Concha y Toro: Sustainability can be a commercial decision

Big companies have a responsibility to lead on boosting sustainability and should see it as a return rather than a cost, the head of Concha y Toro UK has said.

Speaking at Concha y Toro’s recent seminar on sustainability in London, ‘Better Wine, Better Ways’, Simon Doyle, general manager Concha y Toro UK said that sustainability was an enabler to commercial success and growth – and should be viewed as such.

“Many [producers] see it as a cost but we need to see it as a return,” he said. “It is a serious platform for us, and a big part of the company’s future platform that we are committed to long-term.”

The global wine company was outlining recent progress made on its sustainability strategy, demonstrating how this was a commercial choice for the group as well as an ethical one, while also presenting a snapshot of the mature Nordic market’s sustainability expectations and how consumers in these markets engage with it.

Biggest opportunity lies in new tech

According to Concha y Toro’s Chilean-based sustainability manager, Valentina Lira, some of the biggest challenges around sustainability were in finding new technologies to enable wine producers to cut water usage in the vineyard and tackle the emissions involved in packaging.

One of the company’s priorities is to lower its water usage by 10% by 2020, Lira said, even though the company is already using 56% less water than the average of the global industry (around 48L per 125 glass of wine).

Currently around 93% of Concha y Toro’s water usage happens during the growing and harvest process she noted – and although around 50% of that water comes in the form of rain, that still leaves around 46% from irrigation. The remaining 6% of water usage happens through the vinification process, bottling and packaging.

“The priority is to lower it comes from the agriculture,” Lira said, a task she described as a “big challenge”, not least due to the limits of technology.

“We need to make a technological leap forward to bring this down,” she said.

Better Packaging

Valentine Lira, sustainability manager, Concha y Toro

Meanwhile, the biggest opportunity for wine companies to lower their carbon footprint lies in developing better bottling and packaging that includes more sustainable packaging, she said. Currently around 42% of CO2 emissions come through bottling and packaging, with around 20% each produced during distribution and grape growing and harvest, and around 18% during the vinification process.

“The main challenge for innovation is through more sustainable packaging,” she argued.

CYT is aiming to reduce its carbon footprint by 30% by 2020, having already reduced it by 15% since 2014, she added.

This comes as part of the company’s new corporate strategy, which was adopted last year to put sustainability in a more central position, with quantifiable and measurable goals. The aim is to become a benchmark for the industry in environmental practises, Lira noted.

To date the group has already switched to light-weight bottles across 98% of its portfolio, cutting around 14,127 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year (each bottle uses around 13-15% less glass, totalling around 13,577 tons of glass overall), but it is already working on the next generation of ‘eco-bottles’.

It has also set a goal to reach 100% of renewable energy by 2020, up from 67% in 2018, and this year will see the addition of 9 new solar plants across its vineyards.

In 2015 it aligned its policies to the UN’s sustainability objectives, and  it has now benchmarked where these policies are already being met across all levels of the business.  In order to make it easier to communicate this ethos to the public, it is matching its brands with particular efforts that fit that particular brand, for example communicating to consumers that its Sunrise brand uses 100% solar energy, or focusing the ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ message around the Trio brand.

“We are still developing it but it’ll be good for consumers as it is simple so they’ll get it,” Lira said.

 

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