Meet the Top Sustainable Women CEOs: Kim Jordan

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Kim Jordan, New Belgium Brewing CEO

This week, the Important Media Network has committed to highlighting some of the women that are making the world a better place. At Inspired Economist, we thought we’d take part by profiling a great sustainable woman CEO every day this week. Check in each day to see who we have next! 

Kim Jordan was New Belgium Brewing’s first bottler. She was also its first sales rep, financial planner, and marketer. Comes with the territory: Jordan and husband Jeff Lebesch founded the company. Reportedly they took homebrew on a hike into Rocky Mountain National Park, along with a pen and paper, and committed to writing down what they wanted their brewery to be…before they ever sold a single bottle of beer.

New Belgium, perhaps best known for its top-selling beer Fat Tire, was one of the early pioneers of the craft beer revolution that is now creating jobs across the country and bringing flavor back to my favorite beverage. It has also been sustainable-minded from the start, noted in one of the company’s stated Core Values and Beliefs:

Environmental stewardship: honoring nature at every turn of the business. 

Perhaps it was the hike into Rocky Mountain National Park, but Jordan leads a company that was the first brewery in America to go 100% wind powered. The company values employee engagement, so much so that the sustainability team visits each department on a regular basis to assess and improve sustainability metrics and performance. Through their Sustainability Management System, the company has committed to waste, energy, and water use reductions, and is regularly tracking progress. And it’s paying off: most brewers use about about a 7:1 water to beer ratio, and New Belgium creates beer with just a 5:1 ratio, meaning much less water wasted, which is critical in a dry state like Colorado. They even did a life cycle analysis on a six pack of Fat Tire!

Early projects Jordan led at the company included a wastewater treatment facility and a fully automated manufacturing process that helps the company recycle 85% of its cleaning fluids.  Jordan simply saw sustainability as a path to profitability–a truly visionary thing 10 years ago: “We’re very clear that the first thing we have to be here is profitable”, said Jordan, in a 2003 interview.

They now sell beer in 26 states and are opening a second brewery on the east coast in Asheville, North Carolina, so that they can distribute more economically, and with a lower carbon footprint, to east coast states. Speaking of economics, the company produces 600,000 barrels of beer annually, and has grown at an 11.9% compounded annual growth rate over the last five years, besting the craft brewing average by almost 3%.

New Belgium can be credited with a lot more than just being a sustainable company. They helped revitalize the downtown of the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, where New Belgium is headquartered, and ingrained a bicycle culture into the community. The employee-owners of New Belgium are often seen riding their trademark red cruiser bicycle into Old Town Fort Collins (as downtown is called), with many an admiring eye (for both the wicked cool bike and the notoriety for having earned that bike through service at one of the area’s best known and most respected businesses). Employees are granted ownership after one year, but perhaps more importantly, they get the cruiser, too. At the moment, 43% of New Belgium is owned by its employees.

In addition, the company does the Tour de Fat bike festival here, in which it encourages people to give up their car in exchange for a healthier, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly alternative: a shiny red bike.

To check out the rest of Important Media’s Focus on Women this week, check out an archive of this week’s women’s issues posts here!

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