The WinesDirect Awards 2022: Eco Champion Winner Announced

The WinesDirect Awards Eco Champion is announced

With ever increasing concerns around our planet, and the ways in which we can all reduce our carbon footprint - this years WinesDirect Awards wanted to acknowledge some changes happening within the drinks industry.

We wanted to throw the spotlight onto a few chosen retailers that we can see are taking clear and measurable steps to reduce their emissions and lead change. We're pleased to reveal, the results are in!

Winner: Laithwaites

Commended: Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Majestic

Here’s what Chris Burr has to say about why Laithwaites was a clear choice for our first Eco-champion award:

“Climate change is undoubtedly having a major effect on the wine industry around the world. Wherever I’ve visited recently since lockdown, Champagne, Croatia, Italy, Burgundy and the Rhein, it is a big issue. I know elsewhere in fact, particularly California and parts of Australia, it’s impacting quality, and potentially livelihoods.

The liquor industry has an urgent duty to do its part and we at WinesDirect, want to reward the wine retailers in the UK who are leading the way.

There is a great deal already happening in vineyards and wineries to mitigate carbon emissions. After all, the growing of grapes should be highly beneficial for the climate and growers who are in the front line are already very active to contain emissions. But all the Carbon Footprint Audits we have seen show that considerably less than half of emissions are created in wine production, the biggest impact is with packaging and transportation. Heavy glass bottles and weight of transporting them are the biggest culprits by far.

We commend the activities of Waitrose (the John Lewis Partnership) and Marks and Spencer who both have a considerable program to become net zero by 2040. As far as wine is concerned their canned wine, bag in box and pouches selection are an excellent start.

They are both putting some really good wines in these packs, but sadly at present the consumer is slow to pick up on this - they seem wedded to glass!

In Scandinavia, the consumer understands the carbon issues around glass production better, and it is interesting that nearly 50% of all wine purchases in those countries are of Bag in Box.

We see Waitrose are committed to the eradication of single-use plastic packaging in their stores, and are encouraging their customers to bring in their own containers.

Some will remember the days of returnable wine bottles with a deposit, still in use in Switzerland and some other wine producing countries where the local wine is what is mainly drunk. Of course, more recently here the reusable glass milk bottle.

Maybe Waitrose could be persuaded to encourage the returnable deposit paid wine bottle? Particularly for our excellent local wines, as over 90% of British Wine is drunk locally.

Majestic, previously very slow to make any positive moves, have now launched an initiative with the Cork Industry of Portugal Organisation (APCOR), to collect over a million used corks in their stores a year. These will be sent to the Eden Project in Cornwall, for mulching and using to fertilise the plants there.

For their awareness and positive action, we commend these three companies.

We also flag the slightly misleading activities of many, heralding the use of recyclable glass. Recycling is a good thing, undoubtedly, but the recycling of glass bottles requires transport of these heavy bottles, melting and reforming, then further transportation for filling etc.. All this creates a carbon footprint not far from its original CO2 emissions when being made, plus transport.

There is one UK retailer of wine, who really stands out, and where we are giving our new Award, that is Laithwaites.

Possibly because co-owner and Founder Tony Laithwaite's son, Henry, is a successful wine maker, particularly active with his own vineyards in the Thames Valley, and now making the excellent sparkling wine in Windsor Great Park. Henry will have very personal experience of the effects of climate change and has already made very tangible moves towards halving their footprint and eventually achieving net zero.

Laithwaites first step was an audit by EcoAct into all their supply chain and UK and World activities.

Not surprisingly they discovered that only 5% of their Carbon Footprint was under their direct control. In an effort to combat this, they have already invested in reforestation projects to offset carbon emissions from deliveries.

The majority of emissions they found are caused by transport and packaging. It’s early days but they’ve started to tackle these systematically and immediately.

Firstly, some waste and energy issues at their distribution centre have been resolved. They’ve developed a coherent plan to gradually move packaging from glass towards a better and a bigger range of wines in cans and bag in box. These methods represent a 30% and 80% reduction in carbon footprint respectively when compared to glass bottles!

They’ve also started to bottle more wine in the UK, to reduce substantially the impact of transporting heavy glass from around the World.

They’re obviously working very closely with their suppliers, and recently held a conference to inform them of all their plans. Some of the smaller suppliers are also getting financial support to help become more sustainable.

For their own energy requirements, they’re in the process of converting to green energy across all sites. They’ve also just appointed a Head of Sustainability to keep a sharp focus on delivering their plans. We’ve got no hesitation in giving Laithwaites (Direct Wines) our first ever Eco Champion Award.

Many businesses have good plans and a public relations position on renewables and reducing emissions, Laithwaites are taking action and doing it now.