How Jim Beam's Big Expansion Plans Could Impact Its Carbon Footprint

The spirit industry is booming, with 2021 revenues up by $3.8 billion compared with 2020, according to a February 2022 report by whiskey investment specialist firm, CaskX. Bourbon, specifically, has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity after a significant slump at the end of the 20th century. According to a 2021 report, also by CaskX, this renewed interest in the Kentucky-bred spirit dovetails with renewed interest in "classic cocktails, authentic, non-flavored spirits, and the fascinating history bourbon represents in America." Unfortunately, however, an ongoing bourbon shortage that may have been brewing, at least at some price points, since the early aughts, according to Business Insider, has left bourbon fans increasingly anxious over whether their favorite brand will be available for purchase and frustrated when it is not (via CaskX).

Fortunately for bourbon fans, and particularly for fans of Jim Beam, Beam Suntory, a subsidiary of Suntory and Jim Beam's parent company, recently announced major plans to substantially ramp up bourbon production at its flagship distillery in Boston, Kentucky. And by substantially, we're talking a 50% increase in production, according to a September 14 press release. As if that weren't enough good news, this expansion plan is not expected to increase Jim Beam's carbon footprint — which would otherwise be a legitimate expansion-related concern, per the authors of a 2020 case study published in The Journal of Cleaner Production. In fact, Jim Beam's big expansion plans were designed to decrease the company's carbon footprint — in a big way. 

Jim Beam is making good on its net-zero commitment

On September 14, Jim Beam bourbon's parent, Beam Suntory, announced it has entered into a $400,000+ contract with renewable energy developer 3 Rivers Energy Partners. Pursuant thereto, 3 Rivers will build a facility across the street from Jim Beam's historic Baker Noe distillery in Boston, Kentucky. This new adjunct facility will make it possible for Jim Beam to make 50% more bourbon than it's currently making. At the same time, this new facility will reportedly help cut the bourbon maker's greenhouse emissions by 50% from its current levels.

Diehard fans of Jim Beam bourbon may recognize that this new development does not come out of left field. In November 2021, Beam Suntory joined the U.N.'s "Race to Zero" campaign (via press release). To put it another way, Beam Suntory made what's known as a net-zero commitment in 2021, joining numerous other companies, including various spirits manufacturers, that have done the same (per SevenFifty Daily). When a company makes a net-zero commitment, it means it's pledging to, by a certain date, match its carbon emissions with an equivalent amount of carbon removal from the atmosphere (via Net Zero Climate).

How that actually works can be complicated and sometimes raises questions as to social utility. To wit, for some companies, it means paying conservation groups to prevent deforestation. For others, like Suntory, it would appear to mean something more tangible, namely converting Jim Beam's bio-waste into renewable natural gas.