Earth Day: Pilsner & Polar Bears - What's the Link?

By Carlsberg UK Sustainability Manager, Peter Statham.

Carlsberg Pilsner and Siku (the polar bear cub) are both Danish. But that’s not all they’ve got in common.

Siku’s relatives are at risk from rising temperatures and extreme weather events, and so are the crops – barley and hops – that we use to make beer. There is, of course, a key difference: humans are responsible for global warming, and it’s up to us to avoid the impacts.

That’s why Carlsberg is committed to eliminating emissions from its breweries globally and to contributing to limiting the average global temperature increase to 1.5oC.

Today, April 22nd, is Earth Day. The theme: Protecting our species.

While the link between beer and biodiversity might not seem obvious, there’s a lot we can do at Carlsberg to support a healthy planet. Global warming is likely to be the biggest cause of species extinction this century.[1] According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an average global temperature increase of just 1.5oC could put 20-30% of species at risk of extinction. A 2oC rise would have far wider and even more devastating impacts.

What can a beer company do?

In 2017, we launched our sustainability programme – Together Towards ZERO – setting global targets leading to 2030.

Setting stretching targets isn’t enough. We want to ensure that our breweries do not contribute to climate change beyond 1.5oC – the more ambitious goal of the Paris Climate Agreement. So we worked with experts at the Carbon Trust to align our targets with a scientific analysis of what’s needed to limit global warming to 1.5oC, known as science-based targets.

We’re one of only four companies to have set science-based targets at this ambitious level of 1.5oC.

They focus on two areas:

  1. Our breweries: ZERO carbon emissions by 2030, and a 50% reduction by 2022 (from 2015).
  2. Our entire value chain – the beer-in-hand footprint: 30% reduction by 2030, 15% by 2022 (from 2015).

These are ambitious targets. Achieving them requires innovation in the way we source ingredients, and how we make, package and distribute our products.

We are investing in state-of-the-art equipment at our breweries, to use energy and water in the most efficient way. In 2018, carbon emissions from breweries across the Group were 17% less.

Packaging is the biggest contributor to our beer-in-hand footprint – around 40%. By cutting the amount of material we use, especially plastic, we can significantly reduce our beer-in-hand footprint.

Enter Snap Pack. By using glue to replace the hi-cone on our small packs of cans, we expect to cut plastic used on our packs globally by 50 to 76%. Once this is rolled out across all of the 4, 6 and 8 packs across the Group it could save as much as 1,200 tonnes of plastic – around 60 million plastic bags!

Next, we’re already working on the ultimate zero waste bottle – the Green Fibre Bottle. It will be made from sustainably sourced wood fibres. The greenest beer bottle ever? Probably.

This is just the start. We are constantly in the pursuit of better. And we look forward to sharing more on our way Together Towards ZERO. Find out more about our plan in the Carlsberg Group Sustainability Report 2018, and look out for our UK Sustainability Report, coming soon.



Photo Credit: Lars Schmidt [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]