Australia’s sixth-generation family business, Coopers Brewery, has had to grapple with operational and supply chain challenges, as well as fluctuating demand for its beers since the Covid-19 outbreak. However, it has remained committed to continuing to manufacture and distribute throughout this crisis, while following government guidelines on sanitation and hygiene on site. This has protected jobs and allowed customers to continue enjoying its beers from the comfort of their home, through packaged beers and home-brewing kits.
It has not been easy to manage operations, as it has had to segregate teams and facilitate working from home, something that was new to the company. However, it has adapted successfully to remote working and at the same time, looking after the mental health of employees. It also took the difficult decision to refund full and intact kegs of its beers returned by hospitality customers who were unable to operate under the lockdown, at a cost of almost AU$4 million (US$2.6 million). It remains important for it to stay true to its Guiding Principles amid the crisis, which require it to treat suppliers as importantly as customers. In return, suppliers have remained supportive and loyal. The Coopers Brewery Foundation also took a hit, as its investment portfolio has suffered and fundraising efforts have halted. Nonetheless, application for its grants remain in place, as it wants to help the charitable organisations that have been supporting those in need during the pandemic, get back on their feet as much as possible.
Australia’s oldest family owned and run brewery has demonstrated how strong principles can serve as a compass to steer a ship through stormy waters. Well-stewarded family businesses uphold their responsibility and commitments to stakeholders and make decisions, even during tough and uncertain times, with an eye to long-term value creation. Guided by their values, they remain resilient in the face of disruptions, and emerge stronger as their actions earn them trust and support. As a sterling example of such a values-driven business, Coopers Brewery stood by its employees, customers and suppliers during this time of need, and while not spared from the impact of the pandemic, it will be better placed to remerge stronger post-Covid-19, with the support and trust of key stakeholders.