What’s Your Sustainable Wine Story?

July 14th, 2021 11:34:00 PM

The wine industry conjures tradition, viticultural knowledge, and connoisseurship with its regional specificity and culture of craft. Winemaking typically shares a lot in common with sustainable business with its development of societal value, long-term interests, and environmental stewardship. 

That’s why we were honored to join the Ontario Craft Wine Conference held virtually on May11-12, 2021. Staarsoft®’s Founder Sandra Tavares spoke on a panel titled, “Understanding the Three Pillars of Sustainable Winegrowing,” with Suzanne Janke of Stratus Vineyards, Shiraz Mottiar of Malivoire Wine Company, and Anna Brittain of Napa Green. Sandra shared the importance of strategic sustainability management within the craft wine industry. 

The craft winemaking industry greatly benefits from values linked to sustainability, but winemakers are not always equipped to communicate their sustainability impacts in ways that resonate with the right audiences. Learn how businesses in the wine industry are incorporating sustainability systems to bolster their winemaking traditions. 

Organic wine isn’t the only sustainable wine

A global Wine Intelligence survey of 17,000 wine drinkers in 17 markets from late 2020 shows that among sustainable wine products, consumers are most aware of the organic wine label. 

Organic winemakers, such as Ontario’s Southbrook Farms, place importance on a specific aspect of winemaking: the grape growing methods. Even though sustainability and organic winemaking aren’t mutually exclusive, the organic wine label itself reveals nothing about the employment practices, the waste management practices, or the community involvement of winemakers. 

When winemakers indicate their sustainable business practices, it can increase consumers’ intent to purchase a wine. More than half of consumers look for official certifications as evidence of sustainability.  

Defining and communicating sustainability depends on clearly identifying the specific actions and interactions of impacts across the “triple bottom line” of sustainable development: people, planet, and profit. 

Environmental sustainability for wineries

Winemaking is a water-intensive process that produces a lot of wastewater and organic material which enters the waste stream. A winery’s water use can greatly impact the surrounding community and its municipal supplies. 

Water conservation methods, energy efficiency in the crushing, bottling, and shipping of wines, and waste management and treatment are all factors that impact the environmental sustainability of a winery. 

Social responsibility and winemaking

Winemakers foster economic growth and employment. If seasonal workers are a part of the winemaking supply chain, it’s important for sustainable winemakers to address social responsibility. By communicating their active role in diminishing the negative impacts on the natural resources of a community, winemakers can also support long-lasting opportunities with a number of stakeholders, not only the local community but also regulatory agencies. 

Wineries have sustainability stories to tell

Wineries are generally small- and medium-sized businesses that aim to produce wine for generations. Winemakers need to safeguard their reputation and protect their growing regions long-term to cultivate a winemaking tradition associated with their label. 

Oftentimes, vineyards and wineries use sustainable business practices, even if they’re not disclosing all of their activities in a formal report or on their website. Without the ability to communicate and articulate their impact, they’re missing out on important opportunities. 

By assessing four key business areas, the social, environmental and economic impacts can easily be identified and assessed: 

      • Environment: energy, resource and land use, waste, and pollution, 
      • Operating Practices: employment and safety, 
      • Products & Services: life cycle analysis, supply chain, and customer satisfaction, and 
      • Community impact: charitable donations, volunteering, reputation, etc. 

Managing business sustainability is an ongoing process in which businesses plan their goals, assess their baseline performance, track and monitor improvements, and continuously set new benchmarks for improvement. It helps to use a sustainability management system to manage these processes across all four dimensions of business sustainability. 

Our Staarsoft® Sustainability Toolkit approach was designed specifically to help organisations manage their sustainability strategy in alignment with a variety of sustainability frameworks. Our management system platform helps organisations analyze their performance and clearly tell the story for a wide variety of stakeholders including customers. 

Sustainable Wine Stories

Sustainability solutions in the winemaking industry aren’t all identical, but the process to identify and implement sustainability solutions is the same regardless of your organisational model or sector. Winemakers need to assess what’s material, or most significant to their operations. Here are a few examples of how businesses in the wine industry have approached sustainability in different ways. 

      • LCBO’s Spirit of Sustainability commitment 

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) recently announced its Spirit of Sustainability commitment for advancing sustainability across the wine industry of the region. 

The program encompasses charity funding, food security, and responsible consumption, equity and diversity, 85% waste diversion, and testing and sampling products. It also promotes partnerships with the Ontario Sustainability Winemaking Certification. 

These different activities touch on all of the four categories of business sustainability, with many activities touching on more than one category. 

      • Jackson Triggs Winery 

Winemaking produces byproducts like wastewater and organic waste matter, which can burden local water treatment systems. Jackson Triggs Winery addressed this issue within its own community of Oliver, BC, where the majority of the water treatment facilities were initially occupied by meeting its needs.   

By partnering with Enviro-Stewards, Jackson Triggs was able to reduce its effluents by half and its organic matter loading by two-thirds in a three year time period between 2005 and 2008. 

It treated the remaining organic matter in an anaerobic digester, which Enviro-Stewards designed as an economical solution to the problem of organic waste. In total, this almost completely diminished the organics by reducing the remaining amounts 97.5%. 

Wineries can foster environmental stewardship by taking responsibility for their waste byproducts through prevention and internal management systems. This in turn supports their community by ensuring public resources are shared by diverse stakeholders.  

These two examples reveal how a sustainability strategy can prioritize both environmental and social responsibility through strategic partnerships to enhance performance. Whether it means acquiring a sustainability certificate, developing a stronger culture of community engagement, or recording the key statistics of waste reduction, there are numerous approaches to improving business sustainability for wineries. 

A sustainability management system like Staarsoft® Sustainability Software can help you translate the sustainable value your wine business brings to the broader community.

By: Erica Eller, Content Writer