In late 2018, we interviewed Alan Mahon, founder of Brewgooder – a craft beer company on a mission to bring one million people clean water in Malawi and beyond. We heard Alan’s take on the relationship between business and impact and about the driving force behind their success.
According to The Scotsman, Brewgooder currently supply 481 Tesco supermarkets with single bottles of their product, adding to its existing nationwide contracts with Asda and Co-op. They are also plastic-free, B Corp Certified, a member of Social Enterprise UK, and most importantly, as of September 2018, sales of their Clean Water Lager had enabled 40,000 people previously in water poverty access to clean drinking water.
With successes like this, we thought Alan would be an excellent first guest to feature on our Spotlight On Scottish Business series – a selection of stories highlighting the business case for values-based business. A transcript of our interview can be found below:
1. Here at Scotland Can B, we are firm advocates of the idea that doing good is good for business. Is this something you have found for Brewgooder?
The idea that “doing good is good for business” is something that we live by. Consumers are now more more savvy, they know, demand and want to spend their money in better ways at every opportunity. If companies can provide these opportunities by being more sustainable, ethical and conscious of people or the planet, they will benefit from that trend. This trend is only going to accelerate. So for me, the better you can be at doing good, the more good you can do for your business as well.
2. We are currently offering training programmes such as Purpose Pioneers and are inviting business owners and CEOs to measure their social impact using our Quick Impact Assessment Tool. How have you found measuring impact useful here at Brewgooder? Has it contributed to your business goals?
Measuring impact is probably the biggest thing for us on many different levels. We have our big impact measure – which is how close we are to reaching our 1 million person target – and to be able to measure that along a continuum allows us to ask ‘are we progressing?’ ‘are we commercially going forward?’ ‘are we going forward in an impact way?’ and ‘how can we speed that up?’. In terms of measuring other kinds of social impact, that’s been essential to creating the culture and the priorities that sit underneath it.
So for me – whether its gender pay gap analysis, being conscious of the packaging choices you make – the ability to measure and compare allows you to gain a commercial or marketing benefit from all the things we just discussed from the consumer perspective. But it also allows you to see where you exist relative to competitors within your industry as well. This isn’t necessarily just competition though, but also collaboration – people might be setting a benchmark that you want to move towards and so being able to measure, compare and get a score that can be simplified and digested by anyone is helpful. It allows you to see not just where you’re at, but also where you could go – what levers you can press or pull to get a better score.. and who doesn’t like getting a better score?
3. Your mission is to provide 1 million people with clean drinking water through the power of craft beer. How would you say this value-based goal has impacted the way that you and your team work?
People work for different reasons but ultimately everyone has to work. That’s a fact of life but increasingly there is competition for people – good people – and having a purpose has allowed us to attract the great workforce that we may not have been able to have without our purpose. They work harder because they’re accountable to something that isn’t just their manager or their boss or whatever, they’re accountable to something greater than that. This also gives them a greater sense of worth that they are contributing. Whether it’s one case or a million cases, one person or 10 thousand people, that’s more than would have benefitted without their work.
Everyone in the [Brewgooder] team works hard, it’s just in their nature, but when they go out and assess impact through project visits [to Malawi] they actually come back working even harder as they are aware that they have a very real impact in the world beyond just the satisfaction of selling beer.
4. Do you think that consumers are more likely to choose a product that contributes positively to society?
Increasingly that’s how a lot of people choose to spend their money. Whether it’s with a social enterprise that’s doing x amount of impact within a particular field isn’t’ necessarily the issue. More and more consumers demand better from all companies. The trick is is making ‘doing good’ accessible to them. We wanted to make a good beer so that people didn’t have to sacrifice to do social good. That demographic of consumers is growing at a rate that is faster than any other segment of the consumer population, and so tapping into that and giving them products that can allow them to express their moral preference/gauge can only be beneficial.
5. What is the journey you’d expect a mainstream business (organisations not currently motivated by making a positive socio-environmental impact) to embark on regarding value-based business – or is doing good whilst doing business a synergy that is exclusive to social enterprises and certified B Corps?
I don’t think it’s exclusive to social enterprises or B corps, I think there are many different ways to do good. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything charitable, you can just trust and respect and give quality of life to your employees for instance, and that applies to any kind of company. You can also respect the environment and make changes, whether it be packaging or how you produce and dispose of waste, these can radically alter the world around you without having a higher purpose or mission aligned with them. The place to start would be to understand that it’s out there. We’re lucky enough to have generations, or iterations, of social enterprises and B Corps that allow us to ‘hack’ our way there, to shortcut to a better way of doing business.
We’ve certainly benefited from the rise of craft beer allowing us to see what works and what doesn’t to essentially ‘short cut’ our way there. So if you looked at it from a different point of view, there are many examples of successful social enterprises in Scotland that are doing great things that are good for business and for the world that you can appropriate and build into your own business models quite easily.
6. How do you think we can avoid replicating the more traditional model of CSR that hasn’t always been the most effective in the past?
CSR hasn’t necessarily failed in the past. It was probably an embryonic recognition that business has to do good whilst doing business. I think that can inspire other people to go and build businesses around purpose knowing that there are supporters out there that will help in that process. CSR doesn’t make sense as it’s something that you do ‘after the fact’. It’s usually a budget that is given to a charity after the profit has been made. Actually saying that every business decision has an impact on the wider world, and asking how do we fine tune those impacts to make sure they’re doing the most good whilst still conforming to what the business is set up to do, be it to make profit etcetera, is the big paradigm shift.
7. If more mainstream businesses start to measure and improve their socio-environmental impact, what effect do you think this will have on Scotland as a nation?
I think in Scotland, we over index in businesses doing good. I feel it’s within the Scottish psyche to be compassionate whilst doing good things. There are numerous examples of individuals who have done it. I think it can only be a positive thing. Businesses which start to do good will benefit from having people who want to purchase and buy or use their services in a small way that can be expanded to global operations. There are lots of global companies within Scotland that are actually already doing that – whether its Skyscanner, Brewdog or others. So if they can prove this model within Scotland, they can export that to the rest of the world. By the time they get it right in Scotland, they stand a much higher chance of being successful internationally.
Does your business have the potential to make a tangible social or environmental impact? Benchmark and improve your business’ capacity to act as a force for good by taking our 30-minute Quick Impact Assessment today!