Sustainability

Recently we announced our plan to reduce our emissions and be more sustainable in all that we do from vineyard to glass. You can read more about this in our CEO’s update, ‘Making wine more sustainable, from the vineyard to your glass.’ 
 
We have had great feedback from members, the vast majority of whom have said they welcome the initiatives. We’ll be sharing much more detailed information early in 2022 once we have delivered your Christmas wine. In the meantime, you’ll find responses to the most frequently asked questions from members below. 

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We outlined some of our reasons in our recent update and have developed our strategy having listened to members, our committee and what our growers and employees are telling us. We, like many businesses, recognise that there are many sound reasons for taking a strategic approach to our sustainability activities, be it through making savings by improving efficiency, by reducing waste or by offering a stronger, healthier business for our members now and in the future.  

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Given our member-owned model, this is a pertinent question, and we will be open and transparent about our plans as they progress. It’s important to emphasise that a number of the measures we are planning will actually provide significant financial savings. Our solar panels, for example, will pay for themselves in just over six years and with a lifespan of over 25 years, will make a significant ongoing saving against our electricity costs. Currently these generate between 30 and 40% of our requirements and have additional panels planned that will help us reach 60-70% Other activities will enable us to reduce the amount we pay in future waste taxes or will add significant value to the membership, for example by making additional product information available to help inform purchasing decisions. 

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The glass bottle itself contributes a significant amount (in the region of 29%) to the overall carbon footprint of a bottle of wine. Tackling this issue is complex, particularly as glass remains the container of choice for wines destined for ageing. That said, we are working to reduce the weight of bottles across our range – ‘right-weighting’ to ensure they are light as possible without sacrificing the durability necessary to get them to your table. We are also keenly following British Glass’ plans to develop a more environmentally friendly furnace that will reduce CO2 from bottle production by 50%. We are exploring alternative packaging formats including bag-in-box wines, cans, ‘paper’ bottles and PET to see what might work for wines intended for drinking in a shorter period. We plan to run trials of some of these and will be asking members for feedback. 

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There can be considerable environmental advantages to bulk shipping wine and bottling in the UK. Historically, this has favoured larger volume and lower-priced wines and hasn’t represented a viable solution for much of our range, but the situation is changing and already a small number of our wines are UK bottled (for example, the Fistful of Schist range from South Africa). We will be exploring how more wines could be efficiently bottled in the UK without negatively impacting wine quality and in the quantities that we require.  

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We pride ourselves on working directly with many smaller producers and are very aware that many do not have the resources to make the changes necessary to either respond to climate change or to reduce their own carbon footprints. This was firmly in our minds when we set our target of 2040, in order to ensure that we are able to bring producers with us. We are currently exploring how we could make financial support available to our producers that want to make changes and are planning a supplier forum to enable producers to share experience and best practice. So, for example, one of our growers in New Zealand already working to reduce their carbon footprint might be able to offer practical advice and help to a grower in the Loire experiencing similar challenges.

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Understandably, many members are keen to learn what our producers are doing in this area. Currently we only have limited information available on our website, such as organic status. In the short term, we are planning to make more information available to you, be it membership of a formal sustainability scheme or more informal local action that will make a positive impact to the sustainability of that particular producer. In the longer term, however, we plan to adopt a standardised format – a scorecard if you will – that will enable those members that wish to do so to compare the sustainability criteria of wines across our range and make purchasing decisions based on that information.  

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Please watch out for our communications in the coming months, where we plan to outline more of the targets we shall be working towards. We will also be asking members for feedback on wine packaging trials and how we best present sustainability information to members when selecting wine. 

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