From brewpub to B Corp, the 4 Pines story
Over a decade ago, Jaron Mitchell and his father went on a search for beer after a surf. With limited options, they realised there was an opportunity to do something together: build a small brewpub unlike any other.
What started as a brewpub in Manly has grown to be one of Australia's iconic beer brands with venues around New South Wales and Victoria. The family business built a community along the way, and has partnered with B Corps like Ben & Jerry's and Edge Environment since certifying in 2017.
4 Pines is known for doing things differently, including their approach to their environmental footprint. For the third consecutive year, 4 Pines is recognised for their innovations and conserving resources during manufacturing on the Best for the World in Environment list. We spoke with Co-Founder and CEO Jaron Mitchell to hear more about how he built a brewery that treads lightly.
Watch the conversation here or read the interview below.
Even if, in your little business, your capacity is one or two or four things, you can be happy and content doing those one or two or four things really well. If your spirit is there and your intent is there as your business grows, that will just naturally grow because that's what you want to do.
B Lab: I want to first ask you about some of the things that you've done to first measure your footprint and impact. At what point along the journey were you realising that this is a pretty resource intensive industry, and we need to do something about it?
Jaron: The stance we've taken is that if somebody chooses a 4 Pines product, at least we can be a better, cleaner version of a beer. I think that people are going to continue to drink beer for another 5,000 years; they've already drunk beer for 5,000 to date.
It takes water to produce a litre of beer. In fact, the industry average is about five to six litres of water to make about one litre of beer, by the time you make it, boil some off, you clean, and so forth. Over the years, we've got that down to about three and a half litres. That flows through to your energy. All of our energy now is 100% renewable across manufacturing and hospitality.
B Lab: What about some of the challenges that you may have faced in both measuring and managing that impact? Particularly the environmental impact over the past ten years as you've grown so much.
Jaron: Not only having enough bandwidth in each individual's day to make sure that they can record and measure and do, but also, when you implement something new, it can be quite cumbersome to squeeze that through all your different functions of your business and departments. The 'who does what' and where. It really just comes down to a resourcing. I'd say that's the greatest challenge.
B Lab: What about some of the trends that you've seen in the beer and hospitality industry over the last few years. Do you see it becoming more sustainable, at least as a necessity more than anything?
Jaron: You either haven't gotten around to it yet - or maybe you never get around to it - all the way through to having a real crack at it. I think more and more companies, not only in our industry, but in all industries, are just slowly moving along this continuum.
B Lab: Throughout COVID, you were running a beer and hospitality business. I'm sure there were some of those big moments where you had no idea what to do with no playbook to go by. How did that affect the business as a whole?
Jaron: With every hospitality person on the initial call, I said, "Look, I don't know where this is going to end." This was before we even knew there was such a thing as JobKeeper and JobSeeker and all of those things. I said, "But the one thing I can assure you is that 4 Pines as a company will hang on longer than anyone. That's just what we do."
We've always been about our people. We started as a family business.
But to survive, you can't hang on forever. You can't pay a payroll of hundreds of people if there's no revenue coming in the door. But we managed through it, and we stuck it out. I think people trusted that statement was true: that 4 Pines will hang on for as long as they possibly can. Within four weeks, we completely changed our hospitality business around and we turned into a direct to consumer business, which was turning over as much revenue as the pub side of the business was.
B Lab: What is something that you want to see become the norm for all businesses?
Jaron: I've always wanted to focus my energy on doing a really good job on what I can control. If I do my good job, hopefully, the effect of that is one of many examples that other businesses and B Corps could learn from. That can create a knock on or ripple effect that maybe some businesses will absorb parts of, and maybe some won't.
Congratulations to 4 Pines for being recognised as Best for the World in Environment. See the rest of the Best for the World 2021 lists here.
Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.