The latest IPCC report, released in August, has again underscored the urgency of addressing sustainability on a global scale. For the first time, representatives of the world’s top wine industries have joined forces to set up a global reference standard to tackle global issues such as climate change, sustainable packaging, social issues and water scarcity.
The newly founded Sustainable Wine Roundtable (SWR) comprises leading wine brands, companies, wholesalers and retailers, environmental associations and other role players collaborating to make the world a better place. It was created to be representative and compelling. “We won’t succeed unless we take everybody with us,” explains Executive Director Toby Webb.
For Wines of South Africa (WoSA), getting involved was a natural decision. “With sustainability being one of the key focal points for our industry, it was an obvious organisation to engage with and we quickly raised our hand to join a very esteemed group of founding members,” says Maryna Calow of WoSA. ”The SWR will add a lot of value for the global positioning of the wine industry as leaders in sustainable trade.”
Pioneering South African winery and recipient of The Drinks Business 2020 ethical company of the year award, Journey’s End, is also a founding member. “From the very start we’ve had a keen focus on ethical and sustainable wine production and as a company embrace progress and collaboration in driving forward the sustainability agenda,” says MD Rollo Gabb. “There is a requirement in the wine industry for a globally recognised standard for all stakeholders to adhere to – which in turn will help guide many producers and farms alike on their path towards a sustainable future.”
The coalition aims to make sustainability viable throughout the global wine trade. A globally recognised standard – building on the many locally recognised sustainability standards and criteria for wine – would benefit the industry by providing a clear and universal definition of what sustainability means, how it is measured and how producers, distributors, retailers and other stakeholders can participate in helping the industry at large become a sustainability leader.
The IPW scheme and sustainability seal means South Africa is already on the right track. “The SWR will build on excellent programmes such as these that are already in place,” says Rollo. “We have huge admiration and respect for IPW, WIETA and WWF. These programmes demonstrate how advanced the South African industry already is in recognising the importance of sustainable wine production.”
But although these schemes are recognised and respected within South Africa, IPW and WIETA , they do not have an international focus. “As this is a global issue we’re facing, it’s clear a globally recognised standard and measurement is required which will help provide clear and credible guidance on how to achieve sustainability and what exactly ‘sustainability’ in wine production is.”
“When it comes to local systems and certification, we’re want to maximise the potential of what currently exists and not replace it,” says Anne Jones, category manager of beer, wine and spirits at Waitrose, which is also a founding member. “It’s about summarising and sharing best practice in a positive and collaborative way.”
The SWR will provide a forum to table ideas and discuss progress on increasingly important issues. Driving a globally recognised sustainability message will provide clarity and direction to a diverse wine industry at large. “For many who are looking to progress and recognise the many threats and issues that confront the world today, this is in our view a very solid medium for contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” says Rollo.
Building on local sustainability standards already in place, the SWR will develop this global reference standard to clarify the wine community’s consensus on what sustainability really means and how it is to be implemented and measured. This will provide clear and credible guidance on how to get vineyards and wineries on the sustainability pathway and help retailers and consumers make sense of a growing number of eco-labels and claims.
The organization is well-positioned to achieve its goals, as its 49 founding members are major players from all corners of the industry. General membership of the SWR will soon be open for all stakeholders from the wine trade. Membership is free and the Roundtable will start to accept new members in 2022. Members will be encouraged to participate in working groups, forums, research and the development of the global sustainability standard.
Interested parties can contact outreach and development manager Tom Owtram for more information.
The SWR founding members include: Ahold Delhaize, Alko, Alliance Wine, Amorim Cork, BLB Vignobles, British Glass, BSI, Catena Institute of Wine, Château Léoube, Cloudy Bay, Concha y Toro, Diversity in Food and Beverage, Domaine Bousquet, Dr. Loosen, Enotria&Coe, Equalitas, Famille Perrin, Fish Friendly Farming, Food Alliance, Grupo Avinea, Hochschule Geisenheim University, International Wineries for Climate Action, JancisRobinson.com, Journey’s End Vineyards, Napa Green, New York Wine & Grape Foundation, North South Wines, Preferred by Nature, Ramón Bilbao, Schenk Group, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Sustainable Agriculture Network, Sustainable Winegrowing Australia, Sustainable Winegrowing British Columbia, Systembolaget, The Co-op UK, The Fairtrade Foundation, The Porto Protocol, The Wine Society, Treasury Wine Estates, Vingruppen, Vintage Wine Estates, Waitrose & Partners, Whole Foods Market, Wines of South Africa, WWF South Africa.