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Indies: Sustainable steps

Published:  10 December, 2021

With sustainability roaring back to the top of the agenda, Harpers surveyed the indie sector to discover what demonstrable initiatives, innovations and actions leading merchants have implemented on their green journey.

Peter Wood, St Andrews Wine Company

“We are attempting to place larger orders to minimise the number of deliveries we receive, are doing a lot of our local deliveries by cargo bike and are minimising waste wherever possible. Further to this, we are trying to eliminate all plastic bags (which is proving tricky) by reusing cardboard boxes that we receive wine in.”

Carlos Blanco, Blanco & Gomez Wine Merchants

“Sustainability is very important to us as a business, starting from the wine producers we work with. They have to follow sustainable practices, otherwise we will not consider to work/partner with them, even if they produce a good quality wine at a good price point. Same for us as a business, all the way from recycling and how we deliver the wines to the final consumer, we always use 100% recyclable packaging and use couriers that offer a GOGREEN climate neutral [service], in order to neutralise the shipment’s CO2 emissions.”

Phil Innes, Loki Wines

“We review our sustainability all the time and look at new ways to recycle. We currently use a waste company that is zero landfill and work on 80% of our waste being recycled. We source as much of our products as locally as possible, but with wine this is more difficult if we are going to keep the quality of our offering high. We have moved to fully recycled and recyclable packaging for our courier distribution and also pay for carbon offset for all our courier deliveries.”

Philip Amps, Amps Wine Merchants

“Instead of trying to buy all of our wines ourselves, often only shipping half pallets from producers, we are now buying more via the Vindependents Group as we are able to ship bigger quantities at one time, so [that means] fewer pallets moving individually around.”

Simon Thomson, Talking Wines

“We have made sustainability central to our work at Talking Wines. It is an agenda item at all our management meetings. Some examples of actions we have implemented are the use of recyclable packaging, changing of all lighting to LED, use of environmentally friendly cleaning products, efficient route planning to minimise fuel consumption. We seek out low-intervention sustainable vineyards to work with where possible. We have long-term relationships with small producers and we understand how they work.”

Lydia Harrowven, Adnams

“The main means of travel from countries beyond France is by rail and container ship – more sustainable than road freight. The majority of producers have sustainability at the heart of their businesses. We expect them to be sustainable and they expect their distributors to be as well. All our courier packaging is made from recycled materials and is recyclable and 95% of our waste is recycled. We are moving towards all lighting being LED. We use electrical vehicles for most of our deliveries and all our packaging was reviewed a couple of years ago to use recyclable and whenever possible biodegradable materials (boxes, inflatable sleeves).”

Sumana Palitt, Ultracomida

“Our focus over the past five to six years has been to seek out winemakers who farm in low-impact ways. The bulk of our suppliers are small producers who use minimal intervention in their winemaking and use biodynamic or organic farming principles. With sourcing, where possible, we would always choose wines with higher sustainable credentials. Our ethos as an independent is to source from independents – the vast majority of our wines are produced by individual winemakers, not corporations, more often they are imported by small independent agencies and handsold by us. We have reduced the amount of national deliveries by not sending wines available nationally through the network and where possible we will refer to a local merchant. This has no negative impact on our bottom line.”

Dean Pritchard, Gwin Llyn Wines

“When addressing the question of sustainability it has to be looked at from both an economic point of view as well as from an environmental point of view. If your business is not economically sustainable then it will not survive. From year one we have grown the turnover of our business and more importantly the profitability.

“On the environmental position we are currently getting quotations to change all

the fluorescent lighting in the shop to LED lighting. The carrier bags we offer are 100% degradable, empty wine boxes are used by customers to carry their purchases away and all excess cardboard, plastic wrapping, shredded paper, empty bottles and printer ink cartridges are recycled by a local company. Old pieces of furniture have been upcycled to provide display shelves, and transit boxes from our suppliers are reused to send out orders via courier.”

David Dodd, Tivoli Wines

“We are currently in the process of swapping over to utilising green energy and all of our packaging is recyclable/biodegradable. In 2020 we conducted a review of our packaging in consultation with our main couriers. We have managed to come up with solutions to reduce our plastic use and switch to a more easily recyclable cardboard pulp option.”

Stephen Finch, Vagabond Wines

“As a business we ensure we are as sustainable as possible, from our packaging to reducing the amount of print materials in store by creating digital versions where possible. Our ecommerce packaging is all fully recyclable. We are currently working on a Vagabond Recycles project for our subscription service, which will incentivise guests to bring in old glass 100ml bottles to reuse. In store we moved to fully recyclable bags (made from sugar cane) and customer packaging. We recycle all cardboard and glass waste and incentivised our trade customers to make fewer but larger deliveries to cut down on the environmental impact of deliveries.”