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The Green Bottle Goes Gold: Heineken USA HQ Goes LEED

leonkaye headshotWords by Leon Kaye
Energy & Environment

Heineken USA recently released its 2011 sustainability report. The White Plains, NY-based subsidiary of the brewing giant touts a bevy of new accomplishments on the corporate social responsibility front. In addition to the typical brewing company promise to promote responsible drinking, Heineken USA also announced achievements on community work as well as the environment.

The company says its goal is “to be the greenest international brewer in the world.” To that end, here are some of Heineken USA’s most recent sustainability and social responsibility moves:

LEED Gold: Last year, Heineken USA completed the remodeling of its New York headquarters. The company earned Gold certification under the LEED for Commercial Interiors ratings framework. Recycling was part of the remodeled space’s schtick: the elevator lobby walls are adorned with the company’s iconic green bottles. Green building materials used during the headquarters’ construction were mostly non-toxic and contained low- or no-VOC compounds. In addition to building materials containing post-consumer recycled content, all of the goods used during the building’s construction were produced  within 500 miles of the office. Heineken also claims that 85 percent of the construction waste generated from the project was diverted from local landfills. LED lights, motion sensors and an emphasis on the use of natural light also decreases the building’s electricity requirements. Of course, this is a beer company’s headquarters, so most visitors, including one reviewer, would gush the most about the beer taps in the reception area.

Fuel efficient fleet: Heineken USA’s corporate automobile fleet now offers a hybrid choice to its employees. According to Heineken USA, 10 percent of its employees have chosen the hybrid option, and as a result, the company’s overall miles per gallon driven ratio has improved.

Responsible drinking: Heineken USA takes credit for booking over 900,000 taxi rides by consumers in the past year. Due to the company’s sponsorship of a smartphone app, Taxi Magic, consumers can instantly get connected to a local taxi service anywhere in the country.

Water stewardship: Beer production has a massive water footprint, and multinational breweries are scrambling to improve their beer-to-water footprint. Heineken USA is mum about this metric and instead points to the reduction of water used in its buildings, water efficient fixtures in restrooms and filtered water for ice makers and coffee machines. The real difference in water usage, however, is in the company’s supply chain.

Unfortunately for Heineken USA, much of the information released on the company’s sustainability site is vague and focused more on promises and pandering than results. Two years ago, Heineken promised it would become the world’s greenest brewer in 10 years. But while its competitors such as SABMiller and AB Inbev work on the issues behind beer’s environmental and social impacts, Heineken, at least within its USA subsidiary, is focused on feel-good projects that look good on a web site or in a media kit but make little difference to stakeholders. At least those beer bottle elevator banks in White Plains look chic.

Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable BusinessInhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter.

Image courtesy Heineken USA.

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye, Executive Editor, has written for Triple Pundit since 2010. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media, and the Editor in Chief of CR Magazine. His previous work can be found at The GuardianSustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas.

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