National Liquor News June 2019

Page 28


CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT: THE NEXT STEPS FOR SUSTAINABLE WINEGROWING NEW ZEALAND With a significant amount of campaigning in the recent Australian federal election dedicated to environmental policy, sustainability in the primary sector is without doubt a hot topic, says Natalie Grace, the Manager – Australia for New Zealand Winegrowers.


ccording to Wine Intelligence’s SOLA Opportunity Index, wines with a sustainability and environmental connection have the best chance of success in a crowded market. It states that consumers “have a growing intent to buy wines that are produced in a way that takes both the environment and those creating the product into consideration, and are willing to consider designations that are broader than just ‘organic’ as supporting cues”.

Two decades of industry participation For 20 years, New Zealand Winegrowers has led Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ), an industry-wide certification programme based on recommendations and guidelines issued by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). Since its commercial introduction in 1997, the programme has evolved yet its objectives are still relevant today: • to ensure New Zealand continues to make high quality and distinctive wines; and • to continue to export these wines internationally, produce them efficiently and grow the sustainability of our wine industry. SWNZ has achieved a lot in 20 years. Almost every wine-producing nation now has at least one sustainability programme, and New Zealand’s own has reached the enviable position of being considered a world leader through establishing a framework for our members to articulate their sustainability achievements; attaining near full industry participation; and strong brand equity in the SWNZ logo, with many eligible wineries using it on their labels and packaging.


But what does this look like in practice?

Sustainability in action Some key achievements from SWNZ members over the 2016 growing season collated from SWNZ data include: • 96 per cent of wineries measured and recorded water use; • 98 per cent of vineyards used monitoring techniques in the vineyard to optimise water applications; • 92,000 cubic metres of by-product was diverted from landfill by vineyards and wineries through reuse or recycling programmes – the equivalent of 36 Olympic swimming pools; and • 2,500ha was set aside for biodiversity protection, restoration or enhancement by vineyards and wineries – the equivalent of 3,030 football pitches. These last two points are significant in the context of New Zealand representing just 1400 growers and wineries (16 per cent of Australia’s 8700) and the total producing area being under 38,000ha. Essentially, more land was set aside in New Zealand for biodiversity protection, restoration or enhancement than planted to Pinot Gris, our third most popular white wine variety.

Continuous improvement Standing still means being overtaken, and with a mandate from participants to do more, Sustainable Winegrowing must continuously improve, which has led to an extension of the programme – SWNZ Continuous Improvement (SWNZ CI). Based on the SWNZ ‘pillars of sustainability’ structure (biodiversity, soil, air, water, energy,

plant health, waste management, people, business practice), each pillar is allocated an aspirational industry goal. For example, zero waste to landfill and 100 per cent renewable energy for the waste management and energy pillars respectively. SWNZ CI puts sustainability in the hands of our members; members set their own goals and timeframes, SWNZ CI provides guidance, best practice and verifies achievements. While in its pilot stage, the SWNZ CI programme has begun to see positive steps forward. Groups are developing to discuss industry issues and solutions. Members are collaborating around the waste pillar to identify their waste streams and tackle their shared supply chains to reduce packaging and use recyclable packaging. They are sharing challenges, ideas and solutions, and it’s that activity that will lead the industry to achieving that audacious zero waste to landfill goal. In terms of sustainability, our modern wine industry is coming up to 50-years-old. We want to be producing high quality wines sustainably for the next 50 years and beyond. To New Zealand’s winemakers and grape growers, sustainability means delivering excellent wine to consumers while helping the natural environment, local businesses and communities involved to thrive. For New Zealand’s wine industry it represents a commitment to protect the places that make our famous wines. Exactly what this looks like is best told by our producers – don’t miss the opportunity to ask them about it during your next trade visit or tasting and develop a deeper understanding for the sustainability story behind each wine.

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