As a family business, instead of thinking in years we think in generations. We want to pass on an even more beautiful company to the next generation. We also consider it our duty to contribute to a more beautiful world. This is why we are committed to a circular business model. This means that we will not let raw and other materials, as well as energy, go to waste. We make sure to use as few raw materials as possible and that what we do use retains as much value as possible. To determine our measure of circularity, we use our own measurement method, the Swinkels Circularity Index, which we continue to refine. We like to share our knowledge with other companies to maximise our contribution to a circular economy.

Swinkels Circularity Index

The modelproves its strength.

Marthijn Junggeburth,
Sustainability Manager

For the third year in a row, Swinkels Family Brewers is charting its circularity using its own measurement methodology; the Swinkels Circularity Index (SCI). Marthijn Junggeburth, Sustainability Manager: ‘When we formulated the ambition for a circular business model, we immediately started looking for a good definition and calculation method. This proved to be a huge challenge. Over a hundred definitions circulated on the internet with only two of them offering a calculation methodology. After analysing, these calculations didn’t seem suitable. The alternative was to come up with a model of our own and that is what we did.’

Our circular business operations score
in 2021
was 56%

Results SCI in 2021

Our circular business operations score in 2021 was 56%. This is a 4% improvement compared to 2020, which means that for this year we achieved our goal. The score was achieved through a series of improvements in the areas of water reuse, energy savings across multiple subsidiaries, making packaging more sustainable for both product and marketing purposes, transportation optimisation and factoring in the circularity value of our buildings and machines. These improvements are further explained under our three pillars: Circular procurement, Circular production and High-quality.

  • Ambition: 75% circular business operations
    Ambition: 75% circular business operations
  • Ambition: 75% circular business operations

    Our goal is to keep on improving the SCI score towards 58% circular business operations in 2022. To achieve this, we must improve in all SCI segments. We have noticed that we have reached certain limits, regarding making packaging more sustainable, for example, and purchasing sustainable raw materials. In this regard we realise that we will have to take bigger steps to achieve our ambition of 75% circular business operations by 2025. The first initiatives, such as making our malting plant in Eemshaven emission-free, have already been set in motion for this purpose. Furthermore, we see opportunities for more substantial improvements in the areas of water reuse, improving energy management at all subsidiaries, purchasing sustainable agricultural raw materials and working towards 100% circular packaging. For each component, we have appointed a person in charge who will draft and monitor the plan towards 75%. The 2022 target requires additional effort due to the refining of our SCI as of 1 January 2022.

  • Continued development Swinkels Circularity Index
    Continued development Swinkels Circularity Index
  • Continued development Swinkels Circularity Index

    The world is constantly changing and knowledge about circularity is increasing. This gives us reason to validate the SCI on a regular basis. Does it still meet our requirements? To what the world demands from us? Are there new methodologies that can add value and enhance insight?

    Marthijn Junggeburth: ‘The model is proving its strength. Still, we feel that on certain points it could be better and more accurate. So we took the time in 2021 to revise the SCI segment by segment. We are going to apply this refined version of the Swinkels Circularity Index to our way of collecting and reporting data starting 1 January, 2022.’

    We have critically reviewed our circularity model on all themes in 2021 and developed it into a 2.0 version. Adding more detail to calculations increases the quality of the measurement method. Changes are additional to ensure the comparison with previous years. Marthijn Junggeburth: ‘By the time of the next annual report, the first results of SCI 2.0 will be known.’

    In broad outlines, the main optimisations from 2022 onwards are:

    • The circularity methodology of water, wastewater, energy and transport themes has been revised and expanded based on international standards and insights (IPCC, BIER, WBCSD, SBTi).
    • We have expanded the scope for packaging, agricultural raw materials and facilitating materials. Facilitating materials include paper, ink, hardware, coffee and company clothing.
    • When procuring raw and other materials, we measure on the basis of the actual number of kilograms which is in line with international standards. This means that “barley” becomes a larger category than “hops” because we use many more kilograms of barley than hops.
    • Initially, each brewery and malting plant counted equally in the calculation. This is being adjusted to the size of the breweries and malting plants.
  • Climate strategy
    Climate strategy
  • Climate strategy

    Climate change poses risks and affects our ability to realise our ambition of passing on an even more beautiful company to future generations. For this reason, an internal working group within our circularity consultation periodically discusses developments related to climate change, the impact we have on it and the impact of climate change on our breweries, malting plants and the value chain. This working group reports to the Executive Board. In this way we can make the right choices regarding circularity, embed them in our business processes and align them with our sustainability strategy.

    Circularity is the main pillar of our sustainability strategy. As part of our circularity ambition, climate strategy plays a central role when it comes to reducing energy consumption, material usage and managing risks in the area of climate-driven raw material scarcity. We are continuously looking for an optimal energy mix for our brewing and malting processes and value chain with minimal CO2 emissions.

    Every quarter we map the CO2 emissions of scope 1 and 2, with the aim of reducing them as much as possible. We are working on this by, among other things, increasing energy efficiency and making maximum use of renewable energy sources. We also look at the efficiency of transport movements. Apart from measuring data, we are increasingly bringing transitional risks and physical risks into focus to integrate them into our risk management and monitoring.

    In addition to the climate topics covered by the SCI, we are taking steps to further align our climate strategy in terms of ambition and content with what is expected of us. We will continue to prepare in 2022 for developments regarding laws and regulations, such as the EU Green Deal and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). Furthermore, we will conduct an inventory of scope 3 emissions in 2022 in conjunction with an exploration of the potential of a Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) verified objective. This objective forms the basis for a climate strategy in line with the Paris Climate Agreement which requires that global warming be limited to 1.5°C.

  • Cultivating circular awareness
    Cultivating circular awareness
  • Cultivating circular awareness

    A circular business model is also about promoting awareness amongst our employees. Several times a year we organise an interactive presentation by inspiring parties from the field. In 2021, The Seaweed Company, and “plastic-free consumer” and director of BlueCity, Nienke Binnendijk, organised an inspiration session. This is how we bring knowledge from the outside in and encourage our employees and stakeholders to think about their own role in circular business operations. Following Nienke Binnendijk’s inspiration session, we organised the “November, No plastic waste challenge”, where we challenged employees to not create plastic waste or buy new plastic for the entire month of November.

Results 2021

Circular procure- ment


We want to procure the goods and services we use as sustainably and circularly as possible and apply strict sustainability requirements. By doing so, we encourage our suppliers to also take steps in the fields of sustainability and circularity. By collaborating closely with our partners, we increase our impact in the supply chain.

Image of 2021: Difficult market
The trend in 2021 was that raw materials and energy were harder to come by and had severely risen in price. Transportation costs also increased. It is expected that this trend will continue in 2022. The difficult market conditions made it challenging to achieve our circular procurement goals. This turned out to be the case when purchasing barley, for example.

  • Agricultural raw materials
    83% circular
  • Agricultural raw materials

    We buy as much sustainably produced barley as possible from producers affiliated with the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI). Due to disappointing harvests, this proved not possible for the entire volume. For the purchase of barley, we were forced to turn to Scandinavian growers, among others, who do grow according to their own sustainability criteria, but do not yet have the SAI label. For this reason, we were not able to count this purchase as “sustainable”, causing the proportion of circularly sourced barley to slightly decrease compared to 2020. 

    For our brewery in Ethiopia we buy barley from as close to the brewery as possible; more than 70% of the barley is grown locally. Once the last imported batch of barley has been delivered, no new barley will be imported. From then on, barley will be sourced 100 percent locally. Locally grown barley is considered sustainable in the Swinkels Circularity Index. 

    Score barley: 54%

    Hops and sugar
    With regard to hops and sugar, we were able to maintain the sustainably grown proportion and are even on our way to 100% sustainably grown. Some of the purchased sugar could not be sourced locally in Ethiopia due to low availability. For that reason, we were forced to purchase sugar from outside Ethiopia that does not have a sustainability certificate. With that, the numbers amount to:

    Score hops: 100%
    Score sugar: 95%

  • Packaging
    73% circular
  • Packaging

    Packaging accounts for a large proportion of our procurement activities. In recent years we have invested heavily in making our packaging more sustainable. Together with our suppliers and partners, we are constantly looking for solutions to make packaging more circular. From a circular point of view, can and bottle are excellent forms of packaging. For this reason we are primarily addressing secondary and tertiary packaging, aiming at reducing the total weight, increasing the proportion of recycled material in the packaging and exploring the actual recycling of the packaging.

    Plastic is a hot topic and we have been paying a lot of attention recently to reducing the proportion of plastic in our packaging and particularly the so-called fossil-based virgin plastic (new plastic made from petroleum). This year, where fossil-based virgin plastic is concerned, we were able to achieve significant savings of as much as 30,000 kilograms of plastic.

    Operating at the limit
    Marthijn Junggeburth: ‘In the end, we want to pack using no plastic at all, which is our ultimate goal. However, as long as there is no good alternative, we are committed to reducing the weight of packaging materials and increasing the proportion of recycled plastic. Meanwhile, we are facing limits. A pallet or tray needs to be wrapped in film. We have been making that film progressively thinner over the past few years. But we have now reached the limit; an even thinner film would be at the expense of the carrying capacity and strength of the stack on the pallet. This puts safety at risk. Furthermore, in recent years we have continued to increase the proportion of recycled plastic in the film. There the limit has been reached as well; an even higher proportion would cause problems in the packaging machines and adversely affect the strength of the film. A next step is then to renew the packaging concept.’ 

    Choosing other ways of packing and other types of packaging materials could further increase the proportion of sustainability. For example, we are exploring the possibilities of packing using biobased materials but are constantly hitting limits here as well. On the one hand because of the limited supply of biobased materials and on the other because of the technical possibilities this requires of our machines and production.

  • Marketing materials
    56% circular
  • Marketing materials

    Marketing materials
    For our marketing materials (such as flags, displays, beer coasters and others), we use the same process as we do for packaging; collecting data so that we can make the best decisions based on that data when we’re faced with another limit. Where is it still possible to use less material, where can we steer towards more circular materials? We created a registration process for this purpose in 2021. Via our ERP systems we get an exact image of the usage of marketing materials and how circular that material is. The registration process is secured in the procurement process of marketing materials. Thanks to accurate registration and smart procurement, 56% of our marketing materials has been circular in 2021.

    We challenge our suppliers to produce as sustainably and circularly as possible. One way of doing this, is by asking them each year how circular their products are. It does not always prove easy to get suppliers to join our sustainability ambition and receive the requested feedback on product specifications. This requires a collaboration with all of our suppliers. Another action planned for 2022 is to collaborate with our marketeers and establish a top-of-mind awareness of circularity when developing new products and promotions, so that we can propagate circularity in increasingly wider circles.

  • Machines and buildings
    36% circular
  • Machines and buildings

    Machines and buildings
    In 2021, buildings were included for the very first time in the circularity score. As indicated in the section on the Swinkels Circularity Index, we use the same method as for machines to calculate the circularity value of this category. We integrated the category into our procurement process in 2021. This includes requiring suppliers of machines or construction materials to provide information according to our specifications.

    For example, we register the materials and components of new machines in a Material Passport. This passport describes (for each machine), among other things, how much material was used (weight), how much of this material was recycled (percentage), and how much of the material is recyclable after the end of its service life (percentage). As we will be using the same method for buildings, we took the first steps towards this in 2021. We recorded the purchase of the building material in quantities, in proportion of circular building materials and in circular outflow after end of life. This method allows us to improve the design inquiry. The design phase isn’t restricted to function, efficiency and costs, it also includes the question: How can we design a building to be as circular as possible? We will continue to work on this in 2022.

    Our working method has drawn a lot of interest from many companies around us. In this, we collaborate closely with our suppliers, stakeholders and sector associations such as the Metaalunie.


Making packaging more sustainable in a challenging market

With every new package we put in the market,it is a prerequisite that our design is recyclable.

Patrick Blom,
Packaging Technologist
Patrick Blom, <br>Packaging Technologist

By making the right choices in design and raw materials, packaging can have a big impact in terms of sustainability. Consuming less glass, cardboard or metal has a double advantage; it is more sustainable and cheaper. This creates financial scope to continue searching for innovative designs that will help us become even more sustainable. In recent years we have already been able to achieve impressive savings.

In 2021, huge price increases in raw materials such as glass, metal and plastic made it especially challenging to contain the cost of packaging. In addition, several suppliers were experiencing delivery problems. Despite this, we again managed to coin some innovative savings.

Result 2021 and ambition 2022

If we look at the circularity index, there’s been a great leap forward in terms of packaging. According to the Swinkels Circularity Index, 73% of our packaging is circular. In 2020 it was 63%. Thus, packaging makes a larger contribution to the Swinkels Circularity Index score.

We succeeded in achieving the set target which means that from January 2021 onwards all newly developed primary, secondary and tertiary packaging put on the market consists of, at least, 50% recycled material or material from sustainable sources. In addition, all of our packaging is 100% recyclable. This applies to glass, metal, plastic and cardboard.

In 2022, we plan to take the next step by modifying, among other things, the crown caps on some of our products. By using thinner crown caps, we hope to achieve savings in the amount of steel.

Patrick Blom, Packaging Technologist: ‘Thousands of kilograms lighter’

‘With every new package we put in the market, it is a prerequisite that our design is recyclable. We also look for opportunities to save on materials,’ says Patrick Blom who, as Packaging Technologist, develops packaging. ‘It is, however, becoming much more of a challenge. After all, technology does have its limitations. Furthermore, in 2021 we noticed more than ever that the availability of materials is not infinite. Still, we were able to take some steps forward again. For example, some cans have become even lighter and we have made the lids of some cans thinner. This saves thousands of kilograms of steel and aluminium.’

  • European initiatives
  • European initiatives

    We stand firmly behind the EU’s ambition to make all plastic packaging suitable for reuse or recycling by 2030. Most of the plastic we use is (partly) recycled material and all our plastic packaging is already recyclable.

    In order to enforce the above ambition, we support several Dutch and European initiatives in this area, such as Plastic Pact NL. Furthermore, we signed the Plastic Promise, aimed at the reduction of disposable plastic in the event industry.

  • Shrink film
  • Shrink film

    Our packaging specialists are constantly looking for new savings opportunities. Starting in 2021, we have left the stretch film around pallets of cans open at the top for a large number of products. This is now possible thanks to modifications to the machines. The savings are considerable; 30,000 kilograms of fossil-based virgin plastic per year.

    We realised another stretch film saving in cardboard packaging. Boxes containing 24×33 cl and 24×50 cl cans were previously sheathed in shrink film to prevent damage. Tests showed that it was possible to work without shrink film, which is why we stopped using it in 2021. This saves at least 50,000 kilos of plastic each year.

    In 2021, we researched using even thinner shrink film. We expect to be able to implement this in 2022.

  • Glass
  • Glass

    How nice would it be if in the future we only used 100% recycled glass? We are in continuous dialogue with our suppliers about this. But for now, that’s still in the future. Currently, we are using over 75% recycled glass. Bottlenecks in arriving at 100% include the availability of recycled glass and the current state of technology at glass suppliers.

  • Cardboard
  • Cardboard

    In 2021, we invested in a new machine in Lieshout that can pack multipacks of cans (4, 6 and 8 units) in cardboard. As this machine can process thinner cardboard, it becomes easier to replace plastic with cardboard. The lighter packaging is cheaper, making it more appealing for more customers to opt for cardboard packaging.

    Since 2020, nearly all of the corrugated cardboard and folding cardboard we use carries the FSC or PEFC quality mark. The cardboard is made of wood from sustainably managed forests and recycled material.

  • Pallets
  • Pallets

    By changing the stacking of products on pallets, called pallet patterns, we have been able to realise savings in truck transportation, in the amount of containers needed and in the amount of pallets used.

    Also where pallets are concerned, we strive to only use pallets made from wood material carrying the FSC or PEFC quality mark. Our Procurement Department is currently discussing this with suppliers.

  • Metal
  • Metal

    Since 2019, we have made big steps in saving on metal by using lighter cans. Thanks to new technology of suppliers and after extensive internal testing, we were able to replace the 50 cl steel cans with cans that are 0.7 grams lighter in 2021. This saves 88,000 kilograms of steel on an annual basis (compared to 2020). The lids of the “smart” (15 and 25 cl) cans have also become thinner which makes for a saving of 53,000 kilos of aluminium per year.

    For the amount of recycled steel and aluminium in our cans, we use a “world standard” in our index as the exact numbers are not shared by suppliers; steel 30% and aluminium 73%. All our cans are fully recyclable.

  • Socially Responsible Procurement
  • Socially Responsible Procurement

    Socially Responsible Procurement (SRP) is the norm for us. We work on this together with our suppliers. Most are eager to share their thoughts and ideas and contribute towards our sustainability goal. For example, they are currently investigating what further possibilities there are in making plastic even thinner. Such an innovation could help us and the environment take another step forward.

  • Looking ahead: Setting off for 2025
  • Looking ahead: Setting off for 2025

    Our ambition in the field of packaging is challenging to say the least. We aim for all our packaging to be 100 percent recyclable and 100 percent made from sustainable materials by 2025. We have already achieved the first of these two goals; all of our packaging is 100 percent recyclable.

    With the innovations in 2021, the achievement of the second goal – the use of purely sustainable materials – has also come another step closer. We again came to the conclusion that achieving this goal is not technically possible at this point in time for certain materials such as glass. To switch to the full use of only recycled metal, we depend on the supply of recyclable steel and aluminium. Unfortunately, that supply is simply not always sufficient.

    We can only achieve full circularity in collaboration with other parties in the chain. This requires trust, but also the optimisation of knowledge. Where possible, we are committed to this by collaborating even more closely with our suppliers.

Results 2021

Circular production


We ensure the most efficient use of energy, water and transport. In addition, we opt for sustainable energy, minimise wastage during production and aim to extend the lifespan of our machines and buildings. Currently, 15.5% of our energy comes from sustainable sources and 75% of our breweries and malting plants are more efficient than the benchmark data. We remain committed every year to improving these results by implementing innovations and optimisations in the production processes.

Image of 2021: Start-stop conditions
The COVID-19 pandemic is creating several challenges worldwide that were also felt at our production locations. Due to the multiple shutdowns (lockdown) and re-openings of on-trade establishments, it was particularly challenging in several countries to optimally match production to demand in 2021. It led to a stop-start-stop production schedule. Each time a line restarts, production losses occur. Thus, the more often you have to restart, the more the circularity score is negatively impacted.

In addition, the political situation in Ethiopia suddenly deteriorated significantly in the third quarter due to domestic conflicts. As a result, we have had to temporarily scale down production considerably at our brewery in Ethiopia and take measures to ensure the safety of our employees.

Despite these external factors, 2021 was a reasonable year in terms of circular production, in which we took some interesting steps forward. For example, the brewery in Lieshout has become much more energy efficient through the realisation of various energy management initiatives.

  • Energy and transport
    30% circular
  • Energy and transport

    Residual heat optimisation
    The first results of the residual heat installation with hot water buffer in Lieshout presented themselves in 2020. It is a process where the residual heat from the brewery (from the cooling installation, turbine and steam boiler) is captured and stored in a so-called heat battery, a large buffer in a tank of hot water. This residual heat is then used in various production processes in the malting plant, brewery and bottling plant. With this residual heat system, we managed to save more than 15% on our energy consumption in 2020. The “residual heat team” then managed to increase that performance in 2021 with a number of optimisations. Encouraged by these fine results, the team will continue to work on subsequent optimisations in the coming period.

    Further research into iron fuel
    In 2020, a pilot scheme of burning the circular fuel iron powder took place, where a test installation was successfully connected to the production process of brewery Bavaria. Swinkels Family Brewers is participating in the Metal Power Consortium, specifically set up for this purpose, to further develop and deploy this technology at multiple locations. Currently, the focus of the Consortium is on scaling up the installation. We hope to conduct a next iron-powder test mid-2023.

    Eemshaven opts for emission-free
    At the end of 2021, Holland Malt gave the go-ahead to make its malting plant in Eemshaven the first malting plant in the world to be completely emission-free. A project that will be completed by 2024. This step means that Holland Malt no longer needs to use fossil fuels for the malting process and that harmful emissions are reduced to zero. In addition, Holland Malt is going to save a considerable amount of energy through this innovation. Read more about Holland Malt Eemshaven’s move in this project story.

    Rethinking energy
    We have been realising significant energy savings since May. In Energy Hall 3 of our brewery in Lieshout, cooling capacity and refrigeration capacity had to be expanded. The simple solution was to add a new installation. Dirk Wenting and Harald Gilsing came up with the idea of linking the 0-degree installation to the -4-degree installation, which was a cheaper and more energy-efficient solution. Harald: ‘Practice showed that one plant had an excess of refrigeration capacity. Simply put, we transferred these “cold” temperatures to a “warmer” installation. This can make for a more stable installation which may result in less maintenance on both installations.’ We won’t know the latter for quite some time. Dirk: ‘For now, this smart solution provides considerable monetary savings as well as a lower energy demand. We owe this circular result to rethinking and working together.’

    Smart logistics
    In 2021, we concluded a new transport contract for Belgium, for the distribution of Palm, Cornet and Rodenbach, among others. Starting next year, this will reduce our transport’s CO2 emissions. Arn Kaerts, Logistics Manager at Palm, had transport companies calculate how to transport our beers to our Belgian customers keeping the total of kilometres as low as possible. Results were based on previous transport movements. ‘As of January 2022, we will join forces with a big distributor with a finely-meshed network. This means that our beer will travel with other customers’ goods to a nearby store. The smart and combined scheduling of vans and lorries will save many kilometres of driving.’

    For the medium term, Arn expects further CO2 reductions. ‘As soon as Belgian law allows for HVO filling stations, our new transporter will be using this more environ­mentally friendly diesel fuel as well. Using this fuel, made from vegetable oils and residual waste, will ensure the significant reduction of  CO2 emissions as well as soot particles.’

    Table: CO2 emissions and energy consumption

  • Water use
    38% circular
  • Water use

    We are improving sustainable water management in our malting plants and breweries by focusing on reducing water consumption during production. We mainly use groundwater for our brewing process. We are currently measuring how circular we are in terms of water consumption by looking at the efficiency of our usage. If our operation is more efficient than the benchmark, we regard it as circular. We use the international NIRAS and ABA benchmarks for this calculation. 

    Where water is concerned we will continue optimisations as well. In 2021, we made a series of smaller investments at each production location to further improve water preparation, use water as efficiently as possible – we consumed 4.2 hectolitres of water per hectolitre of beer in 2021 – and make residual water 100% reusable.

    Starting in 2022, we will use international standards for water scarcity and water reuse to assess circular water use in addition to the benchmark.

    Table: Water consumption

  • Maintenance of machines and buildings
    0% circular
  • Maintenance of machines and buildings

    Machines and buildings
    We will continue to strive for an extended lifespan of our machines and buildings. In 2021, we decided that, as of 2022, the “machines and buildings” segment would no longer be included in the SCI where circular production is concerned. The item will continue to count towards the pillars of circular procurement and high-quality reuse.

  • Minimise wastage
    88% circular
  • Minimise wastage

    Production losses
    For each production location, we determine how much raw material and packaging is lost during malting, brewing and packing. By focusing on production losses, we are increasingly able to measure them. The score on this segment was somewhat lower in 2021 than in previous years. This can be mainly attributed to having a better idea of the small losses as well and, as a result, having also observed an increase in production losses.

    In 2022, we will be measuring and reporting on production losses more frequently and use this information to optimise our processes even further. We also expect this to reduce production losses. 

Project story

Holland Malt Eemshaven:
The world's first emission-free malting plant

As a family business,
we think in generations.
We want to pass on an even more beautiful company.

Jos Jennissen,
CEO of Holland Malt
Edwin Evers,
Manager Operations
of Holland Malt

Holland Malt started in 2021 with the realisation of an emission-free malting plant in Eemshaven. By using a new, innovative heat system and switching to sustainable energy sources, we are achieving a major step in our energy transition. The system will be fully operational from 2024 onwards and the malt produced in Eemshaven will be “green”. 

Reuse and sustainable sources

First and foremost, Holland Malt is switching off the gas tap completely. By doing this, the malting plant is reducing its CO2 emissions that match the volume of those of 14,000 households per year. But there is more. Jos Jennissen, CEO of Holland Malt: ‘Malt is one of the most important ingredients in beer. Malting is an energy-intensive process. Especially drying requires a lot of heat. That heat is currently generated by burning fossil fuels. And that’s where we see an opportunity to become more sustainable.’ 

The biggest innovation in the malting plant’s energy transition is in the reuse of its own residual heat. Edwin Evers, Operations Manager Holland Malt: ‘We capture the residual heat from our drying process at 23 degrees. Using a heat pump we upgrade it to 85 degrees. This allows us to reuse the heat for the next drying process which results in significant energy savings. We obtain the energy needed for the heat system entirely from sustainable energy sources such as wind and solar.’ 

Making the chain more sustainable

‘There is no getting around the fact that as an industry we have to start making different choices to combat global warming. The steps we are currently taking in the emission-free malt process could also inspire other companies. In this way we can make a difference together,’ according to Jennissen. Holland Malt’s move is in line with the circularity ambition of Swinkels Family Brewers. Jennissen: ‘As a family business, we think in generations. We want to pass on an even more beautiful company. Holland Malt’s next step is to investigate how we can make the chain even more sustainable.’  

Valuable collaboration 

The Holland Malt emission-free project is coming about, in part, thanks to the Province of Groningen, Groningen Seaports, RWE Technology International and the Dutch government. The first major customers have also joined this project. These brewers co-invest in making the chain more sustainable. From 2024 onwards, they will purchase 100% emission-free produced “green” malt in Eemshaven.

Results 2021

High-quality reuse


There is no such thing as waste. We look for high-quality reuse of each residual flow. In doing so, we want to return food waste as high up the food chain as possible. In this way, they retain as much value as possible.

Image of 2021: Preserving and leveraging value
High-quality reuse development is in full swing. We are an enthusiastic participant in experiments and tests of specialist parties in the market. In addition, we do our own R&D, where we focus on maximising the “value” of our residual flows. The goal is to use these as co-products. 

  • Co-products
    99% circular
  • Co-products

    A lot of experimenting with co-products
    In addition to water, sludge and CO2, we are looking closely at the possibilities for our other residual flows. Brewers’ grains have been used as the basis for livestock feed for some time, but we are currently investigating, in pilot schemes, whether it can be used higher up the food chain. For example, as an ingredient for sausage rolls and cookies.

    In Ethiopia, we are conducting a pilot scheme with the Agricultural Research Centre using sludge from water treatment in which to plant potatoes. Laboratory analyses will be conducted in the coming months to see if this pilot scheme has been successful.

    In addition, there is an ongoing pilot scheme in Ethiopia to use yeast from the brewery as feed for chickens. To develop this further, a new facility is needed at the feed mill. As long as this facility is not in place, the yeast will be delivered to farmers near the brewery so they can use it as animal feed.

    Table: Circular use of co-products

  • Residual water
    57% circular
  • Residual water

    Maximum use of residual water
    We purify the residual water from our production processes and reuse it. In Lieshout, the largest proportion of this residual water goes to the irrigation systems of the Farmer Beer Water (Boer Bier Water) project. In doing so, we return much of the residual water directly to the soil. This makes it easier and better for the affiliated farmers in the Lieshout area to grow their crops. In addition, less water is needed for irrigation and the groundwater level is maintained. The other part of the residual water in Lieshout will be introduced – via an inlet of the Wilhelminakanaal constructed in 2021 – to plots of land a little further away from the brewery. The total volume of residual water for irrigation increased by 100,000 m3 to about 800,000 m3 in 2021. Also at Habesha in Ethiopia we return residual water to the environment, where it is used for irrigation and drinking water for livestock.

    Farmer Beer Water is a collaboration that has been proving its worth for a decade. We are also in constant dialogue with the affiliated stakeholders (farmers, municipality, the Ministry of Waterways and Public Works, Water Board) regarding optimal water management in the region. Together, we identify opportunities and exploit them where possible.

    Direct reuse of residual water: +14,3% in 2021

    Table: Circular use of residual water

  • Residual flows
    77% circular
  • Residual flows

    BierBricks: An innovative bio-building brick
    After purifying the water, what remains is sludge that mainly consists of organic matter. In 2021, we started a collaboration with an innovative tree grower to monetise and repurpose this sludge. The grower developed a method of adding a fungal culture. This makes the nutrients and minerals present available for absorption by plants. After treatment with the fungus, we create moulds from the sludge called BierBricks. You can place seeds or plants in these BierBricks before you put them in the ground. The bricks provide the plant with everything it needs for proper growth, a type of kickstart. The first projects with BierBricks will be initiated in 2022. A beautiful phenomenon, because the plants and trees that grow from the BierBricks will also absorb CO2 thereby contributing to a sustainable world.

    Recycling of safety shoes and goggles
    Our circular ambition encourages us to constantly look for points where we can improve. As is the case in Lieshout, where our colleagues make use of various personal protective equipment (PPE). Previously, dozens of safety shoes, safety goggles and face shields were discarded and replaced after wear and tear. In 2021, we started collecting and (partly) recycling these resources. The safety goggles and face shields serve as raw materials for products such as insulation, flip-flops and garden chairs. In respect of safety shoes, we are currently investigating whether and which parts can be reused for shoes. Parts such as the sole, laces and (steel) toecap. In total, it concerns hundreds of safety goggles and safety shoes and dozens of face shields.

    Table: Circular use of residual flows

  • Machines and buildings
    39% circular
  • Machines and buildings

    Our machines and buildings are circular processed for 39% in 2021.

    The circularity score of our buildings and machines is determined by the application of the dismantled buildings and machines. We try to reuse our materials in the highest quality level possible. To do this, we apply the R-ladder; rethink, redesign, reduce, reuse, repair, refurbish, recycle and recover. We strive to prevent waste by intensifying use and at the end reusing and recycling as many raw materials as possible.

    As our buildings have a longer lifespan than machines, the main focus within this score is currently on the reusability of the machines. With the implementation of the Material Passport, we will also be able to better estimate in the future how many materials will be released in the long term and how best to repurpose them.


Making water

Beer consists mainly of water; an ingredient also required by the brewing and malting process. We want to use it sparingly and responsibly. We do this by protecting our water sources and by making our production process increasingly circular. In doing so, we reuse residual water and upgrade it through purification to then return it to the environment. But what is circular water? A topic we started working on in 2021.

Living model

Circularity is a relatively new concept and for many areas of our operations we are still searching for how best to measure and assess circularity. In 2021, we measured the circularity of our water based on the “BIER Water Circularity Indicator”. For the times ahead of us, we want to get an even more accurate picture of the circularity of our water. We therefore took steps in 2021 to further optimise the calculation; the existing flowchart was expanded and adapted to our situation and environment. We will develop this further in the near future, for example by including new technologies and systems in our measurements. 


We expect to be able to apply the new calculation for the first time in 2022. The evolution of how we measure the circularity of water may mean that, in the short term, we will see a negative impact on the Swinkels Circularity Index score. This is a consequence of measuring more accurately – and therefore more honest. This transparency provides insight and leads to points for improvement. 

The road to circularity

There are several ongoing projects in our company in respect of the road to circular water use.
Our guiding principles are: 

  • Minimise water use as much as possible. 
  • Purify residual water to a good quality. 
  • Reuse residual water in production or for other purposes. 
  • Let residual water flow back to the environment. 

In our malting plant in Eemshaven, we have a system for reusing residual water. In the Farmer Beer Water programme in Lieshout, we purify our residual water so that farmers in the area can reuse it to irrigate their crops. The total of 800,000 m3 of water for reuse already constitutes a fine circular result. We want to continually increase the proportion of reuse and, in parallel, reduce our water use.

In 2022, we plan to start a pilot scheme in which we add an extra step to the water treatment process at one of our breweries, resulting in water that can be reused for even more different purposes. Consider cleaning, cooling and heating. If the pilot scheme is successful, we will implement this in all of our breweries. An initial test in Lieshout already shows promising results.

Own approach

What has become clear to us in 2021 is that a “one-size-fits-all” strategy is not possible. Every location is different. The environment, local water quality, production environment, systems and techniques we use vary from situation to situation. As we know these different situations, products and processes best it is up to us to translate this into a circular approach and a model that works for us and is sufficiently transparent. In this, we continue to seek collaboration and use the advice and experience of experts. In the coming years, we want to arrive at a solution that not only minimises our water use, but also ensures that the solution is measurably circular.