Eco-certification for Craft Brewers

By Caleb Stratton

Growing green beer

Blogs, articles and videos have showcased craft brewers at the forefront of the responsibility revolution, but a recognizable medium to educate consumers about sustainable beer has yet to emerge. With this in mind, what options do responsible brewers have to leverage their sustainability in reaching consumers?

One choice is eco-certification, a third party assessment of sustainability analyzed within an industry-specific metric. C.R.I.S.P. or Craft Responsibility In Sustainable Practices is developing a certification to recognize brewers who have capitalized on sustainability and deliver certified products to responsible consumers.


Eco-certification is perceived as a strategy that can potentially change existing consumption and production formats so that they are guided and informed by sustainable principles.  Certification systems have the power to improve practices and set standards for industry reform. The popularity of eco-certification is largely attributed to the fact that these programs often unify valued qualities concerning equity, health, poverty, resource management, conservation, and environment into one system.

“Green” products now make up roughly nine percent of all new-product introductions in the United States. As a result, over the past 30 years many eco-certification programs have been formed in an effort to measure and standardize industry practices. In 2010, consumers spent approximate $5.8 billion on fair-trade certified products, a 260 percent increase from 2006.  Organic food sales saw an increase that amounted to $26.7 billion in 2010 from $1 billion in 1990. In the brewing industry alone, sales of U.S. organic beer jumped from $9 million in 2003 to $41 million in 2009.

Coffee, fish, and wine are examples of industries that have developed third party metrics for certifications. Energy Star, ASHRAE and USGBC lead the way in the construction and development industry by providing certification or standards for attainment. ISEAL Alliance, B Corporations, and ISO provide guidance to organizations that seek to address corporate responsibility. Each one of these certification systems offers a valuable resource for the craft beer industry to shape its third party certification and enables brewers to pursue conservation ahead of government regulation.

Craft Responsibility In Sustainable Practices

C.R.I.S.P. borrows key aspects from each of these programs and will work in collaboration with local brewers to develop a transparent framework for certification. A system of analyses will look at scale, region, innovation, energy use, material use, waste, water, corporate culture and community involvement through a series of measurement tools designed to indicate impact throughout product lifecycle.  Brewers will also receive a sustainable master planning document that is designed as both an assessment tool for purposes of certification, and a guidance document so that they can attain higher levels of sustainable practices.

C.R.I.S.P. believes that the brewers of the future that will truly stand out and those that make it through the next phase of market saturation, will be those that build a resilient business plan shaped around measured, sustainable performance. Through membership and certification, brewers can once again take advantage of open source collaboration to ensure the continued growth of craft brewing. The question is, would you enjoy a C.R.I.S.P. certified brew that supports your local sustainable brewer? I certainly would prefer an honest beverage; in fact I’m having one right now.

Caleb Stratton is the Lead Resiliency Planner for PlanSustainable, a company formed while undertaking his Master of Science in Sustainability.  C.R.I.S.P. emerged from the search to illustrate the benefits of corporate responsibility in a simple common denominator – beer. Contributors to C.R.I.S.P. include Jimmy Carbone of the Good Beer Seal, James Tai – Cicerone®, Kai Olson-Sawyer an energy and water analyst for GRACE, and J. Peter Lynch renewable venture specialist. The next step for C.R.I.S.P. is working with local brewers to establish a functional unit of measurement. To participate in the pilot or development of C.R.I.S.P. you can reach Caleb at

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