Doing the right thing - the Adnams way

Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams.

Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams. - Credit: Jason Bye

Responsible Business Week, which runs from April 20 to 26, is an initiative by Business in the Community to highlight the positive contribution being made by businesses to the environment, their local communities and society in general. Among the firms well-known in the eastern region for helping to set the responsible business agenda is Southwold-based Adnams. Here, chief executive Andy Wood explains the company’s approach to ‘doing the right thing’.

At the turn of the current century, Southwold-based Adnams embarked upon a review which was to result in the company adopting a new values-led strategy.

Andy Wood, who joined Adnams in 1994 and has been chief executive since 2010, was involved in the process from the outset, being appointed to the board as sales and marketing director in 2000 before becoming managing director in 2006.

“We looked at the market from a strategic perspective and had a dialogue at board level, asking how we were going to compete as a mid-sized business in a very crowded and extremely competitive marketplace,” he says.

“We felt we had to tap into the collective brainpower and wisdom of our employees. One of the ways to achieve that sort of engagement was to be very clear about the values that the business holds dear. In essence they are a set of social and environmental guiding principles.”

Mr Wood says the company’s values can be summarised as involving “people, planet and shared prosperity”. An early area of focus was the environment, involving major investment in new infrastructure including a state-of-the-art distribution centre, completed in 2006, and a full refit of its brewery, carried out the following year.

“The distributuion centre was built seven and a half metres down in a disused gravel workings,” says Mr Wood. “The walls are made out of lime hemp block, it has an acre and a half of living roof, it recycles its rain water, it needs no artificial heating or cooling in the main warehouse and it saves the business lots of money on energy bills.”

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The new brewery focused on energy usage and heat retention. “It has got our water use as a brewery down considerably,” says Mr Wood. “Where the average pints of water used to make a pint of beer in the beer industry might be six to eight pints, we’re doing it with something like 3.1 pints.

“Those investments were and continue to be ways for us to demonstrate to our employees and wider group of stakeholders that these things really matter to us.

“Of course we had to do a thorough investment appraisal, we had to make sure that the assets we were buying were fit for purpose, but we also ran them through this further filter of our social and environmental values.”

However, Adnams’ approach to responsibility in business is by no means restricted to “green” issues. For example, it aims to forge strong links with the local communities in which is operates, not least through the Adnams Charity, which was founded as long ago as 1990 and receives a percentage of the company’s annual profits to fund grants to worthy causes within a 25-mile radius of Southwold. The company also supports the annual Southwold 10K Run and has “adopted” a section of beach which volunteer staff keep tidy through litter-picks.

Within its business, Adnams has worked to address the issue of diversity, notably in the area of gender balance with its focus extending from first line supervisors up to board room level. “Our perspective is that this will improve and strengthen our business,” says Mr Wood. “If we’re looking to serve diverse customer groups, we need to make sure that their views are taken into account.”

Adnams is also involved promoting public health. “As an alcohol producer, we are delighted when people buy and use our products, which can help conversation and conviviality,” says Mr Wood. “We also recognise that, overused, our products can cause harm, both to the individual, and to society at large.

“Obviously we have policies and procedures in place for our own workforce around the use of alcohol and where they can go to get support if they become concerned about their usage. We also have members of my team who’ve been involved with Business Action on Public Health with Business in the Community.”

Mr Wood is a member, and former chairman, of the Business in the Community advisory board in the eastern region and was last year also named as The Prince’s Ambassador for the East of England.

He adds: “Our long term vision is to build a business that is known for doing the right thing, for fair dealing, for the quality of its products and its services, and that is an exemplar in the markets it chooses to operate in.

“We want everybody who comes into contact with us to be enriched by that experience.”