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Carlsberg develops drought-tolerant crops to mitigate climate change

In 2020, Carlsberg introduced a new barley variant, in hope of successfully combatting the challenges of water shortage, high temperatures and funky flavours caused by global warming. The lager production could potentially be unaffected if the variety proves to be a sustainable solution.

Carlsberg produces 14 billion litres of beer yearly. An industry that is highly dependent on the key ingredients: water, barley and hops. However, rising temperatures and water shortages from global warming effects could threaten the yield of these ingredients, and decrease the global beer supply by 16%.

A turn towards science:
With most of Carlsberg’s barley cultivated in France and Western Europe, the high risks of heat waves and dry land are threats to the beer production. As a result, Carlsberg invested millions of euros in genetics, to discover a barley mutation that could tolerate both heat and droughts.

“We already know some of the most important barley mutations linked to drought tolerance,” says Birgitte Skadhauge, head of Carlsberg Research Laboratory. She adds, “it gives us a built-in insurance against climate change.”

Keeping the climate in mind, Carlsberg has managed to limit its water usage significantly, exceeding their targets by 31% in relative water use since 2015. Ten of the breweries are operating at 2,0 hl/hl, while testing paper bottles across seven markets as sustainable packaging.

A new Variety on its way:
40 lines of barley were inspected closely in France, in hope of discovering the perfect ingredient to crack the code of climate change. After 25 years of research, the new barley variety, Null-LOX4G, is currently the best candidate when it comes to delivering beer of high quality, freshness, foam stability, and low water use. The path towards a sustainable and high-quality lager.

Null-LOX4G is still being tested and crossed with other varieties, in order to assure its ability to succeed in a warmer climate. Similar lines could be available for commercial use in two years.

Successful milestone in 2022
Carlsberg’s ability to think innovatively and sustainably is a consistent pattern throughout its production chain. Carlsberg were among the first three companies to introduce science-based climate targets aligned with the 1.5 degree target in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. 2022 marks an outstanding year for the beer producing company. A shift away from coal has initiated a Solar Energy investment in Greece and electric trucks are providing sustainable deliveries in Sweden, UK and Switzerland.

Since 2015, Carlsberg’s carbon emissions lowered drastically, exceeding their carbon targets by 57%. Their sustainable actions were praised through a double “A” rating from the environmental firm CDP, for their dedication towards a net zero future, and indicate their high ambitions for the “Together Towards Zero and Beyond” program.