciting time for us, with so much activity taking place despite the pandemic and we’ve adapted to not only keep the business running but growing as well. With our move to Springwell, we also wanted to step back and look at how we could do things more sustainably while still making progress.

“The transition to solar power and voltage optimisation is a great move for us, it will help reduce our carbon footprint and move the business forward in line with the Government’s 2030 decarbonisation targets.”

‘DIY food waste audit’ 

According to Ben Gardner, CEO of Navitas Safety, 3.6m tonnes of food​ is wasted by the food industry each year in the UK, with more than 2m tonnes of that still being edible.

He adds that restaurants alone contribute almost 200,000 tonnes of food waste each year, which consequently costs businesses around £682m each year.

What’s more, Bio Collectors’ chief operating officer, Dan Purvis, cites research which demonstrates that four-in-five people expect hospitality businesses to have eco-friendly qualities.

“A failure to take the initiative on sustainability not only has a detrimental impact on the environment, but public sentiment,” he says.

“When it comes to food waste, according to WRAP, the UK’s hospitality and foodservice sector throws away 1.1m tonnes of food each year. In an ideal world, there would be zero waste, but foodservice operators will be acutely aware that this is an unrealistic target.”

He adds that operators are making headway in reducing food waste with new initiatives and apps offering food that would otherwise have been thrown away, but there will always be some unavoidable food waste – such as used coffee grounds. 

“As pubs across the country prepare to take the next step in reopening, it is imperative they have a best practice strategy in place that ensures any unavoidable waste is treated in the most sustainable and environmentally friendly way possible,” Purvis continues. 

“By ensuring food waste is segregated and treated using microbiological methods, such as anaerobic digestion, foodservice operators can enable every bit of unavoidable, separated food waste to become valuable products, such as electricity, bio-methane, and nutrient-rich organic fertiliser for farmers.”

Speaking in February 2020, a spokesperson from the SRA suggested that operators undertake a simple “DIY food waste audit” using separate bins, recording what’s thrown out and whether it was spoilage, prep or plate waste to identify the main culprits.


‘Embracing sustainable and digital processes’

Kirstie Jones, environmental health expert at Navitas Safety, claims that going digital not only speeds things up for all involved, but it also positively impacts the environment.

“With more customers and businesses focusing on making sustainable changes to their lives, reducing paper usage and single-use plastic is almost essential,” she explains.

“Following the need to digitise and automate the kitchen, paper-based safety trails are no longer needed, nor relevant. The average restaurant spends approximately £20 per month, per site, on paperwork printing costs alone.

“Embracing sustainable and digital processes would not just benefit the business by reducing costs, but it would also remove unnecessary paper and thus, waste for both the business and the consumer,” she continues.

Jones adds that businesses should look to invest in innovative digital hardware and software that can record all data in a cloud-based system, eliminating the need for paperwork entirely.

“An integrated digital system allows businesses to monitor food safety effectively with watertight traceability and accountability, resulting in a reduction in food waste.

“It isn’t just about materials and going digital, though. Food businesses in particular need to work hard to ensure less food is being wasted. To do so, this may mean minimising menus as they work to reopen as well as encouraging consumers to recycle packaging properly and effectively if it is a takeaway service.”

Top tips for operators

The Zero Carbon Forum, a non-profit organisation hoping to lead the hospitality industry to net zero – whose members include Adnams, BrewDog, Fuller's, Greene King, Mitchells & Butlers, Marston's, Revolution Bars, Shepherd Neame, St Austell, JD Wetherspoon, and Young’s – and Becky Davies, head of commercial at drinks producer Ten Locks, have provided 10 top tips for operators to cut their carbon footprint.

A to Zero
  1. Track your energy use with smart meter data – see how much you’re spending and when
  2. Engage your teams to be less wasteful of energy use – a kitchen extractor left on overnight will cost you another £3k in energy use and emit 10t CO2
  3. Switch to renewable energy
  4. Increase the number of meat free dishes on your menu
  5. Minimise the use of single use plastics
  6. Ask your suppliers what they are doing to reduce their carbon emissions
  7. Appoint an eco-officer in chief – have a dedicated point person and ensure the whole team knows about their role and its importance. 
  8. Back the right brands – source brands that are actively considering their impact to the environment.  
  9. Education is king – have a hard look at your range and drinks menus and question if simple edits can make a difference to your bottom line and environmental footprint. 
  10. Adopt a zero-waste mindset – place a zero-waste mindset at the heart of your drinks creation.

Swot up on your A,B,Cs of pub sustainability with the help of The Morning Advertiser's guide to a greener pub here​.

Challenge suppliers’ green credentials 

According to Nick Brown, head of sustainability at Coca-Cola European Partners, the drinks giant has been helping partners reduce carbon emissions over a number of years. 

“This includes investing in the energy-efficiency of our equipment,” he explains. “Our CCEP coolers all use natural refrigerants, are fitted with LED lights and use advanced insulation technology.  

“We’ve also introduced energy management systems on our equipment which can reduce power consumption by an average of 30%, by sending it into standby mode after periods of inactivity.”

He continues that when it comes to the wider supply chain, operators can do their bit to influence behaviour changes too. 

“Challenging suppliers on what they are doing to drive the sustainability agenda, and stocking the most sustainable products, are both good starting points,” he says.

Heineken UK’s John Gemmell adds that having a clear stance on your environmental impact has the added benefit of boosting both loyalty and spend among customers.

“With 66% of consumers choosing to purchase products or services based on their ‘environmental friendliness’ – particularly among those aged 18 to 34 – businesses that are striving to ‘do good’ and reduce their carbon footprint are set to appeal to the more eco-conscious drinker, in turn bringing you greater revenue opportunities,” he says.

He states that an easy way to do this is by stocking brands that share your sustainability aspirations. “While sustainability is key, now more than ever, it’s crucial to provide customers with a great quality drink – one that is better than they usually have at home, to remind them why they come out to the on-trade,” he says.


Stephanie Jordan, co-founder of sustainable Calvados-maker Avallen adds that at every point of their production process and business practice, they stop and ask themselves “is this the most viable sustainable way we can make a delicious spirit brand?’”

“One of the technologies we’re most excited to work with is the blockchain transparency technology of Provenance,” she tells The MA​. “With so much ‘greenwashing’ by companies desperate to look like they are taking action, we have chosen to be as transparent as possible about our entire business. In partnership with Provenance, we have uploaded evidence to a blockchain that supports our claims of being climate positive, made from nothing but apples water and time, as well as receipts for our charitable donations. We have also created a Product Passport with them, so people can see the complete process of making Avallen, from blossom to bottle.

“We also entrust Triodos, Europe’s first sustainable and ethical bank, with all of Avallen’s financial transactions and our website is hosted by Kualo, using servers that are powered by 100% renewable energy."

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