The fourth and final part of this management briefing, which looks at the wine sector's approach to environmental sustainability, takes a closer look at the role played by the generic trade bodies.

The critical role that regional and national wine associations play in the overall environmental sustainability mission of the wine industry is reflected in the approach taken by the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB).

One of the most prominent and established regional wine associations in the world, the CIVB engaged in the sustainability mission at a relatively early stage, instituting three-year research plans as early as 1989.

Today, there are four essential pillars to the CIVB's strategy. In addition to the three-year research programmes, the CIVB has developed a total Carbon Footprint for Bordeaux wines, instituted its 2020 Climate Plan of Bordeaux wines and developed an Environmental Management System (EMS) of Bordeaux wines.

Eva Mondini, environmental quality engineer at the CIVB who heads up the organisation's environmental mission, believes it is Bordeaux's early engagement in the challenge which sets it apart from other similar organisations. She also believes a strength of the programme is that members - the organisation represents an enormous variety of wine growers and negociants ranging in size and the areas of the market they service - can take from the programme what is particularly relevant for their businesses.

"What will be unique for Bordeaux wines will be the fact that we’ve done it quite quickly and that we give best practice to the members, but there is no homogeneity," Mondini tells just-drinks. "People choose to do what they want. We do not impose practice also because the vineyard is so big and has a great diversity."

As a number of professionals working in the sustainability field for wine companies have noted, the collectivist spirit is intrinsic to the wine sector and collective organisations like the CIVB underpin the entire structure of the industry. 

However, some of the political and bureaucratic aspects of these organisations can create problems as well as solve them. For instance, some organisations - particularly in Europe - were considered to have an overly conservative outlook, too focused inwards on tradition and history and less in tune with the modern wine market. The New World wine revolution led even the more traditional organisations to adopt more open attitudes. What is clear, however, is that, from a sustainability standpoint, such organisations are ideally suited to fostering sustainable development in a fragmented industry. 

Engaging with all producers, and crucially bringing together the largest and smallest players across a wine region, they are a perfect means of information-sharing, pooling resources and sharing best practice. 

Mondini sees the collectivist ideals of an organisation like the CIVB as central to its sustainability mission. "The collective dimension is the central idea," she says. "We use this collective approach to go further on sustainable development."

Even the often beguiling notion of 'terroir' becomes immediately logical and intelligible when seen in the context of the sustainability challenge. In one sense, the fact that the notion of terroir fits so well with today's environmental sustainability agenda underlines that sustainability is not a new phenomenon, but could be characterised just as much as a return to a set of values which predate the industrial era and highly commercialised agriculture. The idea of sustainable agriculture may not have been articulated in the same way but it was certainly understood.

Mondini says it has been easy to motivate producers around the sustainability agenda, because it is "about protecting their work tool, the place where they live, where they raise their children".

The CIVB environmental mission

On the research side, the CIVB finances and directs around 30 research contracts annually. Included in the 2010/2013 programme is research on adaptation to climate change and biodiversity.

More recent developments have taken the CIVB environmental strategy significantly further. In 2008, the CIVB commissioned a carbon footprint study to measure total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by wine production in the region. The study found the total carbon footprint of Bordeaux wines to be 223,000 equivalent carbon tonnes (tCO2e).

It also produced a breakdown of that figure across vine cultivation, winemaking, bottling, storage and delivery.

  • Incoming goods accounted for 89,000 tCO2e
  • Freight for 37,000 tCO2e
  • Viticultural energy use for 30,000 tCO2e
  • Movement of people for 23,000 tCO2e
  • Fixed assets for 16,000 tCO2e
  • Non-viticultural energy use for 10,000 tCO2e
  • Non-energy related emissions for 4,000 tCO2e
  • Packaging end of lifecycle for 2,000 tCO2e, and
  • Direct waste at end of lifecycle for 2,000 tCO2e.

Following that initial footprinting study, the CIVB launched the Bordeaux Wine 2020 Climate Plan in 2009 which set a number of reduction targets to be achieved by 2020. The CIVB aims to achieve a reduction of 40,000 tCO2e in carbon emissions by 2020 through energy conservation and a 20% increase in the use of renewable energy. A 20% reduction in water use is also included in the plan.

The aim is to reduce emissions by focusing on the three largest sources of GHG emissions in the region, namely incoming raw materials, such as glass and cardboard, which account for 43% of emissions (reduction target - 15,000 TCO2e); wine freight which represents 18% of emissions (reduction target - 5,000 TCO2e), and energy use in viticulture and oenology which contributes 15% of total GHG emissions (reduction target - 5,000 TCO2e). The CIVB will publish a further carbon footprint study in 2013.

Mondini adds: "What we’ve done is to provide Bordeaux professionals with a simple calculator of the Carbon Footprint in order for them to calculate their own Carbon footprint and to compare it to the global one of Bordeaux wines."

The remaining pillar in the CIVB strategy is its Environmental Management System (EMS) which was set up in 2010. The system allows companies to group together in adopting a common programme of environmental improvement and share costs. 

"There are several small groups of 20 firms around one animator which set up the same programme," Mondini explains. There are variations between the different groups but every group has the same tools and platform, Mondini continues, and the overall coordinators or "animators" of the groups are trained identically. "We can say that it is a sustainability network which allows us to dig deeper on specific topics."

Conclusion

From time to time, organisations which seek to "protect" the interests of a wine region or appellation, particularly some in Europe, have been characterised as too hidebound by tradition and even reactionary, and in all honesty the cap has sometimes fitted. They have noble intentions but their inward focus on preserving their heritage has made them seem out of touch with the outside world.

However, whether such characterisations have been justified in the past or remain so today, it would appear that such organisations are tailor-made for today's environmental sustainability challenge.

Generic identities, regional denominations and the bodies which administrate them are about shared interests and addressing collectively the opportunities and challenges which are relevant to all the operators in a particular geography.

Addressing harmful environmental impacts - and finding sustainable solutions which give food and drink producers the opportunity to make a positive impact to their natural environments - are equally challenges which affect everybody. And, moreover, as the rhetoric and actions across so many different sectors bears witness, they are challenges that can only truly be tackled collectively. So when it comes to sustainability, organisations like the CIVB, the Wine Institute and many others not only have a critical role to play but appear perfectly fit for purpose.

To return to part three of this briefing, click here. The full table of contents can be found here.