Creature Comforts is a B-Corp Certified craft brewery based in Athens, Georgia that has a social purpose rooted in fostering human connection.
Founded in 2014, in recent years, the company has significantly expanded in the southeastern US and it will soon open a brewery and taproom in Los Angeles, CA. Throughout its growth it has prioritised maintaining its values.
While many companies struggle with mission drift as they grow, I wanted to learn more about how Creature Comforts keeps values and purpose front and center as it has scaled. My recent discussion with Fenwick Broyard, Vice President of Culture at Creature Comforts Brewing Co. provides a number of insights about how about how companies can address this challenge.
Christopher Marquis: What are the values of Creature Comforts Brewing Co. and why was it important to outline these from the start?Fenwick Broyard: In all honesty, we actually didn’t have our values outlined from the very start. We had some pillars upon which we built our business, including quality, professionalism, community, balance, and creativity, but our values didn’t get articulated until three years in; and, once they did, they were equal parts aspiration and discovery.
We see our values as the answer to the question of “how” for our purpose and mission. We accomplish our purpose of “fostering human connection” through fidelity to our mission of “being a force for good through the development of industry-leading beverages and experiences.” The way we stay on mission is by adhering to the values which were developed by a cross-functional Council Group, as well as the associated behavioral expectations that have been outlined in our Code of Conduct. Specifically, the values we’ve established for ourselves at Creature Comforts are:
Broyard: I think that’s been an area of opportunity for us. We experienced near meteoric growth at the outset and added almost 20 employees a year over the first six years. In fact, I’d say in some ways the market pulled us "out over our skis"…and then there was the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, I’d say we were doing a good job of maintaining our values, exactly because they were derivatives of the thing our staff loved most about our product – i.e. that it “fostered human connection.” We built a culture around having tough conversations face-to-face, and over a beer; and then, against every instinct and desire we had, we had to shutter our offices and promote social distancing while still attempting to "foster human connection" virtually. Along with all other businesses, we’ve struggled to recreate the organic connections upon which innovation and teamwork depend; but, with the opening of our first-ever headquarters in a few weeks, I’m confident we’ll be able to recapture our cultural magic. We're at a unique moment in our company's history, wherein the absolute best thing we can do is return to our Purpose, and have it serve as the North Star by which we navigate the treacherous journey of scaling.
Marquis: What made Creature Comforts seek out B Corp Certification? How has this impacted your day-to-day operations?
Broyard: We like to joke to ourselves that B-Corp certification sought us, because it was through the observation of a member of University of Georgia’s business school that we even learned about the certification. We were contacted by a program director at UGA’s Terry College of Business, who gave us a book on the subject, along with his assertion that (in his estimation) we “already were a B Corp.” And, though we’d never even heard of a B Corp before receiving that recommendation, our CEO and then Community Manager both agreed that certification would be worth pursuing.
We specifically pursued B-Corp certification to have it impact our day-to-day operations, inasmuch as the B Impact Assessment has served, for us, as a repository of best practices in all five impact areas. We’ve pulled several ideas, and written dozens of policies, based on continual engagement with the assessment, led by our current Community Manager, and self-proclaimed “resident B-Keeper,” Ally Hellenga. Finally, in addition to program and policy ideas, we’ve also used the assessment to establish goals by establishing certification point-breaks as targets for our internal and external efforts. Excitedly, we’ve just put all of this on display with the release of our first-ever Impact Report, released in celebration of annual B Corp Month.
Marquis: How is sustainability prioritized in your brewing process? How do you balance making a great product while mitigating waste?
Broyard: As we have across all five of the other areas of the B Impact Assessment, we’ve set aggressive targets for ourselves in sustainability. In fact, our current company-wide sustainability KPI is to reduce our 2023 carbon emissions down to the equivalent of what they were back in 2020…back when we were producing 30,000 fewer barrels of beer than we are set to produce this year.
Recently, we've also achieved TRUE Silver Level Certification for our zero-waste efforts at our production facility, with a diversion rate of 99.8%. Achieving this requires us to be committed to identifying efficiencies at every step of the brewing and packaging processes, as well as through our shipping and fleets, and every other place where we are consuming energy. Monitoring all of this is the job of our full-time Sustainability Manager, Jacob Yarbrough, who literally teaches us all something new every day. But ultimately, I have to say that our commitment to sustainability is really the outgrowth of the heart of our co-founder Adam Beauchamp, for whom sustainability is as high a priority as quality and safety in the production of our product.
Marquis: Creature Comforts has several employee-led impact programs. How do you foster a company culture that prioritizes community involvement?
Broyard: As important as it is to leverage our resources as an organization, it’s just as critical to motivate our people to engage with their community—becoming not just residents, but citizens. To this end, we introduced an Employee Volunteer Program in 2022 with the goal of making serving simple—creating accessible and meaningful service touchpoints for all employees throughout the year. We assembled a cross-functional team of Community Impact Ambassadors to help identify service opportunities their teams could get excited about and that would fit within their respective work rhythms—again, our goal being to make serving our community as simple and accessible for every Creature Comforts employee as possible. We also created and launched in 2021 the Eudaimonia award, to annually recognize the employee who best exemplified our commitment to making our community better. In 2022 alone, 73 individual employees (55% of the company) served a total of 1,785+ hours, serving a total of 87 beneficiaries – i.e. a combination of nonprofits, corporate consultations, and long-term mentorships. And, in 2023, we’re hoping to do even better, having established as our community KPI raising the percentage of Creatures serving in a given year from 55% to 75%.
Marquis: What makes a brewery a great vessel for positive social impact?
Broyard: According to historian Stephen Mansfield, corporate citizenship was born in a brewery. In his 2009 book, The Search for God and Guinness: A biography of the beer that changed the world, Mansfield set out to discover who the first company on historical record was to have taken the call to serve seriously. And that pursuit led him to 18th Century Dublin, to St. James Gate, and to Guinness.
Anyone who seriously reads Mansfield’s account will conclude that Guiness was the first business to add strategic value to their community. It is our belief that craft breweries are ideally positioned to continue that legacy, both because of the gathering potential of our product and spaces and the spirit of collaboration by which our industry operates. And, because it is, to a large extent place-based, craft beer has the opportunity to build deep roots in community. And, our belief is that since we’re going to be a force no matter what, we may as well be a force for good.