We Want Our Booze to Be Sustainable Too

What's the most important thing you look for when you buy beer? Is it a punny name? A cool label? The fact that it's anything but an IPA? For some, increasingly, it may be that the beer is sustainably made — and they say they're willing to pay for it.

Researchers at Indiana University have just published a paper looking into whether sustainability practices at breweries actually pay off. It turns out that consumers are, on average, willing to pay $1.30 more for a six-pack if it comes from a company that values the environment. Brewing is a huge energy-suck, and measures by some brewers to cut down on costs have included solar panels, onsite wastewater treatment plants, insulated brewing vessels, and using recaptured steam as power.

It's one more indicator about consumer habits, especially for millennials: We want ethical and sustainable supply chains, since we see moral and political implications in our purchasing power. It should also paint an encouraging picture for businesses of any stripe — going green won't put you in the red, and in fact, employees are willing to go farther for businesses that walk the walk on corporate responsibility and sustainability.

If this seems like nothing more than an insufferable hipster move propped up by selective survey data, the IU researchers actually found that "there was no significant correlation between the type of beer that consumers preferred and their willingness to pay more for sustainability, after controlling for differences in price. Consumers of traditional American lagers — think Budweiser and Coors — were as likely to be willing to pay more as those who prefer craft beers, a category that includes such exotic brews as avocado honey ale and a wild ale brewed with yeast cultured from the brewmaster's beard hairs."

Beer-lovers may be weird from time to time, but you can't say they don't passionately care.