We’ve been on the sustainability journey since 1698! First and foremost, we’re a community business. The brewery sits on five acres in the heart of Faversham in Kent — the original site of artesian water that was discovered in the 16th century. Generations of the Shepherd and Neame families have worked here. But perhaps more importantly, so have generations of local families.

Jonathan Neame
Chief Executive
Shepherd Neame

jonathan meame

Shepherd Neame is Britain’s oldest and largest independent family brewer, and the company has been on the sustainability journey since its earliest days. It sits on five acres in the middle of Faversham, the original site of artesian water that was discovered in the 16th century. Generations of the Shepherd and Neame families have worked in the business, but just as importantly, so have generations of local families.

A family and a business — both driven by purpose and values

For five generations, the family’s unrelenting sense of purpose to enrich the lives of their customers and communities has been driven by a culture of shared values. Together, purpose and values have been the foundation of Shepherd Neame’s business model and its history of sustainability. That foundation continues to be unshakable.

In Jonathan Neame’s view, the company’s journey is enhanced by having both family and non-family members aligned to a singular purpose: enriching people’s lives. As he remarks, “A sustainability sea change is happening in the post-pandemic world. Younger employees definitely want to work for a business that has a strong sense of purpose. They need to believe they are working for a company that is authentic and relevant. And, yes, they expect to be paid a market rate, but their learning and development opportunities and how those will help to shape their future are what’s crucially important.”

‘The jam in the donut of Faversham’

Shepherd Neame’s unmatched heritage in the heartland of Britain, combined with its long-term immersion in local communities, provides the company with unique insights, knowledge and trust. “We’re part of the community, and that enables us to adapt and develop our business in parallel with the reality of what’s happening demographically and economically with our customers, employees and partners,” states Jonathan.

The Shepherd Neame family is playing the long game. When times have been tough, they’ve shown grit and resilience in sticking to the delivery of their customer and community promises. And in good years, they’ve capped their dividends with a view that taking too much could mean they’re under-investing in the business and putting their legacy at risk.

Sustaining this shared value and sense of purpose has to be something that others can see and believe in at the operating level — a purpose that’s both authentic and relevant. A good example is Shepherd Neame’s “Women in Brewing” initiative. “This is not a tick-the diversity-box exercise,” remarks Jonathan. “Women were actually the pioneers of brewing in the early days. And that’s embedded in the DNA of our family and throughout our business. But over the years, the number of female brewers has dwindled, and now we’re making a sustained effort to encourage women to come back. It’s not only an important part of our history, but an important part of our future as well.”

Sustaining a time-honored legacy

In addition to its brewing and hospitality businesses, Shepherd Neame owns and invests in listed buildings because of the importance of preserving the history and a legacy. “We are dedicated to safeguarding the local brewing heritage for future generations,” says Jonathan, “and our investment in the upkeep of these buildings helps to preserve time-honoured crafts, such as thatching, signwriting, stonemasonry, traditional carpentry and glass etching.”

Environmental leadership

The company also continues to be at the forefront of environmental sustainability within the brewing and hospitality industry itself. eighty percent of the hops for the beer that the company produces are sourced locally, for example, and 100 percent of the barley is purchased in the UK — even though it’s more expensive than ingredients sourced overseas. And all of the company’s beers are brewed with the finest traditional ingredients including water sourced from the artesian well deep beneath the brewery.

As well as pioneering sustainable brewing methods, the business is seeking to reduce its impact on the local environment and wider communities. Its Streamlined Energy & Carbon Report for the 2022 financial year demonstrates how measuring and reporting emissions data has encouraged the business to target further inefficiencies and improve the company’s overall environmental performance.

For example, an application is currently being processed for the installation of 650 solar panels on the roof of the bottling hall, which is expected to produce an estimated 250 megawatt hours of energy per year and save approximately 60 tons of CO2 equivalent gross emissions.

The direct benefits include lower energy costs, a better understanding of climate risks and allowing the business to be confident in its role as a proactive sustainability leader within the industry

Doing business in a socially responsible way

Shepherd Neame takes also takes its responsibility to customers and communities seriously and believes its pubs should provide a friendly, safe environment for customers, and the pubs are encouraged to be active participants in their communities. Jonathan adds, “We believe that well-run pubs, parental guidance, individual responsibility and suitable education are important to establish a sensible attitude to drinking, and we support a number of initiatives to help achieve our commitment to do business in a socially responsible manner.”

Guided by good governance

With strong board accountability and robust governance to underpin it, the collective responsibility to Shepherd Neame’s sustainable business strategy reinforces the trust that has been built within the community and among the company’s customers. The board aims to ensure that the strategy and objectives are consistent with the company’s culture: namely, an emphasis on serving its communities and preserving a long-term outlook; encouraging originality; and maintaining the company’s reputation as a good partner and employer through sustained fair and ethical behavior.


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