Why Sustainability is Vital to Viticulture
Australia’s wine industry is one of the largest in the world, responsible for the second largest supply of exported wine to China behind only France. This thriving industry is continuing to grow, but what does this mean for Australia’s environment? How will climate change impact this important and growing Australian industry?
Like many other sectors, wine growers and sellers are finding sustainability difficult to ignore, with increasing pressure from customers, investors and stakeholder groups. Consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental impacts of the products they purchase and the brands they engage with.
Wine growers might be forgiven for assuming that in contrast to large-scale agriculture sub-industries, wine production has little impact on the natural world. The reality can be confronting - most vineyards are mono-cultures and rely heavily on preventive spraying of herbicides, fungicides and pesticides to keep vine disease and detrimental pests at bay. Widespread spraying of pesticides has been proven to be responsible for depleting insect and bird numbers, while intensive use of herbicides contaminates groundwater and destroys soil quality.
In response to this, many vineyards and wineries are considering their approach to sustainability and how to leverage the concept to benefit their brand, opening up access to new consumer markets and obtaining a competitive edge on their competitors.
Voluntary wine-making organisations focus on sustainability
There are several industry bodies in Australia focused solely on fostering awareness of wine-making’s environmental footprint and supporting the industry in embracing environmentally friendly practices in viticulture. The Winemakers Federation of Australia’s Sustainable Wine Growing Initiative is one such example, tasked with the objective of understanding the overall environmental impact wineries are having. They encourage various waste minimisation and pollution prevention strategies, as well as carbon foot print reduction to improve their members’ sustainability performance.
Sustainable Winegrowing Australia is a program that promotes the fundamental pillars of sustainability and can be applied to both the vineyard and winery. The program provides an industry framework to enable planning, evaluation, control and communication of your sustainability program. Sustainable Winegrowing Australia is a voluntary program designed to cater for the changing goals and needs of Australian grape and wine producers. It provides information for wine industry research, development and extension activities and is a useful tools for benchmarking.
Sustainability practices to build the responsibility agenda of your winery
There are many approaches to sustainability that are available to wine growers and sellers; some simple, low cost projects include:
Sustainability Policy: The first piece of the puzzle is to articulate what sustainability means to your winery, and your commitment to improving your practices.
Calculating your Carbon Footprint: Understanding where you started before adopting sustainability initiatives is vital to communicating your journey and achievements. No strategy can be actioned unless you know where you are currently; this will also give you the foundation to track your improvements for greater stakeholder engagement.
Sustainability Strategy: While a sustainability policy answers the ‘why’, your sustainability strategy will answer the ‘how’, and pave the pathway to meeting your sustainability goals in a given time frame. A good strategy will go beyond CAPEX projects, and consider industry bodies to be aligned with and other non-financial opportunities available to your business.
Consider the impacts of the farming processes employed on your farm, and alternative ways of farming to reduce the impact.
More and more consumers expect their wine to be ethically produced and if not actively contributing positively to the environment, at least mitigating its impacts. There has never been a better time as wine growers to consider how embedding sustainability into practices will benefit your brand and expand your consumer base.