Environment

The Louisville-based Brown-Forman Corporation has been awarded an award for its ambitious greenhouse gas reductions by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA presented the company with a 2015 Climate Leadership Award in Arlington, Virginia, last week.

In 2010, the alcohol producer set a goal to reduce the company’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent per unit of production by 2020. But by 2013, Brown-Forman had already exceeded that goal, reducing emissions by 46 percent. So, Environmental Health and Safety Director Andy Battjes said the company set another goal.

“And so the new goal is from a new baseline of 2012, a 15 percent absolute emissions reduction,” he said. “So regardless of increases in production, we’re going to reduce our total greenhouse gas emissions.”

Brown-Forman’s main sources of greenhouse gases are the fuel burned in boilers to produce steam for distillation and barrel-making, and the electricity the company purchases, Battjes said. As it pursues steeper emissions reductions, the company will install energy saving LED lights and more efficient heating systems. They’re also working to replace the fossil fuels burned in boilers with renewable sources of energy. The company’s tequila distillery in Mexico now uses new boilers powered by biomass, rather than oil.

Brown-Forman is undertaking these emissions reductions for economic reasons, Battjes said. “Because it is tied to energy, it’s part of our costs. So, as most companies do, we’re trying to reduce our costs where we can. Improving energy efficiency and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions is certainly one way to do that.”

But besides that, greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are contributing to climate change. And Brown-Forman sees climate change as a business risk—even including it as a risk in the company’s SEC filings for investors.

“The reason we see it as a risk is because our products rely on clean and available sources of water and we rely on high-quality agricultural ingredients like corn and grapes and agave,” Battjes said.

“So climate change puts both of those things at risk. Extreme weather impacts such as drought can obviously impact water supplies. But extreme weather events and drought can also impact the availability and the quality of agricultural ingredients. So, if we don’t have those two things, we’re not able to produce our high-quality products.”

Brown-Forman was one of eight American companies recognized for excellence in setting greenhouse gas management goals.