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Sleeman Breweries upgraded its equipment and modified brewing processes, resulting in water savings of 298,000 litres every day.Provided

As Canada’s third-largest national brewer, Sleeman Breweries Ltd. produces some of the most popular beer in the country. But for Sleeman employees, striving for excellence isn’t just about delivering Canadians better beer, it’s also about doing so as sustainably as possible.

At breweries stretching from Chambly, Que., to Vernon, B.C., employees who are passionate about sustainability volunteer to be part of “green teams” that look for opportunities to improve environmental performance. Every month, team leads from the breweries and distribution centres meet as a national green team to share best practices.

“Our working motto is ‘growing our environmental awareness,’” says Linden Gossen, Sleeman’s national environmental health and safety manager who leads the national green team from the company’s head office in Guelph, Ont. “Our goal is continuous improvement, and key to that is effective communication and employee engagement.”

A good example is Sleeman’s successful effort in recent years to improve its landfill diversion rate from about 60 per cent to a remarkable 97 per cent.

“Some of that was a top-down effort to provide readily accessible and well-marked receptacles as well as conducting waste audits and reporting on the results,” says Gossen. “But mostly, it’s about building awareness of what can be done and then seeing the uptake from our employees.”

Another employee-driven initiative during the pandemic resulted in the company finding a vendor to recycle disposable masks.

In 2022, Sleeman consolidated its sustainability strategies into a new environmental policy framework with three key pillars. They are: reducing the carbon footprint of its breweries as well as that of its suppliers and distributors; continuing to encourage a 3R mindset of reduce, reuse and recycle; and sustaining the natural environment through employee and community engagement.

Examples of that third pillar include events planned each spring around Earth Day and each October around Waste Reduction Week. It also includes celebrating individual “green champions” – employees who are incorporating sustainable practices such as composting and recycling into their lives away from work.

Because 95 per cent of beer comes from water, reducing water consumption is an obvious priority. In 2019, the City of Guelph recognized water conservation efforts at the local Sleeman brewery, where upgraded equipment and modified brewing processes resulted in water savings of 298,000 litres (or over 5,000 kegs) every day.

The Guelph brewery also treats 100 per cent of its effluent waste streams on site, thereby minimizing the load on municipal wastewater systems.

Distribution is a big part of Sleeman’s extended operations, and recently introduced delivery routing software has proven to be both cost-effective and more energy-efficient.

Sustainability is one of three cornerstones of the social responsibility model that Martin Durocher, vice-president of human resources, is helping to build for the company (the other two are community engagement and diversity, equity and inclusion).

“We are focusing our sustainability efforts where we can have the most impact, water being a big one,” says Durocher. “We are also trying to be more transparent about how we do that, weaving information into our job postings, our website and our social media presence.”

In a highly competitive job market, adds Durocher, a commitment to sustainability is one way a company like Sleeman can stand out.

“We are noticing that environmental performance is something many job candidates and current employees really care about,” he says. “People have a lot of choices these days and one of them is to choose to be with a company that aligns with their values.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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