Supporting the sustainability of grape and wine businesses and Australia’s sustainability credentials
Entwine Australia is the Australian wine industry’s sustainability program – set up to support growers and winemakers in demonstrating and improving the sustainability of their businesses. Entwine is endorsed by the industry peak bodies Australian Grape and Wine (AGW) and Wine Australia (WA) as the principal vehicle to convey the Australian wine industry’s sustainability credentials. Entwine operates as an ‘umbrella’ sustainability program. Under the Entwine umbrella there are two components for members – the reporting of sustainability metrics to the AWRI and participation in an approved certification program. Entwine provides credentials which cover the fundamental components of sustainability (environmental, social and economic) and delivers benchmarking tools and resources to enable planning, evaluation, control and communication in vineyards and wineries. The structure, content and strategic direction of Entwine are guided by industry reference groups to ensure that it continues to meet the demands of Australian grapegrowers and wine producers and the key markets for Australian wine.
Entwine best management practices survey
Benchmarking and continuous improvement of practices are highly valued aspects of sustainability programs. Being able to compare their performance against others allows members to view their businesses objectively, to think innovatively about alternative practices and to find efficiencies. In addition to benchmarking business metrics, last year for the first time Entwine vineyard members were also able to compare their management practices including soil, water and chemical management, biosecurity practices and business management. The survey has now been extended to wineries and, coupled with the information from the certified members whose practices are independently verified, the AWRI has gained data from more than 275 vineyards and wineries in 43 wine regions. Overall, members’ performances were exceptional in agrochemical and water management, with improvement opportunities highlighted in biodiversity management and biosecurity systems.
Sustainability and business resilience
Last year the AWRI engaged with members of Entwine Australia to identify and describe the unique features of sustainable Australian wine-grape vineyard businesses. Thirty Entwine vineyard members provided information about their businesses, and this was combined with the data supplied annually by members to investigate the relationship between environmental performance and business resilience. The study found significant links between low energy use and low production costs, as well as between less and more efficient irrigation use and lower yields. Low energy users also produced grapes with a significantly lower emissions intensity, were more likely to graze sheep in the vineyard and were more likely to have an area of their property dedicated to the enhancement of biodiversity. Entwine members’ vineyards that used less energy also demonstrated other positive attributes related to their environmental impact, economic performance and social awareness. Overall, Entwine members had a strong sense of social awareness, citing the ability to communicate their credentials externally as a valuable part of their membership.
Collectively, the survey responses suggest that vineyard energy use may be a useful quantitative indicator of overall sustainability, with low energy users more likely to be more sustainable than high energy users. This relationship will be investigated in a new project commencing next year that aims to identify appropriate financial metrics of sustainability. It is anticipated that the inclusion of economic indicators in Entwine’s business metrics will further enhance the benchmarking capability of the program.
Global review of sustainability
Throughout 2017, the AWRI and the MVGWTA collaborated to develop a single national sustainability program – one that is simple, efficient, inexpensive and can deliver tangible benefits to all Australian vineyards and wineries. The proposed program strongly considered and sought to address the two major weaknesses of the grape and wine sector’s current sustainability arrangements: the fragmentation of the existing framework and the lack of integration with industry marketing programs. The proposed solution was presented to Wine Australia, WFA and AV in April 2017, and received in-principle support.
Having made this positive progress, all five bodies jointly agreed that conducting a holistic independent review of the current global sustainability landscape would be beneficial. The goal of the review was to ensure that the proposed new program provides Australian grape and wine producers with the ability to exceed current global sustainability standards and to identify any alternative models worthy of consideration. An independent review of Australian wine’s place in the global sustainability landscape was undertaken between mid-September and mid-December 2017 and included 65 interviews with independent growers, regional associations, international buying managers, national bodies and marketing and finance executives both in Australia and overseas.
Three key recommendations from the review were:
- The Australian wine sector should proceed with implementation of a single National Sustainability Program (NSP) based on the existing Sustainable Australia Winegrowing and Entwine resources, supported by robust verification services.
- The NSP should be established under formal joint ownership of all the national industry bodies.
- Sustainability should be integrated into all global marketing activity undertaken by the Australian wine sector. In particular, Wine Australia should increase the profile of sustainability in its promotional activities.
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