Sustainable Winegrowing Australia (SWA) has released its latest impact report, showing that a growing number of wineries and vineyards are taking steps to improve their environmental sustainability.

The report reveals that a record number of wineries became certified sustainable in the 2023 reporting year. Certified wineries now make up half of all members, which is a significant jump from the 2020 report, when just 16 per cent of member wineries were certified sustainable. As of vintage 2023, the equivalent of 96.1m bottles of wine carrying the SWA certification mark have been produced, and this volume in vintage 2024 looks to be even larger.

SWA certification allows wineries to display the SWA trust mark on their products, indicating that the vineyard and winery are using industry best practice for sustainability, as verified by an independent third-party audit.

Dr Mardi Longbottom, General Manager Industry Development and Support, The Australian Wine Research Institute, is impressed by the growing focus on sustainability in the wine industry.

“Despite challenging conditions facing the Australian wine industry, we’ve seen a really positive wave of progress within the sustainable winegrowing community, with many producers becoming certified for the first time.

“In addition to members saying, ‘it’s the right thing to do’, momentum has been building due to retailers and hospitality venues globally asking for sustainability credentials or building select ranges or wine lists around sustainability. It’s encouraging to see, and that’s why we believe from industry to the end purchaser, together we can do better and make a real impact for people and the planet,” she said.

Consumers are increasingly concerned with the sustainable claims of companies, with a 2023 Kantar report indicating that 64 per cent of consumers believe companies have a responsibility to solve climate and environmental issues. Additionally, consumers are wary of greenwashing, and want to be able to verify businesses’ sustainability claims. According to the IWSR, more than half of regular wine drinkers will only trust the sustainability of a wine if it has an official certification.

Hill-Smith Family Estates achieved total SWA certification across the business during vintage 2023, and Head of Sustainability Louisa Rose spoke about the importance of the certification process.

“Since vintage 2023, 100 per cent of Hill-Smith Family Estates wines are now certified and progressively displaying the trust mark. Sustainable Winegrowing Australia certification has given us an advantage in both domestic and international markets. We are seeing more and more buyers seeking sustainable credentials when considering wines for new listings and tenders.

“While each market or customer is at a different part of the journey, many are moving rapidly in the direction of sustainable certification being a prerequisite to trade – it is easy to imagine a time when being certified sustainable is the norm for all customers, and that won’t be far away,” she said.

SWA certified wineries must display improvement in their sustainable practices to become recertified every three years. The 2023 Impact Report data focuses on these efforts and the industry-wide progress that has been made since the last 2020 Impact Report.

Waste reduction and recycling has been a particular focus, with the number of wineries and vineyards actively reducing landfill waste increasing more than four-fold. All member wineries and vineyards are now measuring, monitoring, and reporting waste generation, recycling, and reuse. Some waste reduction initiatives include using grape skins and stalks as mulch, creating cleaning products from winery wash water, and using recycled and recyclable packaging.

“Nothing goes to waste during a vintage, certainly not the wine. Each of our outputs finds a second life either through our own actions or by working with our partners both locally and globally,” said Rose of Hill-Smith Family Wines.

More than half of wineries and vineyards have reached industry best practice when it comes to energy efficiency and the use of clean energy, increasing 4.7 times from the last report. Water is another area of improvement, with the number of wineries and vineyards prioritising water management almost tripling. Now, 44 per cent of wineries and 54 per cent of vineyards have achieved industry best practice for water management.

Biodiversity and soil management are two growing areas of improvement. Richard Leask, co-owner of Hither & Yon, explained the connection between soil and biodiversity.

“Increasing the capacity of soils with the use of plants and their diversity is the key to arresting the decline of soils throughout the world,” he said.

The number of SWA members protecting and enhancing native plants around their property has grown 3.8 times since the last report, although only 34 per cent of wineries and 44 per cent of vineyards have reached best practice. An impressive 56 per cent of member vineyards have best practice soil nutrient management programs. SWA is aiding member wineries to continue improving their sustainable practices and is working to achieve the sector’s goal of 42 per cent emissions reduction by 2030.

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