Synthesis ‘n’ suds
When Kris Spaulding started Brewery Vivant, she did so mindful of the possibilities to create a sustainable business with inspiration sparked at the University of Michigan.
“At Michigan, I developed a more well-rounded perspective of what it means to be a good citizen of the world,” she said.
Spaulding and her husband, Jason, co-founded the first Silver LEED-certified commercial microbrewery worldwide in Grand Rapids. Combining Jason’s brewery experience with an environmental focus from Kris’ studies at U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability, the couple forged an enterprise that’s highly tuned to its carbon footprint.
“We run this business with a triple bottom line approach putting equal emphasis on people and planet, not just profit,” Spaulding said. “Sustainability is a big part of our identity as a business, and we develop deeper relationships in our community because of it.”
For example, the brewery derives its power from renewable energy sources; it uses cans instead of bottles because the aluminum can is more likely to be recycled, is easier to ship and reduces the carbon footprint; purchases more than 60 percent of supplies in Michigan; and it donates 1 percent of sales locally. A Certified B Corporation, the brewery meets high social and environmental standards.
Spaulding studied environmental policy and behavior at U-M and often reflects back on what she learned around the psychology of environmental action and how to get people to care enough to change their behavior.
“This comes through in how we train our staff about what it means to work at Vivant as well as in my efforts to influence the business community on the benefits of being a mission-driven triple bottom line business,” she said. “As I look at how to have a bigger impact in my community, I also reflect back on the policy side of my degree and the importance of instigating change at that level.”
Sara Soderstrom, a professor at U-M’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, said that Spaulding’s experience is what studying sustainability at Michigan is all about.
“What we try to do is show how often there are ways to synthesize your business impact with the environment and with society,” she said.