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Sustainability - what's your view?

Hi everyone,

We’re currently reviewing our efforts on sustainability and we’d love to hear your views on the most important issues for any future strategy to focus on.

My guess is that there’s plenty of you here who’ll have an insightful opinion on this - so I’d love to know what you think?

For instance, what kinds of issues from the following list would you feel are a priority?

o Energy use (e.g. heating/cooling of warehouses, office)
o Improving the resilience of The Wine Society and its growers to the impacts of climate change
o Minimising The Wine Society’s contribution to climate change (e.g. reduction of carbon emissions across operations, supply chain and products)
o Operational waste and recycling
o Printed materials (e.g. print lists, marketing and event materials)
o Product packaging
o Sustainable agricultural practices
o Transportation and distribution of products

o Diversity and inclusion (e.g. members, employees, growers and suppliers)
o Giving back to the community (in general, not just this Community! :wink: )
o Health, safety and wellbeing of employees
o Labour standards for growers/suppliers (e.g. worker conditions, fair pay and zero tolerance to modern slavery)
o Responsible drinking, marketing and selling

And is there anything else you’d suggest should be a focus for us?

If anyone fancies adding your thoughts to this before the end of the week, I’ll share it with the team who’s working on this, as I’m sure they’d be very interested. :slight_smile:

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I’ll kick things off by saying that many, if not most, of the above are closely connected and can’t really be treated separately. Sustainability and reduction of contribution to climate change come high on the list, along with fair treatment of employees all the way down the line.
I’m sure everyone has their ideas and bugbears. Mine are the ridiculously thick and heavy bottles used by some producers. Not only are they wasteful, they make storage tricky too😏

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Agree that they are connected, but on the other hand some, while certainly desirable, don’t have much connection to sustainability (unless you stretch that so far that it becomes just a motherhood-and-apple-pie cliché for ‘good’).

Diversity, employee, and other labour standards, for example: essential, but not for reasons of sustainability; they are much more important than that.

And I would like to know what you mean by ‘giving back to the community’. I am not a great supporter of companies deciding what causes to support.

Are you asking what ‘should be a focus for us’? or about sustainability?

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Yes, I’m broadly in agreement with the previous post. There seem to be 2 themes really. One is about sustainability, and the other about human relations (loosely speaking). Not that they are not both worth thinking about, but they’re not really the same.
I think it would perhaps be easier and more useful to consider the issues separately.

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Cherry pick the 4 most attainable goals.

Give yourselves a target and a timescale.
Allow the person(s) tasked time to do/complete task, NOT just add it to their workload.
Review quarterly, with executive team members

  1. Printed materials
  2. Product Packaging
    3 Energy use at the Stevenage site.
  3. Making the AGM virtual, as that would save any amount of MJ’s used up in travelling costs (500) by members attending a meeting, that they could watch in their lounge at home. If Sarah, Pierre or Steve feel uncomfortable doing remote AGMs, then I’m sure that we could hire a consultant to coach them or a course to send them on.

Note
If Recycling can be improved substantially, then that is an abject failure by the person currently with the responsibility.
For instance, in Swiss Households they have had 6 different coloured bins since 1960!! :dragon:

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Sorry, but I just don’t see diversity in TWS. Not anywhere.

Can we have a look at the members of this committee considering diversity?

This needs to be its own thing, not an adjunct to something else.

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Yes, I also agree that you appear to be mixing two topics - environment/sustainability and Human Resources although it could be argued that ‘culture’ connects both.
For me it is always about delivery - for example, we could stop printing lists immediately and achieve a contribution to global sustainability. Packaging might be another quick win. Perhaps a medium term delivery objective could be electric or hydrogen powered vehicles and investment in renewable energy sources that power our real estate. In terms of wine production, we can influence our suppliers but it is more difficult to deliver that ourselves - perhaps a supplier charter that allows those who adopt proven sustainable practices to use a ‘green’ symbol next to their entry on the price list? Equally, you could amend your contracts with suppliers of all goods and services to include sustainability either as a specific objective or in terms of ‘certification’ being an entry requirement to doing business with the Society - DHL will have experience of this from other customers.

Slightly more complex is looking at the processes and structures within TWS to see if ‘waste’ can be removed that contributes to sustainability. For example, each time I receive notification that an EP purchased wine has arrived I wonder whether, with good distribution technology, it needed to have been delivered to TWS at all prior to me making my selection on it being delivered to my home address? What if I was asked prior to its departure from the vineyard to select my destination- reserves or delivery essentially? Direct delivery would avoid receipt, selection, consignment and transportation for a second time. However, would this offset the amalgamated load and delivery to TWS in sustainability terms - not sure? Perhaps the same could be said for the more popular wines? Again, do you save duplicated handling on wines delivered by the 6 and 12 if they are delivered direct to member?

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The first 8 are sustainability - the remaining 5 are cultural / HR issues…dont try and blur the lines

Focus on items where you can make an actual difference and not just lip service…there are enough people on here that will call you out :wink:

They then need to be split to short and long term projects - sustainable agricultural practices is not an overnight project

Also look at the impact of a project - against whatever metric you choose - CO2 offset being the most common. Could also be reduction in water usage, reduction in chemical usage etc - choose ones that make a meaningful difference!

For example - We don’t know your energy usage (we know you have solar panels) but it could be there is very little to be done there because of what has already been achieved

ps - available for consultancy :wink:

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already use electric vehicles :slight_smile: and have solar PV :slight_smile:

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Excellent TWS is looking at this. And (controversially it seems after reading some of the other comments) I’m glad you are looking at it holistically, taking into consideration issues like diversity and labour standards for growers as well as things like printing and carbon emissions. These are all intrinsic to sustainability (how can we look after the planet if we don’t also care for and respect each other?) and too often hived off into separate silos.

One area not mentioned in your introduction, and where I think TWS might also be able to play a useful role, is in doing more to raise awareness of the issues of sustainability and how it relates to wine with the members. For example, it would be great to learn more about growers you work with who are looking to innovate in this area - for example through nurturing diverse ecosystems in their vineyards, or building their soil, or reducing the use of pesticides, or cutting carbon emissions. [Edit: I, for one, would definitely be keen to do more to support such wineries).

As an aside, I remember in France (maybe 30 or 40 years ago?), that everyday wine came in returnable litre bottles with stars on - that I imagine were just refilled. Perhaps TWS could do Society and Exhibition wines in returnable bottles, picked up the Wine Society van drivers during deliveries??!!

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Just wanted to hop on and respond to the valid points being made about how many of these issues might not be classed as sustainability issues - I’ve been informed the reason we’re asking about them all in one place is because we want to understand your views on the relative importance of each.

Thanks for all your comments so far - incredibly helpful already!

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Not really an answer, but I don’t think it’s possible for me to rank things on the sustainability side. It seems to me that taking soundings of members is a poor substitute for a proper study of how much collateral damage is being done and what the effect of fixing it is (at which point you could ask us things along the lines of “we currently store wines in a temperature range of 12-14 celsius. If we increased this to 11-15 celsius we could save 20000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year. Is this a good tradeoff?” [obviously the numbers are completely made up - I have no idea if the orders of magnitude are remotely reasonable].

While I care about sustainability and have some general views, I think the only reasonable answer is it depends on a proper analysis of what the biggest potential reductions are, and what the costs of doing so (including intangible things like loss of convenience) are.

Of the non-environmental ones, I would say that fair treatment of employees (including diversity, health and safety and labour standards) and as far as possible the same down the supply chain, together with inclusion in membership terms (in attitude, though the numbers can be a useful guide) would for me rank well above responsible drinking (obviously I don’t think irresponsible drinking should be encouraged, but it’s still mostly the responsibility of the drinker) and giving back to the community (corporate charity is something I struggle with as a concept; it’s hard to argue against if it does good, but the machanism feels wrong to me).

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I vote for ‘all of the above’.

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All of the above. Maybe a hierarchy based on:
-first, what can TWS do with regards its own actions (how it stores, transports wine, etc)
-second, what can TWS do with regards their purchasing (how they encourage, incentivise, work with, their suppliers to produce wine with high labour standards and low environmental impact)
-third, what can TWS do with regards their broader sector involvement (e.g. lobbying for industry wide standards on sustainable agriculture, for example).

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This makes a lot of sense.

I’d be interested to know if there are any plans to convert the fleet to hybrid/full electric at some point?

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I know what you mean, I struggle with it, too, particularly when it is used for PR. However, I think it makes more sense when it aligns with the skills and interests of the business. To give an example, if TWS offered small grants to help small winemakers do an environmental audit of their vineyards / operations that would make sense to me and I would support it.

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Yes, that was really an aside of mine, and I certainly didn’t mean so say that giving back to the community is bad, just that making sure that your core operations are running fairly and ethically, and trying to follow through up your supply chain, should have precedence.

Your excellent example also could fall into either category, which perhaps comes back to my thought that asking members about specific proposals might give a better idea about our priorities than asking us to prioritze broad categories.

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It’s an odd phrase isn’t it? “Giving back to the community in general”, rather than just giving to the community. Is the community giving us something, so that we should/can give something back? It’s not obvious to me. At the risk of sounding cold-hearted, I don’t think this is much of a priority.

As others have said, the sustainability issues are important but we, certainly I, don’t know enough about was has been done already to know what could usefully be done now and in future. Certainly switching to lower emissions vehicles sounds an obvious step. I assume the new warehouse is being planned with energy efficiency in mind.

“Responsible drinking, marketing, and selling.” Seriously? The Wine Society? I can’t help thinking this was added on to get a reaction!

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I find “sustainable” as just another trendy mis-used word. Surely TWS, like any other business, should continuously be looking at ways of reducing costs, being more efficient, using new technologies etc, all of which in many cases will make it more “sustainable”.

We could debate bringing back deposits on beer bottles but I suspect too many people these days have enough money that they are happy to add to landfill rather than go to the effort of getting their deposit back or even using their recycling box. I would strongly support a deposit scheme, indeed I always took my French ‘star’ wine bottles back to France, but we need to find a new and different way to make bottle re-use and/or recycling more efficient these days as we must encompass the large part of the population who just don’t care.

As to the points made about producers, my own choice would be for TWS to highlight what individual producers are doing but then let us decide whether that influences our buying, similar to the situation with organic certification.

I will respond to one specific point, printed matter. I value receiving a printed list (twice a year is enough), printed newsletters, printed EP offers etc. They are convenient to access, I write notes on them, I file some of them but most importantly they are easier on my eyes so I read them!

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When I lived in Vancouver, where there was a deposit scheme, people who didn’t want to fuss about returning bottles tended to rinse bottles and leave them in bags outside - other people would collect and return them for the value of the deposit. I would also support a deposit scheme, but it needs to be national (since we don’t seem to do regional in this country) to make a significant difference.

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