Across the world, a collective green movement among wine and spirits producers is in motion. From transforming carbon dioxide into vodka to creating paper-based bottles, the alcohol industry – one that depends on a healthy ecosystem – is enacting change.
Driven by facts, businesses are springing into action by not simply implementing goals and policy changes but by creating effective technology, rethinking packaging and respecting the land too – all to reduce their impact on the planet and ensure the sector’s survival.
“We created our vodka to show the world that pushing boundaries on technology and products is possible and that without innovation, the world becomes stagnant.” – Greg Constantine
Even global luxury businesses are on board. Moët Hennessy CEO Philippe Schaus announced at the Vinexpo show in Paris in February this year that all vineyards owned by the LVMH division in the Champagne region of France will be free of herbicides by the end of 2020 – a big move for the brand that produces millions of bottles of bubbly.
The group is also investing €20 million in a new sustainability research centre dedicated to sustainable winemaking in Champagne.
The changes will not go unnoticed as customers are also seeking and insisting on higher standards around carbon footprints, ethical manufacturing and sustainable packaging.
Wine and spirits go green
Air Company – maker of the world’s first carbon-negative spirit – is tackling one of the biggest offenders attributing to the climate crisis: carbon. Its patented technology removes excess carbon from the air and transforms it into impurity-free ethyl alcohol to use in spirits, fragrances and sanitisers.
The company’s first product, Air Vodka, absorbs as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as eight fully grown trees.
“We created our vodka to show the world that pushing boundaries on technology and products is possible and that without innovation, the world becomes stagnant,” Air Company Founder and CEO Greg Constantine tells The CEO Magazine.
“We wanted to create goods of the highest quality that help, not harm our planet – goods that do good – and our vodka is the first of many to embody this.”
Air Company is also hoping to educate others on how to do the same. “We need to become aware of the challenges our planet (and humanity) is facing if we continue to neglect it by creating wasteful and harmful products,” Greg notes.
“Air Vodka shows people that making actionable steps to a better future can start with one product and not end there.”
Greg believes that the business has the power to inspire others to innovate and pave a path to a cleaner future. “Our long-term goal is to develop products in each category where we see an opportunity to disrupt the existing infrastructure.
“We hope that showing the world that companies like ours can be a beacon for change and innovation will allow others to create, innovate and push humanity to a cleaner future.”
Adapting to change
Diageo, the makers of Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Guinness, is also making conscious business changes. The company announced earlier this year the creation of its 100% plastic-free paper-based spirits bottle, made entirely from sustainably sourced wood. The product will debut with Johnnie Walker in 2021.
Along with setting ambitious environmental and social targets, Diageo has also developed goals addressing positive drinking, renewable electricity and plastic.
“We must champion inclusion and diversity within and beyond our business and make sure we contribute to building inclusive, thriving communities wherever we live, work, source and sell.” – Diageo
The company was among the first to set its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets. As of 2020, Diageo has reduced its GHG emissions from direct operations by 509,000 tonnes since 2007, delivering on its commitment to a 50% absolute reduction. It has also reduced emissions by 33.7% across the value chain. Additionally, over 99.5% of Diageo’s packaging is recyclable.
However, the company still feels that it has a long way to go. A Diageo spokesperson shares that the business has yet to achieve the desired improvements in wastewater discharges and it found reducing the weight of its packaging by 15% more challenging than anticipated.
“We must be leaders in promoting positive drinking and be global advocates for water stewardship and a low-carbon world,” says the company’s representative.
“We must champion inclusion and diversity within and beyond our business and make sure we contribute to building inclusive, thriving communities wherever we live, work, source and sell.
“We will go further in pioneering sustainability, including through encouraging regenerative agriculture and driving circular economy approaches.”
Saving the ocean
Australian wine brand The Hidden Sea is on a mission to remove 1 billion plastic bottles from the world’s oceans by 2030. Through a partnership with ReSea Project, wine drinkers can now make a difference.
With every bottle of The Hidden Sea purchased, the brand has pledged to remove the equivalent of 10 plastic bottles from the ocean in a trackable process. Customers will receive a QR code after their purchase to follow the development.
“There’s no more ‘business as usual’, and as humans, we cannot keep turning a blind eye to the ocean-plastic crisis. Our oceans are suffocating, and urgent action needs to be taken.” – Justin Moran
“The average person disposes of 55kg of plastic each year, with the bulk of which ending up in our oceans,” says The Hidden Sea Co-Founder Justin Moran.
“There’s no more ‘business as usual’, and as humans, we cannot keep turning a blind eye to the ocean-plastic crisis. Our oceans are suffocating, and urgent action needs to be taken.
“Our mission isn’t about selling wine; it’s about making a true difference to our oceans and planet, and creating a movement of like-minded, socially conscious consumers who want to do something bigger than themselves.”
The Hidden Sea range includes chardonnay with notes of melon, lychees and peaches; rose made from a blend of mataro, grenache and pinot gris; and shiraz with tenants of red fruits and spiced oak.
Australia’s Bass & Flinders Distillery led by Holly Klintworth – Managing Director and second-generation Head Distiller – is a vine-to-bottle operation.
“In our quest for traceability in the industry, we aim to use locally grown ingredients and source the raw material for our grape-based spirits,” Holly explains. “These are from a north Victorian winery where sustainable practices are also a strong focus.”
Bass & Flinders also uses the surplus of organic produce from local farmers or product deemed unsuitable for retailers due to its size, shape or form – such as limes and cherries.
“We also forage botanicals where we can. For example, all ingredients for Angry Ant Gin are gathered off Wooleen Station in Western Australia. They are sourced sustainably under the permission of the Department of Parks and Wildlife, and the guidance of local elders.”
Situated on the Mornington Peninsula, the distillery is particularly cautious about its waste.
“We have a built-for-purpose trade waste system installed, along with implementing an environmental management plan,” Holly adds.
“We see more and more that consumers are not only interested in the flavour profile of the spirit they are drinking, but also our distilling ethos, the origins of the spirits and our carbon footprint.” – Holly Klintworth
“We avoid using chemicals in our cleaning processes at all costs, and our cooling system is also closed circuit so we use recycled water throughout our distillation cycle.”
The distillery is also exploring solar power as an alternative source of energy.
“Down the road in Dromana is an eco-solar farm – the first of its kind in Australia. It is being established so that eventually our local community will have access to low-cost, clean and reliable energy,” Holly shares.
Moreover, the family business is continuously looking at ways to reduce its carbon footprint from bulk ordering through to avoiding single-use plastics.
Challenges, of course, remain – the international importation of premium glass and classic gin botanical ingredients is unavoidable.
Holly explains that juniper berries – a primary ingredient in gin production – is grown around the Mediterranean region and very little is found in Australia due to the less suitable climate.
“Various ingredients and dry goods are still sourced from overseas by distilleries and importing juniper berries can’t be avoided,” she says. “It would be great to see more options for distilleries provided by local manufacturers.”
There are countless benefits to enacting environmentally conscious business decisions, and the sooner action happens, the less severe the cost will be in the future.
“Customers positively respond when they hear about the steps you are taking to reduce your footprint,” Holly notes.
“We see more and more that consumers are not only interested in the flavour profile of the spirit they are drinking, but also our distilling ethos, the origins of the spirits and our carbon footprint.”
Video credit: Air Company