Why Should a Brewery Become a Benefit Company?

Photo by  Karolina Szczur  

Photo by Karolina Szczur 

From Voodoo Donuts to Forest Park to food carts, Oregon is proud of its many unique attractions. At the top of the list for many people is the fact that this is a world-class beer state with many Oregonians proud of this thriving and energetic industry. It is a part of our culture and people from around the world visit our region to sample our microbrews.

Editor Martin Cizmar of Willamette Week’s 2018 Oregon Beer Guide states in his introduction to the guide, “Our beer industry is mature and robust and ready for effusive praise and unsparing critique.”With new entries entering the market, it is hard to keep track of all of them and as Cizmar refers, we are quick to evaluate and critique each brewery, based not only on taste, but on their story and their business model. 

This is where Benefit Companies come into the picture.

Benefit Companies (or Benefit Corporations) are legal business entities in Oregon who practice the ‘Triple Bottom Line’ – People, Planet, and Profit. It’s a movement driven by cause-driven Millennials. And they drink a lot of beer.  In fact, 58% of craft beer drinkers are under the age of 35.  “Small beer brands appeal to Millennials over 21. Their attitude about businesses and products is causing a shift in the beer industry, especially for craft beer. “

As breweries differentiate themselves with new tastes, high quality production, and unique stories about using local technology and ingredients, there is an opportunity to distinguish themselves as a business that is also committed to the greater good, the foundation of a Benefit Company. Being a Benefit Company means the brewery adheres to principles and values that have growing appeal with consumers. They support their employees, they understand green practices, - striving for sustainability - and they participate in activities throughout the year that support healthy communities for all.

And as competition heats up, it’s time for breweries to brand themselves as something more. “The market is very saturated with increasing number of breweries and brands competing for the same shelf space,” Patrick Livingston, a consultant of client insights, stated in a recent Statesman Journal article. “Beer is a heavily marketed category. There are more competitors and flat volume.”

The Benefit Company is the catalyst for a better business, a better community and a key business differentiator to boot.

In addition to profit, the Benefit Corporation includes positive impact on society, workers, the community and the environment as its legally defined goals. (ORS 60.750 – ORS 60.770)

What’s important to note is that today’s consumers including our microbrew drinkers are advocating for these changes using their pocketbooks. A 2015 research study by Nielsen reports that nearly 66% of global online consumers across 60 countries are willing to pay more for products and services by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact – across all income levels.

The good news is that it’s a fairly easy process to become a Benefit Company in Oregon. Once certified, the brewery can fly the colors of a brewery that is doing all the right things.  

Needless to say, we think it’s a perfect time for breweries to step up and announce to the world their commitment to being a socially responsible business that also happens to create amazing beer.  

To that we say (as we lift our favorite Oregon IPAs), “cheers!”

For more information about Benefit Companies and how to become one, go here or read more in our book “Putting Soul Into Business: How the Benefit Corporation is Transforming American Business for Good,” which includes an interview from Hopworks Urban Brewery founder and brewmaster Christian Ettinger.


MaryAnne Harmer