The Carlsberg Foundation’s History

Founder of the Carlsberg Foundation, J.C. Jacobsen

The Carlsberg Foundation’s history – brewing meets science and social commitment

The Carlsberg Foundation was established in 1876, when J.C. Jacobsen secured the future of his brewery by transferring it to the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. Since then, the Carlsberg Foundation has overseen the Carlsberg Group, ensuring that the brewery is run with the focus on innovation and high-quality products, and supported basic research within the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. All in accordance with the Brewer’s wishes and vision.

J.C. Jacobsen was particularly far-sighted when, in 1876, he created a Deed of Gift transferring Carlsberg to the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. At the time, the Academy served as a meeting-place for elite Danish researchers, as is the case to this very day.

J.C. Jacobsen’s decision was ground-breaking, visionary and lasting. His idea was that the Carlsberg Foundation, with its roots in science, should ensure that, even after his death, Carlsberg would strive to continuously improve beer brewing and produce the highest-quality products.

"In working the brewery it should be a constant purpose, regardless of imme¬diate gain, to develop the art of making beer to the greatest possible degree of perfection so that this brewery as well as its products may ever stand out as a model and, through their example, assist in keeping beer brewing in this country at a high and honourable level."

These words, from Brewer J.C. Jacobsen’s will, are known today as Carlsberg’s “Golden Words” and provide the platform on which the Carlsberg Group’s many breweries around the world are run with the focus on research, innovation and high-quality products.

The “Golden Words” speak of dedication, orderliness and ambition, which were also the basis for the second major task that J.C. Jacobsen entrusted to the Carlsberg Foundation. It was the Brewer’s wish that the Foundation should help to ensure that his well-renowned company would support science in general through bursaries and donations.

With his Deed of Gift and the establishment of the Carlsberg Foundation, J.C. Jacobsen created a unique set-up, with brewing, science and social engagement going hand in hand, embodied then, as now, more than 140 years later, in the Carlsberg Foundation’s two main objectives:

  1. To be an active investor with a controlling influence in Carlsberg A/S through a majority shareholding.
  2. To support basic scientific research at international level within the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities for the benefit of society

Progress through science

When J.C. Jacobsen gave the Charter for the Carlsberg Foundation to the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, he also transferred the general management of Carlsberg to the Carlsberg Foundation. Since 1876, the Carlsberg Foundation’s board members have been elected by and from among the Danish members of the Academy.

For J.C. Jacobsen, this was a perfectly natural decision. He himself – as a brewer, private individual and citizen – was fascinated by the ever-thriving disciplines of science and, in his own words, perceived scientists as “the elite of Denmark”. Consequently, for him they were also best suited to taking care of his new Foundation and continuing the running of his well-established brewery in accordance with his visions and wishes, as formulated in the “Golden Words” and in the Carlsberg Foundation’s Charter.

As J.C. Jacobsen himself said concerning his choice of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, with the country’s sharpest and cleverest minds: 
“The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters is our only institution which is so fortunate as to be independent of all outside, unscientific considerations and influences.”

J.C. Jacobsen created the financial platform for the Carlsberg Foundation back in 1876 by donating capital of DKK 1m, funded by taking out a mortgage on the Carlsberg brewery.

When J.C. Jacobsen died in 1887 during a visit to Rome, the Carlsberg Foundation immediately became one of the world’s first commercial foundations. And in this, too, J.C. Jacobsen was visionary – that form of corporate structure only became commonplace in the 20th century.

The Carlsberg Foundation was the sole owner of the Carlsberg brewery until 1970, when Carlsberg merged with Tuborg and became a limited liability company.

An important legacy

The Brewer’s legacy is about more than just finances. It is also about acting in accordance with the Charter and staying faithful to the founder’s wishes.

According to the Charter, the Carlsberg Foundation must have a decisive influence over the Carlsberg Group. Thus, the Chairman of the Foundation is also Chairman of the Carlsberg Group.

The Brewer made Denmark richer not just in respect of beer, but also in respect of everything that he created by virtue of his desire to give back to society. Today, the Carlsberg Foundation – as stipulated in its Charter – provides financial support for the New Carlsberg Foundation, the Carlsberg Research Laboratory, the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Castle and the Tuborg Foundation. The Carlsberg Foundation also supports basic research within the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

Brewer J.C. Jacobsen’s focus on quality and on long-term, strategic operation of the brewery, combined with a sense of social responsibility, are still today a beacon for both the Carlsberg Group and the Carlsberg Foundation.