Starting with the vineyards they choose to work with right through to the shipping, packaging, storage and distribution of their product, Green Roots are aiming to continuously reduce their carbon footprint year-on-year.
After identifying the most carbon-intensive aspects of the business – for many in the wine sector it’s the vineyard activities and transportation of the product – Green Roots set out to find innovative solutions to their biggest sustainability barriers.
Its’ parent company, Las Bodegas, achieved its first year of Planet Mark certification in 2021. As a small team passionate about taking climate action, they identified a gap in the market for wines produced and distributed sustainably. Now, they have pledged to achieve net zero by 2030 and are influencing change across the sector.
Opportunities for change
Like many industries, hesitancy to move away from traditional practices has been a barrier for sustainability in the wine sector.
“There is a widely-held belief that the old methods are the best and only way to do things, which means shipping heavy glass bottles from their country of origin. This, however, is where the biggest carbon savings can be made, so changing these practices and perceptions is vital to achieve the biggest gains.” Las Bodegas’ Operations Manager Alistair Coulthurst said.
Along with the transportation of the product, one of the most carbon-intensive aspects of the wine sector involve the vineyard activities. According to the World Economic Forum, these activities make up around 40% of the carbon footprint of wine, with some of the emissions coming from fuel production and combustion, electricity consumption and biogeochemical field emissions. Farmers are now adopting more sustainable practises: turning to renewable energy sources and moving to regenerative agriculture. Green Roots only work with wineries who are committed to these low-impact and sustainable farming methods.
“This involves water conservation, healthy soils and Earth-friendly pest management. In the winery, we look for similar types of reductions as you’d expect to find in your home – clean, renewable energy sources, water conservation and minimal waste at every level.” Alistair commented.
Where Green Roots have seen the biggest impact in emissions reduction is the shipping of the product, and their approach is now changing standards in the industry. In fact, Green Roots’ shipping methods are saving over 60% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of a ‘normal’ wine.
Traditional methods would see companies shipping wine in containers filled with 70% air all around the world. Green Roots ship wine in bulk, packing all wines in bottles, cans, or kegs in the UK at a wind-powered facility. Wines are shipped over water from the nearest port to the vineyard directly to the Northeast of England.
Embedding sustainability in the packaging of the product itself is another area that is helping to reduce emissions. The business sources the lightest UK produced glass bottles which are made using around 67% recycled glass, and the aluminium used to create their cans is from a facility that operates on a “one in one out” policy. That means that zero new aluminium is used to create the cans. The labels on their bottles are made from bagasse (a by-product of sugar cane processing) and use UV inks. While Green Roots acknowledge that this is not perfect, it is vegan and currently one of the more sustainable options available for printing.
The business benefits that have come from these sustainable changes is far reaching. Not only have some of the initiatives, such as their shipping method, saved customers money, but the flow-on effects have been felt within the culture of the business.
“We have found that as a team we have a greater shared drive and passion for what we do as a company. It’s also brought a greater, more helpful engagement from a board that previously were considered to be distant.” Alistair shared. This will only be furthered as the company plan future education and training run by the Planet Mark engagement team. “We will ensure that we have group energiser sessions so as not to forget why we have these policies and join in with all available Planet Mark sessions too.”
Their approach to transparency and honesty when it comes to their sustainability programme has also been beneficial. “As a business, being upfront and honest has opened up an entirely new market for our products. A trade customer base that shares our care for sustainability and therefore attracts customers that also see value in saving the planet.” Coulthurst said.
As members of Planet Mark, the company has been able to also connect with other like-minded businesses. “Our engagement within the Planet Mark community has been superb, we’ve learned a lot and it’s been excellent to have such knowledgeable support behind us.“
Aware of how rife greenwashing is, particularly in the fast-moving consumer goods sector, Planet Mark certification has provided Green Roots with the confidence to talk about their sustainability journey with credibility and authenticity.
Honest and transparent communications about a business’ sustainability journey resonate with customers and stakeholders and is a critical aspect of brand loyalty. Green Roots know that by sharing the why’s and lessons learnt so far, other organisations can learn with you. This will help us solve our collective global challenges faster.
“Knowledgeable support is important, and our Planet Mark certification is invaluable. We could measure energy and emissions ourselves, but Planet Mark provides that expert backup that allows us to be scrutinised. It is important we make genuine changes, not token gestures…Establishing baseline figures provides information to monitor our impact and highlight the areas where we need to take action.”
“We are attempting to tackle greenwashing head on. By putting all our sustainability information (both good and bad!) front and centre, we are giving ourselves nowhere to hide. We will keep having our data verified by Planet Mark and continue working with our contacts within the world of sustainability to constantly interrogate our information ensuring we are up to date with all future changes.”
That is why Green Roots’ new products feature the Planet Mark Business Certification logo on both the cans and the packaging. “We wanted to communicate as strongly as possible that our claims of being sustainable and different to ‘normal’ wines were easy for a consumer to verify. As good as our website and information is, having a respected certification body behind us provides consumers with more trust than we could offer ourselves.”
Net zero future
Looking to the future, Las Bodegas has joined the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign through Planet Mark, with a commitment to achieving net zero by 2030.
Through Planet Mark certification, the company is measuring and reducing their Scope 1 and 2 emissions through areas such as changing business travel, moving out of their office and committing to become 100% paperless.
Their Scope 3 emissions are an ongoing project as they need the entire wine supply chain to move with them. “We will apply every pascal of pressure we can and continue to find suppliers who are on the same journey”.
“Our challenges and opportunities are essentially the same regarding net zero. We are looking to grow over the next few years and to spread our message of sustainability and hope to influence change within the sector. However, at the same time scaling up is going to present challenges in itself, the bigger we become the more important monitoring and sticking to our sustainability goals will become.”
With SMEs accounting for 99% of the UK’s business community, organisations such as Las Bodegas have a crucial role to play in reaching a successful net zero transition.
Find out more about Green Roots here.