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Global Reference Framework for wine sustainability launched

The Sustainable Wine Roundtable launches what it describes as ‘the first comprehensive statement of what sustainability means in the wine sector’.

The Sustainable Wine Roundtable (SWR) has launched a new tool for the global wine industry designed to achieve a more consistent and robust approach to sustainability.

Dr Peter Stanbury of the SWR has identified as many as 70 sustainability standards for wine around the world – often developed, like appellation systems, to address particular regional conditions. That makes it harder for producers and retailers to agree on what robust standards of sustainability look like, confuses consumers and raises concerns about ‘greenwashing’.

After reviewing a range of these sustainability standards, building on knowledge from outside the wine sector and identifying areas of missing information, the SWR launched its Global Reference Framework (GRF) on 8 November. The GRF sets out current best practice on what sustainability in wine looks like, covering six broad areas from governance and practices in the vineyard and winery to human and social issues, packaging and distribution.

The new framework is intended as a benchmarking tool, so that ‘sustainability’ – which can be a nebulous term – is more rigorously defined and therefore clearer to consumers. The SWR hopes the GRF will help producers to assess the credibility of certification schemes; allow retailers to compare the claims of different standards, so they can communicate sustainability more clearly to their customers; and help certification bodies to agree on best practice.

‘The ultimate aim is to make it easier for consumers to recognise a sustainably-produced bottle of wine,’ said Richard Bampfield MW. ‘At the moment, there are so many wine sustainability schemes that they are diluting each other. The idea is to create a single standard that all parts of the wine value chain can measures themselves against.’

Stanbury insists the GRF is not intended to be another system for certifying wine sustainability. ‘Our aim is not to call people out or try to define detailed practices in the wine industry such as water management, which are often determined by local conditions. We want the GRF to become an inclusive reference, a shared understanding of what sustainability looks like.’

While there is a fair bit of knowledge about sustainability in vineyards and wineries, much less is known about the rest of the supply chain: issues such as packaging, glass bottle weight, air freight and bulk shipping.

‘Producers may think that being organic, biodynamic or regenerative makes them sustainable, but vineyard practices are a relatively small part of wine’s carbon footprint,’ said Bampfield. ‘Hence the need for a universal standard that covers the whole wine value chain. The SWR is well placed to do this as it brings together all the parts of that chain, from producers and packagers to transporters and retailers.’

Stanbury feels it is important to recognise that sustainability is a journey. ‘There are so many things we understand now that we didn’t understand 10 years ago. Sustainability evolves over time. What looks like a sustainable standard one year might not look the same one year later.’

The GRF will be reviewed and updated annually.


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