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.

Marketing

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.


Cost


“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!


Discussion


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 [Karl.Forsyth@awri.com.au]
For New Zealand please contact: Roger Kerrison [roger.kerrison@aurasustainability.com]