Lion's powerhouse beer brand Steinlager has gone carbon zero.
The move is believed to be the country's first mainstream beer brand to be carbon zero-certified.
To achieve this, Lion says Steinlager - which is brewed in East Tāmaki - has reduced its emissions at every stage of the production process from growing hops and barley, brewing the beer, packaging and transport, and paid to offset others.
Steinlager represents about 10 per cent of the total New Zealand beer market, and is Lion's biggest brand. This is not the first time its parent company, which owns other popular alcoholic beverage brands including Speights and Wither Hills, has taken an entire beer brand carbon zero.
Last year it undertook a similar albeit much smaller process to achieve this with its Christchurch brewery The Fermentist.
An audit of Steinlager operations found that production for a dozen bottles of Steinlager emits about 3.2 kilograms of carbon emissions, the equivalent of driving about 13 kilometres in a Toyota Hilux.
Geoff Kidd, Steinlager senior brand manager, said Lion was committed to reducing and offsetting its carbon emissions, starting with its biggest brand.
It has partnered with Toitū to identify what parts of its operations are the biggest polluters, and has invested in two offsetting initiatives - forest regeneration in the South Island and a renewable energy farm in India.
It will continue to work on strategies to reduce operational emissions.
So far, it has made moves to reuse carbon dioxide and glycol as part of the brewing process and source local yeast.
Kidd said it had been a 12-month process for Steinlager to achieve carbon neutrality.
"This is an ongoing future commitment, there's no end date for this," Kidd told the Herald.
"Going with Steinlager, we did want to make a large statement, and ultimately we want to encourage the industry and other brands to follow suit because it is something we believe is the right thing for the long term."
Kidd added that he hoped the move would inspire the wider private sector to acknowledge and do something about their emissions.
"We believe brands big and small can be run sustainably."
Kat MacDonald, manager of sustainability at Lion, said "taking action on climate change" was a big part of the company's sustainability strategy.
"Quite often what you find with these reduction initiatives is they themselves create efficiencies and therefore cost-savings," MacDonald added.
"We're always looking at ways to reduce carbon emissions and will continue to in the future. Until we get there, we need to address the emissions we currently produce by offsetting them. By costing carbon into our business, we can manage and reduce our impact."
MacDonald said the group took lessons from The Fermentist and applied those to Steinlager, which was much more challenging due to the scale of the operation.
Lion anticipates its entire organisation will be carbon zero from January 2021, when all of its manufacturing and operational sites across the country are certified emissions-free.
Dylan Firth, executive director of the Brewers Association of New Zealand, said Steinlager was the first major beer brand in New Zealand to go carbon neutral - he said the move was a big deal within the industry, and would likely encourage others to follow suit.
"Even beyond beer there are very few brands at all in FMCG that are certified [carbon neutral]," Firth told the Herald. "I would say congratulations to not just Lion but to the wider brewing community who are striving to focus on sustainability initiatives.
"This will give people the view that it can be done. There's opportunity there to take advantage of what consumers are asking for and what it means to be a good corporate citizen these days."
Firth said the beer industry was "well-positioned" to take operations carbon neutral.
"Brewers have the ability to look at their energy use and acknowledge the inputs to their products and how do they at every single level reduce those negative inputs."
Lion and rival beverage giant DB Breweries have both signed the Climate Change Leaders Coalition and have committed to reducing their carbon footprint.
"I hope that taking the lead by Lion, and DB doing some really good things in sustainability, people will look at what they are doing and strive to achieve this as well."