Our Society is owned entirely by our members, without any external shareholders, and we pride ourselves on listening to your feedback.

With increasing regularity, you have cited climate change and sustainability as among the most important things you want to see The Society address.

More extreme and unpredictable weather is becoming a normal feature of our climate, affecting viticulture and winemakers in a very real way, from wildfires in California and Australia to droughts in South Africa to unseasonal frosts and floods in Europe. And beyond climate change, the Covid pandemic has thrown into sharp focus the need to take better care of each other – to do more to ensure the health, wellbeing and fair and equitable working conditions of colleagues not only in our own businesses but also those throughout our supply chains. 

We at The Society care deeply about these pressing issues: we have been in business for nearly 150 years, and we want to flourish for the next 150. To do this, we need to help make wine – from the vineyard to the glass – more sustainable.

We are therefore taking the opportunity of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, to announce that we are undertaking an ambitious project to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across our business AND supply chain by 2040, as part of our mission to be the most ethical and responsible wine retailer in the world.

The Society has committed to achieving the following short, and longer-term, science-based targets on GHG emissions:

  • Next year will see the publication of our new sustainability strategy, which will include a net-zero roadmap that sets out how we will mobilise our entire business around taking action now and hitting the interim targets below.
  • By the end of 2023, The Wine Society will be a certified carbon-neutral business, having undertaken short-term measures to reduce our energy consumption and emissions, moved to 100% renewable or green energy and offset any remaining emissions from our direct operations through an accredited scheme.
  • By the end of 2028, The Society will have reduced the GHG emissions associated with our own direct operations to as close to zero as possible (for example, our offices, storage and company-owned van deliveries), whilst still remaining certified carbon neutral and purchasing 100% of our energy needs, that we can’t generate ourselves, from renewable or green sources.
  • By the end of 2040, The Society will be certified net zero across our business AND supply chain (covering scopes 1, 2 & 3). This highly ambitious target covers our entire GHG footprint, from how grapes are grown through to how wine is made, transported and consumed by members. We are proud to be a founder member of the Sustainable Wine Roundtable – a global coalition of producers, retailers, industry experts and consultants working together to make the changes necessary to achieve this net zero target and to ensure that wine has a sustainable future.

Ultimately this is not about commitments, it is about action.

As we embrace these opportunities, we must be honest about the challenges we face in how to achieve these targets and what we are doing to overcome them. We are already on our way in several areas: for example, 25% of our power is obtained from solar panels, and our forthcoming new warehouse will be fitted with further solar panels. However, we and the wider industry do not yet have all the technology, processes and know-how we need to achieve all our goals in as timely a way as we would wish. For now, therefore, we need to prepare. We chose the year of 2028 to be net zero in our direct business operations, because we foresee this being a time when we will be able to run successfully an entirely electric van fleet. In the meantime, our forthcoming new warehouse is being designed to accommodate this new fleet.

We are also working on finding a fair but proactive way of bringing the talented growers with whom we work with us on this journey. Members understandably also tell us that they can struggle to make informed decisions given the myriad standards and certifications worldwide. In some cases, great initiatives are being lost amongst the noise. We are therefore excited to be working in a collaborative manner with our growers, shippers, agents and members to make meaningful change.

While our staff are passionate about sustainability and achieving these goals, it is important to acknowledge that not everyone is an expert in this field and therefore strengthening expertise is vitally important. To this end, we are working with industry-leading sustainability consultancy, Sancroft. The Society has also appointed Dom de Ville, who is highly experienced in this area, to the newly created role of Director of Sustainability and Social Impact, and he will be joining us in December.

We won’t be able to achieve these ambitious targets without the support and collaboration of our suppliers, our members and industry partners. It will require revolutionising many winemaking practices, working together to find new ways to reduce emissions, capture carbon and enhance biodiversity in and around vineyards. We have already taken action and we know we need to do much more.

As with everything we do, our guiding principles will be to consult our membership along the way and to be transparent and honest about what we are doing and why. We are committed to following the most up-to-date scientific research and helping our members, staff and suppliers to see the benefits and opportunities that come with doing the right thing for people and our planet.

We continue to welcome feedback from all our members on all these issues and look forward to carrying on this conversation and hard work for the years to come. If you would like to get in touch, please email societynews@thewinesociety.com.

We’ve put together some answers to questions most frequently raised by members so far which can be viewed in our Help pages.

Steve Finlan
Chief Executive Officer

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