April 02, 2017
As keynote speaker at Tulane’s Environmental Law & Policy Summit March 11, New Belgium Brewing co-founder Kim Jordan (above and below) describes the many ways her company executes its commitment to green stewardship.
Students planning Tulane Law’s annual environmental law showcase confounded Professor Oliver Houck when they invited a craft brewery executive as the main attraction.
But New Belgium Brewing co-founder Kim Jordan hit all the right chords as keynote speaker, explaining her company’s multi-faceted commitment to caring for the environment and creating a corporate culture with a conscience.
For instance, the Colorado-based brewery recycles water from the beer-making process, converting the resulting methane into a power source. The company levies an energy tax on itself to fund green improvements. New Belgium owns the state’s largest private solar-panel array and works with government entities and Colorado State University on smart grid management.
“Business can be used as a force for good,” Jordan told attendees at the 22nd Annual Tulane Environmental Law & Policy Summit, held March 10-11.
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Some 400 attorneys, academics, students and representatives from government, industry and nonprofit groups attended this year’s summit, the largest student-run event of its kind in the South. Members of Tulane Law’s Environmental & Energy Law Society produce the conclave, with guidance from Houck, a 36-year Tulane Law faculty member, and Mark Davis, director of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy.
Jordan’s recounting of her story — from being a social worker hatching a business concept while hiking with her then-husband, to building an industry-leading brewery now wholly owned by its employees — capped two days of panels covering a broad range of current debates in the environmental and energy fields.
Students Paulina Andrade Pacheco (LLM ’17) and Jamie Futral (L ’18), president of the Tulane Environmental & Energy Law Society, assist attendees at the student-run 22nd Annual Tulane Environmental Law & Policy Summit March 10-11.
The panelist line-up included James Beard Award-winning Frank Brigtsen talking about sustainable seafood; former Entergy Corp. General Counsel Robert Sloan (a Tulane Law adjunct); Carney Anne Nasser (L ’03) with the PETA Foundation; California Deputy Attorney General Tamara Zakim; U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby (L ’87); and NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott.
Houston attorney Alumna Kristen Schlemmer (L ’10) said she was determined to attend this year’s summit after moving from the fast-paced trial boutique Susman Godfrey to a small, public interest-oriented environmental firm, Irvine & Conner, where she mainly focuses on issues affecting Texas wildlife.
“Some of my fondest memories at TLS center on the summit,” Schlemmer said. “I was pleased to see many things were the same — great speakers covering issues of importance to the Gulf Coast, ranging from threats to dolphins in Barataria Bay and climate and environmental justice in Louisiana — and I welcomed the opportunity to catch up with professors, local practitioners and old friends.”
Summit speaker co-chair Lizzie Garcia (L ’18) called New Belgium’s Jordan “a female pioneer in the craft brewing industry and a clear example of a successful woman fighting for environmental stewardship.”
Jordan explained in detail how her company focuses on the successful interplay of people, planet and profits, rather than seeing them as tradeoffs. “We’re successful because we’ve been able to knit the three of those into a holistic picture for how we operate,” she said.
Initiatives include conducting a carbon footprint analysis of making a six-pack of New Belgium’s signature Fat Tire Amber Ale and collaborating with Ben & Jerry’s on an ice cream (Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale) whose sales help fund a group working to raise awareness about climate change. Workers at New Belgium’s brewing plant in Asheville, North Carolina, receive public transit passes, and trucks hauling the beer sport “Share the Road” messages to promote cyclist and pedestrian safety. The company also has taken a lead on advocating to preserve the EPA’s Clean Water Rule.
Jordan said New Belgium, which opened in 1991, has four basic goals: produce world-class beer; promote a responsible beer culture; be environmental stewards; and have fun. The business started with 50-some workers and today has 800 — at the Fort Collins, Colorado, headquarters and a brewery in Asheville, North Carolina — and all are invited to an annual retreat to develop the next year’s strategy. While the company sponsors events like the “Tour de Fat” bike parade and tries to be a leader in talking about climate change and clean water, Jordan said it’s important to focus on the core business, which is brewing beer.
Her business advice included considering the “ripples” that result from corporate decisions: “We try to make sure that that ripple and the splash are working together to make the right kind of wave pattern.”
Tulane student Guyer Bogen (L ’17) said Jordan “reminded us all that there are many paths to being an environmental advocate.”