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How B Corporation certification is helping these drinks producers

A Luxembourg cider maker with sustainability at its heart has become the first cidery in Europe to achieve certification for its green credentials.

Ramborn Cider Co. is only the third cidery in the world, and the first consumer brand in Luxembourg, to achieve B Corporation (B Corp) status. The certification highlights brands which meet the highest standards of environmental and social performance, transparency and accountability. 

Ramborn is in good global company, joining other B Corp-certified brands including Ben & Jerry's, Innocent Drinks and Bruichladdich.

Since it was established in 2016, Ramborn has recycled around 57 per cent of all the fruit it has pressed - some 739,500kg - and has helped to remove 31,000kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (around 17.5g per bottle of cider) through its tree-planting initiatives.

The company also revives traditional orchards, partners with farmers to reinstate "old" forms of agriculture, and does its bit for biodiversity - it's had a direct impact on the protection and revival of one million square metres of richly biodiverse habitat.

Carlo Hein, co-founder and chairman of Ramborn Cider Co., says, "B Corp will help us to succinctly share our mission and impact with our retailers, distributors and wholesalers. B Corp has fantastic real, accountable and, most importantly, measurable stories to tell. You can connect with clients in new ways, and they can connect in this way with their customers too. The discussion shifts to being about so much more than price - it's no longer a race to the bottom."

Before moving into the drinks industry, Carlo spent 20 years working and investing in renewable energy, so has a better understanding of the landscape than most.

"We are aware of the true value of each kWh of clean energy as we understood the costs of producing it, but we also saw the hidden social and environmental costs of generating energy via fossil fuels," he says.

"The food and drinks industry must be aware that hidden social and environmental costs will impact their business. And these changes can come quickly, but the time and costs involved in tackling them can be challenging."

The cost of retrofitting old premises to be environmentally friendly can be a barrier for some businesses looking to make their operations more sustainable. However, for new businesses that are fortunate enough to design and build their own facilities, embedding sustainability and good resource management from the ground up is becoming more and more crucial.

Small Beer Brewing Co., based in Bermondsey in south London, became the UK capital's first brewery to attain B Corp certification in 2019. The brewery makes a range of beers under 2.8% ABV and has designed its kit specifically to make such products - and to redue waste.

One of its big wins is in water conservation: in comparison to an industry average of eight pints of water to produce one pint of beer, Small Beer uses just a pint and a half of water to every pint of beer. It also runs a "dry floor" brewery, with full liquid and solid separation in the brewing process. No waterproof boots and plastic aprons here - jeans and trainers are perfectly practical brewing attire.

Small Beer co-founder Felix James says, "One of the things I really wanted to do was to reduce our water consumption compared to industry standard. I've worked for Fullers and AB InBev, seeing how the big guys do it and learning from their mistakes, but also the positive things they are doing. Our ratio is 1.5 pints of water to one pont of beer. Most of that half pint is in the fermented grain, which we send on to a local farmer to feed to his Dexter cattle. Because the grain is wetter, it means the cows are then consuming less water."

He adds, "B Corp is an acknowledged sign of not just environmental responsibility, but also social responsibility. We do events for the neighbours and we are keen to do some tree planting. We've held panel discussions at the brewery with some of our peer-group sustainable businesses to discuss green-thought leadership."

In November 2020 Hattiers become the first rum brand in the UK, and only the second globally, to achieve B Corp certification. Its founder Phillip Everett-Lyons was introduced to the B Corp movement in 2016, shortly before he launched his first spirits. 

"From day one we've always stood for a wider purpose and the days are long gone when a business can simply ask its employees to ignore their values. We decided as a brand not to wait for the industry to change, but to go ahead ourselves and create a premium rum brand with an uncompromising approach to quality and sustainability," he says.

"Not one for the fainthearted, the B Corp certification is the most robut and rigorous proceess we have ever undertaken. This benchmark certification gives total reassurance that our brand is at the forefront of ethical and sustainabile practices within our sector.

"We are lobbying for our peers in the industry to take a good look at their processes and to create sustainability and environmental targets, and to consider B Corp certification. It has challenged us at Hattiers to change the way that we do business and to use business as a force for good."

He adds, "We are starting to see big changes within the industry with one of the world's largest spirits producers, Diageo, launching the first plastic-free paper-based spirits bottle for Johnnie Walker. This initiative is ground-breaking and it is fantastic to see such a key player in the industry taking sustainability so seriously. The costs involved for a project of this scale are far beyond a small brand such as ourselves, however, this innovation will hopefully trickle downstream to all brands in time."

5 September 2020 - Bethany Whymark