Wine Miles - Back on the Road Again

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 by Roger Kerrison , under

Last week an article appeared in Harpers Wine and Spirits on the back of a press release outlining how wines from the Rueda region in Spain were poised to take market share away from New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the UK.
The original press release was distributed by a UK agent, Clink Wines, who have a number of brands from the Rueda region on their books. The release itself was scathing towards Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – outlining the issues of quality relating to bulk commoditisation of New Zealand wine and a price point that was no longer offering value to the consumer due to the strong NZ dollar (or more pertinently, a weak British Pound). Both are contentious points that would have been received with umbrage by many producers here in New Zealand.
But these were not the points that rankled us. The one that got us more than a little grumpy was the claim that these wines have a lower carbon footprint than New Zealand wines.
Back in 2006 when we started working on carbon assessments of wine there was a term being widely used – you might remember it – “food miles”.
This term was based on the concept that it would be better to buy products manufactured closer to home as they would have a lower impact on the climate by being responsible for less carbon from transport. Given that New Zealand is about as far away as you can get from the UK, products from here were given the automatic status of “food miles whipping boy”.
A simplistic concept at best, it galvanised all manner of people in New Zealand to really look at whether New Zealand produce was carbon competitive. A ground breaking study was undertaken by Caroline Saunders and her team at Lincoln University to comparatively look at the life cycle carbon impacts of New Zealand products. This study, along with work undertaken by NZTE quickly dispelled the simplistic concept and introduced a wider audience to more robust terms such as cradle to grave and life cycle assessment.
Last week we asked for clarification of the carbon claim made in the press release – but nothing as yet has been forthcoming. We have found no public disclosures on the carbon footprint of Rueda wines and can only assume that the comment was based on the ill conceived idea that because Rueda is closer to London than Marlborough, its wines will have a lower carbon footprint.
Without a transparent study to compare against neither can we claim that Marlborough wines have a lower carbon footprint than those from Rueda, what we do know though is the following:
  • It is highly likely that wine freighted to London from Rueda is by road and cross channel ferry. This has a larger carbon footprint than wine freighted by road and sea freight ex Nelson from Marlborough, due to container shipping being a very carbon efficient form of transportation.
  • Spain has an electricity emissions factor almost double New Zealand’s.
  • Spain has a glass recycling rate that is lower than New Zealand’s.
  • Marlborough produces some of the best white wines in the world at almost twice the cropping levels of the Rueda regions vineyards – probably giving better economies of scale in terms of carbon allocation in the vineyard.
  • The region is significantly warmer than Marlborough due to its continental climate – again there will probably be a greater amount of energy and HFC’s required for refrigeration of must, juice and wine.
  • It is also worth pointing out, without any irony intended, that shipping wine in bulk and bottling in the UK reduces the carbon footprint of New Zealand wines still further.
We have to hold our hands up and say these are only the most likely scenarios as we see them. Without the primary data it’s necessarily all supposition.
After all, the wines might be container shipped out of Corruna to Tilbury, the wineries might have their own small scale renewable energy plants, they might purchase extremely lightweight glass from an efficient European supplier and their agrochemical and fertiliser regimes might be less than New Zealand’s due to the high soil lime content and warmer weather, thus negating the vineyard economies of scale. Their wineries may even be primitive affairs and not use refrigeration at all, preferring to blow away the confected fruit characters of more traditional cool climate wine styles. All of these are possible and could be calculated (and compared), if the numbers came with the claims...
All we are asking is that marketing claims, like the ones put out in the press release, are based on robust studies and not misguided assumption – otherwise it is just marketing “greenwash” – something that DEFRA and the ASA are very strict on policing in the UK.
About Aura - Aura Sustainability are world experts in Wine Carbon Lifecycle Measurement having measured both the world’s first carboNZero and Carbon Reduction Label wines.

Behavioural change and harminisation - not likely

Thursday, August 4, 2011 by Roger Kerrison , under

This week saw the 7th Australia and New Zealand Climate Change and Business Conference come to Wellington – although I found the conference title ironic given the high percentage of government employees and lobbyists in attendance. Although not exactly stimulating, or encouraging for that matter, it was interesting to get the insight into how government operates on this level.

During the conference I commonly had the words of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke repeating over and over in my head - that the last people on earth we should get to come to agreements on climate change are politicians. This was proven when the New Zealand Minister for Climate Change declared that the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme a resounding success and was responsible for the years reductions in New Zealand’s carbon output, when of course the reality is that the damper year providing more hydro electrical generation and Christchurch’s need for energy was significantly reduced given the earthquake. This statement was also contradicted by the majority of lobbyists (who should be very pleased with their work in this area to date) who all pretty much admitted that the current price of carbon is a long way from facilitating behavioural change or providing a business case for green technological investment outside of business as usual.

The more cynical view that was permeating is that the New Zealand ETS is pretty much a tax and that it is unlikely to ever provide a market mechanism for carbon reduction.

One term that was mentioned over and over was “complimentary measures”. A more common term for this phrase is voluntary action on climate change, and it’s regularity of use was encouraging to those, like ourselves, who operate in the space (but also a damning indictment of the ability for regulatory policy to deliver the low carbon economy on its own).

In the voluntary space there were presentations from a number of people on a range of subjects. Such as the newly introduced Australian Carbon Farming Initiative that if managed correctly could provide positive change in on-farm carbon management, carboNZero and CEMARS the certification schemes owned by the New Zealand government for voluntary action on climate change and also the Carbon Reduction Label which is now being rolled out across Australasia on the success of the scheme in the UK grocery sector.

One point that is still evident to me is that in the voluntary space there is still a real lack of harminisation and recognition between programmes. It has been a 5 year crusade of mine to get Landcare (carboNZero and CEMARS) and the Carbon Trust to have recognition of each others programmes and therefore reduce the compliance costs for those companies who wish to take a market by market approach for a given environmental certification logo.

This harminisation, or recognition, has not been forthcoming because these programmes revenue and value propositions have been built around competing proprietary brands. This adds considerable costs to companies, such as The New Zealand Wine Company, who want to use a different certification brands in different countries, because of marketing and customer imperatives.

We recognized that this was going to be an issue some time ago and this is why we have been building and developing IP in our barefootTM tools and models. barefootTM has been designed to provide economies of scale in the data quantification costs for organizations wishing to have a flexible marketing approach. We see this quantification flexibility as integral to our business as an independent consultancy, especially as it would seem that the amount of proprietary schemes available globally, as well as in New Zealand, is growing not shrinking.

On other matters, the coffee provided at the conference by Westpac (CEMARS certified) was exceptional and was served in reusable take home cups.

Originally from -

Why The Carbon Reduction Label For Wine?

If you’ve continued to read past that title you are more than likely already familiar with terms such as: “climate change”, “carbon economy”, “global warming”, “carbon accounting”, “carbon neutrality”. I’m going to assume you have a passable understanding of the subject, issues and principles because I’m not going to cover them here. Let’s just assume that we all know it’s a hot topic (had to have just the one bad pun, I am a winemaker after all!) and, whilst not universally agreed with, currently has the world’s attention. So now let’s look specifically at the question, firstly by defining the subject and then outlining the reasons you should consider it seriously.

“The Carbon Reduction Label” (CRL) is a brand or symbol you can put on your bottle, cask or PET of wine, or any other product or service for that matter. It looks pretty much like a black footprint on a beach. It can come with, or without, a number representing the wine’s calculated carbon footprint per glass, “cradle to grave”. It is owned by the UK’s Carbon Trust and managed in Australasia by Planet Ark. The world’s first wine to bear the logo, Mobius Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, was released in Australasia late last year and has since garnered considerable media attention worldwide. There are now other wines undertaking the certification process which will be released shortly in supermarkets in the UK and Australia.

Carbon calculation tools have been around for a while and many wineries have used them to their considerable advantage. They have used them to manage down their energy use and carbon footprint, usually throughout the manufacturing process. The CRL takes a full lifecycle approach and looks at carbon throughout the entire supply chain where upwards of 70% of a wines carbon budget can be found.

So what are the compelling reasons to invest in the CRL? Well there are several extremely good reasons to invest, investigate or at the very least keep a very close eye on it. Most of them come down to the clever market approach the UK’s Carbon Trust has used in designing the Carbon Reduction Label programme.


The Carbon Trust’s brief is to implement change in the way we use energy, specifically energy that results in carbon emissions. They do this in a variety of ways but, in the case of the CRL, they do it by fostering public awareness and promoting choice. There’s no doubt there’s some work to do calculating the carbon footprint of a product, but once you’ve done it you’ve got a proven certification that shows the consumer you are actually trying to make a difference.

Last year the UK consumer spent over two billion pounds on products wearing the Carbon Reduction Label. This incredible volume means that these products already outsell Organic and Fair Trade produce. Next year that figure will more than likely double as the world’s 3rd largest retailer, Tesco’s, brings on stream hundreds of new products into the programme. With Tesco’s adamant that this is part of a long term strategy to label every product in its stores there is more than enough potential to keep this growth continuing for some time to come.

The reason this is happening is largely due to the efforts the Carbon Trust put behind promoting the CRL to the public. The Carbon Trust is a not for profit organisation whose goal is carbon reduction. Therefore they can afford to put money back into public recognition of the logo and this in turn helps guarantee success. Over the last 3 years they have built huge brand recognition and public trust and are now expanding the programme into markets outside the UK. Australasia is one of these and the programme is administered by Planet Ark, also a not for profit organisation that has huge brand recognition and public trust itself.

Full Product Lifecycle Measurement

It’s both simple and difficult to emphasise this point. Simply this calculates the carbon equivalents used in the manufacture, distribution, retailing, use and disposal of, in this case, wine. This is important because it removes the gaps that would otherwise be exploited by competitors wishing to influence a market, such as happens in the “Food Miles” debate where “Buy Local” is the catch call. A full lifecycle assessment removes the ability for anyone to focus on just one area (like freight) and exploit the differences. The real answers (the product carbon footprint) tell the truth and given the rigour of certification are beyond refute. The final point that really needs to be made is that lifecycle assessment is the direction the world is moving. There are very good reasons for this and are well worth going into some other time, but the bottom line is that it is happening.

Full Product Lifecycle Reduction

The Carbon REDUCTION Label is, unsurprisingly, about carbon reduction. For any product to wear the CRL there must be a commitment to reduce its carbon footprint. These reductions can come from anywhere and everywhere in the lifecycle.

Having information is power. Like it or not we need to know where we’re going, what we’re good at, what we’re not and where we can improve or change. All good decision making requires excellent information and market specific, model specific intelligence. If for whatever reason we’re ever compulsorily subjected to the comparisons of full lifecycle assessments, or need to refute other’s claims, we very much need to know what they’ll show. Ideally we need time to make comparisons, changes and efficiencies in order to prepare for opportunities, mitigate risks and provide our luxury products to the consumer in the most environmentally efficient manner.


“Carbon is money.” It took me quite a while to understand this, but once I had it bedded in it all made sense. Out of this realisation fell obvious and a few less obvious ramifications, with tax being the most significant.

It seems likely that at some point a carbon footprint will be taxed, possibly like VAT or GST at the point of sale, or possibly right at the start of the supply chain. That’s a way off hopefully but in the meantime reducing energy use (carbon) in the products lifecycle reduces your costs right now. It’s extremely important that producers are mindful of their energy (and other) inputs in cost control and there are large savings that may be made here.

Slightly further from home it’s possible the cost of recycling or disposal may influence or cost your customer and freight costs may become a more significant issue if the carbon produced is taxed. Countries may impose levies on carbon at borders, publicity around unreasonably high carbon footprints may curtail sales and many, many more possible potential costs and risks exist. The French have already passed into law a process that will bring about mandatory carbon labelling, mainly one suspects because their electricity is nuclear generated and therefore French made products will have a competitive advantage over imports. Product carbon footprinting will become a soft trade barrier and a market access issue, quite possibly government sanctioned and market led, the biggest cost of all!


The points raised above are far from exhaustive. This is a big, rapidly moving field and a lot more can, and will, be written about it.

The world’s first wine to wear the CRL, Mobius Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, was released in Australia late in 2010 and garnered worldwide press interest. There are currently other wines undergoing CRL certification from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
In response to this growing requirement the AWRI Commercial Services Division and Aura Sustainability have teamed up in Australasia to provide CRL compliant carbon measurement and subsequent consultancy around energy and carbon reduction. The AWRI requires no introduction given the worldwide respect they enjoy, Aura are leaders in the wine industry in regards to carbon footprint measurement through the proven development of their barefoot® tools and models designed to deliver the CRL for wine (as used by Mobius) at the least cost and greatest benefit.

The AWRI and Aura will be conducting a Webinar for Australasian wineries in mid March for those interested in finding out more about the opportunities the CRL presents. For more information contact:

For Australia please contact: Karl Forsyth []
For New Zealand please contact: Roger Kerrison []

Distance to Market - A Small Life Cycle Impact

Saturday, November 27, 2010 by Roger Kerrison , under

Distance to Market - A Small Life Cycle Impact
Last week we blogged about the incorrect assumption that the large GHG increase between a glass of Mobius Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc consumed in New Zealand or consumed in Australia was due to "food miles", or in more technical terms, transportation.

The blog was distributed through linkedin and twitter, and received some interesting comment from experts in the field of life cycle assessment. The first response came from John Henry Looney, Managing Director of UK based Sustainable Direction Ltd, who provide sustainability services to the UK beverage industry:
"Interesting it has taken this long for this perspective to get into the public arena.

A full cradle to cradle to analysis of a product life cycle, of which many have been completed for some years, shows regularly transport not to be the major issue. For example for UK beer the main carbon and resource use (and note these are different and both important) is due to raw material and in particular the nitrogen fertiliser used with its high embodied energy and to refrigeration and storage at the point of use, so not even manufacture and certainly not transport.

It is good to see hard science breaking through into public awareness, we need more of this to get people focused on the good things they can do and to feel good about it (positive reinforcement encourages behaviour change)."

This insight was agreed upon by Craig Jones, a leading expert in embodied carbon who works for Sustain Ltd, also in the west of England:

"I also find it curious why its taken so long for people to understand this. This also applies to products and materials. In the majority of products I've analysed transport is certainly not the significant contributor to its life cycle impacts. I've now analysed the embodied energy and carbon of hundreds of materials ( and for the vast majority of them transport is probably 7%, or so, of the embodied carbon. Although of course there are exceptions (sand, aggregates) and this doesn't mean that transport should be neglected."

One of Craig's colleagues at Sustain, Matthew Fishwick, also backed up the fact that transport is not of major significance for food and beverage products:

"I always found the focus on transport quite strange! For the majority of product carbon footprints I have carried out I have also found transport to be a relatively small proportion of overall impacts. This is especially true for food and agricultural products."

Through the work of such expert analysis the "food miles" concept has all but been debunked by those in the technical carbon arena. The issue though is that it is intuitive for those without technical knowledge, the media and consumers, to assume that transport is a significant component. The continued emergence of product carbon footprinting will provide more transparency in this space.

Another important point is that if transport is not as wholly significant as we were once led to believe, then we can look more towards a global market model whereby component parts of goods are produced in regions that have natural or technical production efficiencies.


Life cycle assessment proves food miles concept too simple

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 by Roger Kerrison , under ,

Over the last couple of weeks we have seen tremendous interest globally in the launch of Mobius Sauvignon Blanc, which is the first wine to carry the Carbon Reduction Label.

Aura worked as consultants on the project and provided assistance in the measurement, certification and also the subsequent PR. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest the story has raised, with articles appearing in The Guardian, Decanter, The Herald and it was subsequently syndicated through Reuters and picked up as a story by many overseas dailies.

One element needing elaboration from all this comment in the media is the often made assumption that the 50g CO2e difference between a glass of Mobius enjoyed in New Zealand versus one enjoyed in Australia is all to do with transport. For many commentators this has subsequently led on to the misguided assumption that buying local is better for the environment. Unfortunately this is not necessarily so.

With Mobius over 80% of the 50g difference between the countries relates to the life cycle process within those countries. In other words even a white wine originating in Australia will have a footprint higher ifconsumed in Australia and lower if consumed in New Zealand! The two largest factors at play here are internal transportation of wine and most significantly the increased emissions associated with refrigeration in Australia (over three times that of New Zealand) in bottle shops and at home. The last 20% difference is attributed to transport from the winery to port and then shipping over the Tasman.

If you left the blog at this point satisfied that there is still a 10g CO2e betterment per glass to purchase local I’m afraid you’d still miss out on a major point. Given our analysis we can say:

“It’s 10g CO2e better to drink Mobius in New Zealand than Australia.” We cannot say, with absolute certainly, anything else at all. However...

Over 35% of Mobius’s full life cycle carbon footprint has proven to come from emissions associated with the manufacture of packaging materials. It’s a given that if these materials are manufactured in New Zealand they will very likely be responsible for a much smaller footprint than if they came from a country with high CO2e per kW of electricity. It wouldn’t take a lot to make up a 10g difference.

Of course anyone could start purchasing packaging, like New Zealand glass, to make their products more carbon competitive so again it’s not about local or otherwise. (As an aside this is where the market force we call carbon-bonding works as suppliers compete to provide supply chain inputs that are CO2e lower than their competitors’). On top of which we’ve yet to see enough comparison of the process emissions.

In this case the moral of the story may be to remember that New Zealand is the land of the hydro-lake, wind farm and geothermal power plant before we assume that buying local is best.

Carbon Bonding - Creating a market model through the supply-chain

Monday, November 1, 2010 by Roger Kerrison , under , , ,

Aura Sustainability has this week been involved with the launch of Mobius Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. This is the first wine in the world to be certified by the Carbon Trust, and it will carry the Carbon Reduction Label in the Australian, New Zealand and UK markets. Aura provided the management of the measurement and certification through the use of its barefootTM tools and models.

This launch is the culmination of 2 years work for Aura in building capability in product carbon footprinting. We have invested considerable resource in barefootTM, as we actually see that product carbon footprinting can provide a market model that can facilitate change, we have coined this "Carbon Bonding". Aura's Chairman, Dave Pearce outlines his thoughts on this below:

Carbon Bonding - How does it work and why should I care?

I’ll start with “why should I care?” because without that bit the “how does it work” can be a little boring, this way I think it becomes a little less so... (you may already have guessed that I’m not at the technical end of things).

If you’re reading this you are probably already aware that “Global Warming” looks to be both coming down the turn-pike and is more than likely manmade. Both points are bad news but one is marginally better than the other; that is, what man makes, man can presumably un-make. I’ve used “man” carefully here, not to exclude women but the more generic “mankind”, to emphasise the individual responsibility of global warming. I mean that you are responsible, as am I, as were our parents and our neighbours, communities, countries etc. Sure some faceless industry did its bit but always in our name, as consumers or investors or just plain citizens. So let’s get rid of the:

“It’s too big for us to deal with!”

It wasn’t too big for us to make and it’s only going to be un-made the same way, one decision at a time, made by one individual at a time. Why care? Because it’s going to influence the wellbeing of you, your children, and your neighbours, communities, countries etc if you don’t. It’s a good reason.

"So how does it work?”

Well Global Warming isn’t yet an exact science but it’s fairly clear that it’s been caused by the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by us; mostly, but not only, by burning fossil fuels. We need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we are responsible for, measured as “carbon dioxide equivalents”.

Some steps are relatively easy and obvious, like burning less fuel or switching to renewable energy sources. Some decisions are not at all obvious because we don’t know which products are greenhouse gas intensive and which are not, much as we didn’t know which foods were high in salt, sugars and fats until they put the information on the label. Information is power and choosing wisely based on that information has changed the way many of us eat. It’s how we’re going to change the way we look at food, and every other product in the world, in just the same way. It’s called a carbon label and it comes with a number that shows the effect a product has, over its entire lifecycle, on greenhouse gas emissions. And that’s the technical bit, pleasantly over...

So it works by us making good decisions, one by one, based on buying products that have a carbon label on them. The more of us that do this, the more producers will take up labelling their products just to stay on store shelves. Having more carbon labels available will lead to us selecting products with lower emissions over those with higher, much as we do now with price or nutrient ingredients. Producers will strive to reduce their emissions to stay more desirable to us and so drive their supply chains to measure and reduce their emissions by choosing lower carbon inputs and components, and so on.

A market model is born and one by one we have a positive influence on global warming and our own future, which is how carbon bonding works and why I care.

Dave Pearce, Winemaker and Sustainability Strategist

Congratulations to Grove Mill, winners of the coveted Green Ribbon Award

Sunday, June 6, 2010 by Roger Kerrison , under , ,

It has been a bit of a reflective week for Aura, thanks to two nostalgic moments. Both of these moments were provoked by good things happening to The New Zealand Wine Company, an Aura client, and also an employer that is on the CV of a couple of those involved in Aura Sustainability.

On Thursday night The New Zealand Wine Company, better known as Grove Mill Wines, won the New Zealand Government’s Green Ribbon Award. This coveted award was bestowed for making quality wine with minimal environmental impact.

It is now nearly 4 years since Grove Mill became the world’s first
carbon neutral winery. It is fair to say that appreciation for this achievement was slow to arrive, but arrive it did and it still continues almost 5 years after myself and Grove Mill Chief Winemaker, Dave Pearce, put in place the companies sustainable development strategy.

Although at the time we thought we had a tiger by the tail, I don’t think myself, nor Dave, let ourselves believe that the strategy would be as successful as it has become. This was mainly because consumer perception of sustainability was so incredibly niche 5 years ago. It was a leap of faith and credit has to go to those at Grove Mill whom allowed this to happen and also to those that continue to drive it forwards in the present day. Congratulations.

The other nostalgic event that occurred also involved Grove Mill. I was googling blogs to see what was occurring in the world of sustainability and wine, much to my surprise I found a
recently published blog written by the noted American travel journalist David Lansing. David had visited myself and Dave Pearce out at Grove Mill over 2 years ago. We had spent the afternoon in the wetlands drinking wine and discussing sustainability, as well as many other topics. From memory, most of the things discussed were subjects that should not be broached with a journalist you have just met. Fortunately we made sure the glass never really left Mr Lansing’s hand and therefore restricted the amount of shorthand he was able to take!

So with this brief period of reflection over we are ready to drive
sustainability strategy in wine forwards and anticipate where the opportunities in sustainability are over the next 5 years. Cheers.