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Harpers Sustainability Charter progress: Green agenda

Published:  02 December, 2022

As the Harpers Sustainability Charter gathers momentum, James Lawrence looks at the progress made by just some of those involved.

In February 2022, Harpers unveiled its game-changing Sustainability Charter to the UK trade. Forming the central pillar of Harpers’ campaign to drive positive change, the charter outlines a set of sustainable pathways that all businesses, regardless of their size, can coalesce around. Many sustainability initiatives have been focused on energy efficiency, reduction of carbon footprint and recycling. Harpers recognises the vital importance of these environmental markers, but has widened the remit to include social and economic responsibility. With interest in the charter growing rapidly, there is no limit to what can be achieved, both collectively as a trade and individually.

According to Kim Wilson, MD at North South Wines: “We are a relatively new business. This puts us in a good position to build an organisation that is fit for the future. Signing up to the Harpers Sustainability Charter is exactly that, working together to drive change, share best practice, raise awareness and challenge the wider industry. We can do our bit as North South Wines, but together as an industry we can achieve so much more.”

Zippy Bakowska, head of marketing at Enotria & Coe, adds: “The launch of the Harpers Sustainability Charter coincided with Enotria & Coe’s own refocusing on sustainability as a key strategic objective for the business. Having the opportunity to document and share this journey through the Harpers Sustainability Charter was great timing.”

Measuring success

From the outset, a major priority for all signatories was to set out a transparent and results-led metric to assess the impact of their sustainability initiatives. Businesses would typically break their goals down into subcategories before examining their progress during a set period.

“For a number of years, we had been active in celebrating the organic and biodynamic credentials of select producers in our portfolio. But in the latter half of 2021, as we evaluated how the world around us had changed, we realised that we were at risk of greenwashing our own operations by focusing exclusively on our producers,” says Bakowska.

However, Enotria & Coe now measures its carbon footprint through streamlined energy and carbon reporting (SECR), which allows the business to quantify the success of the combined initiatives they have adopted. With the aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, it has introduced a new energy and fuel-efficient fleet, switching the energy provider for its headquarters to 100% renewable electricity. Bakowska adds: “This year, we have trained 16 members of staff as mental health first aiders. Externally, we have raised money for a number of charitable causes, including the commitment to donate all profits from ticket sales of our 2022 Fine Wine tasting at the Royal Albert Hall to the Ukraine Crisis Appeal by the Red Cross.”

Meanwhile, Wilson reports that North South Wines has written its inaugural environmental impact report, soon to be published on the company’s website. This sets out publicly what the organisation has done so far and its targets for the future.

“B Corp has been and remains the key goal for us as a business to advance our environmental and social sustainability – we pressed the button on our B Corp submission in July 2022 after 18 months’ hard work,” says Wilson. “The B Corp accreditation provides the best framework to do this, encompassing all aspects of sustainability. The key targets we are measuring ourselves against include attaining a worker satisfaction score of at least 4.5/5, for all of our energy to come from 100% renewable sources by the end of 2025, and for 80% of our portfolio’s glass bottles and cartons to have more than 50% recycled content by the end of that same year.”

Looking at what the business has achieved so far, North South Wines has systems, processes and policies in place “to ensure it has a framework that limits the environmental impact of all our key functions and activities”.

According to Wilson, the business has made changes in 2022 to reduce its impact in the following areas: energy and water consumption; waste generated; business travel; and parts of the supply chain.
“We have put together an environmental management system, giving us the framework to help meet our environmental goals, which include setting greenhouse gas reduction targets,” she says.

Another key signatory, Lanchester Wines, has also been heavily focused this year on driving positive change in the fields of environmental and social responsibility.

“We’ve invested around £10m in renewable heat and energy generation at our sites across the North East of England. Today our business is powered almost completely by renewable wind and solar energy, while our Gateshead warehouses are heated by pioneering open-loop water source heat pumps, which use geothermal heat from disused mine workings,” explains Andrew Porton, MD of Lanchester’s wine division.

Sam Howard, general manager at Harper Wells, advances the discussion. “As predominantly a retailer, our main environmental impact is the way we source and sell our product. If from the outset our sourcing is environmentally questionable then this has a negative impact through our whole business,” he says.

“On signing up to the charter, we immediately implemented a new scoring system for listing existing and new wines, weighted in favour of products with good sustainable practices, not limited to but including: lightweight bottles, alternative formats, agencies with a strong focus on sustainability.”

Howard describes the key benefits of advancing sustainability goals (notwithstanding the environmental/social dividend) as “better sourcing and the efficiencies of not having a scattergun approach to ordering, based on a few overnight web orders”.

He continues: “Choosing not to sell [already] nationally distributed wines nationwide has been our biggest shift, but the one with the single biggest reduction in our carbon footprint. Shop local is far more the mantra of the 2020s and far more sustainable. With local deliveries made by EV or cycle courier – and as a result national deliveries are more coordinated – orders can be grouped and dispatched on a single day, requiring fewer stock movements.”

Looking ahead to 2023

As we approach the end of 2022, businesses are focused on outlining their sustainability objectives for the next 12 months. By the end of next year, Bodega Argento expects to move forward with its 2025 agricultural plan, which involves planting approximately 100ha of new vineyards per year.

According to Andrés Valero, sustainability and CSR leader at Grupo Avinea: “We also intend to reduce the amount of waste we generate that ends up in landfill. Together with a textile cooperative, we are developing prototypes of wine bags based on the scrap packaging of the oenological supplies we use.”

Sussex-based winery Ridgeview is no less ambitious. “We plan to install further solar panels on the roofs of our winery buildings, making the very best of renewable energy sources for the estate,” explains director of communications Mardi Roberts.

“In addition, Ridgeview will install a colony of bees on the estate and is introducing a woodland management plan, including a wildflower meadow. We have built a culture of continuous improvement in our operations, decision-making and future planning, and will review our commitments every year, continuing to communicate openly about our sustainability journey.”

Moreover, several of the upcoming projects involving the charter’s signatories will benefit a wide range of stakeholders, both on a micro and macro level.

“Right now, our primary project is the ongoing development of Greencroft Two, our new 22,000m2, £20m home for Greencroft Bottling, which should see the first bottle down the line in Spring 2023,” says Porton.
“When Greencroft Two is complete, it is estimated that, overall (new solar and existing on-site wind turbines combined), the business will generate over 7 million kilowatt hours per year of clean, renewable energy. Effectively, we’ll be a mini power station – we want to be an exemplar of good practice in industrial building technology.”

Marta Rivera, sustainability manager at Alliance Wine, says that the firm is planning to audit its carbon footprint with a carbon-neutral certification as the initial step next year. “We’re also focusing on an implementation of zero-waste wine event protocol in 2023,” says Rivera.

“The key benefits of pursuing sustainability goals was a major change within our internal culture, as well as a significant increase in innovation. In addition, the pursuit of our impact goals is increasing the level of collaboration with our producers and other suppliers. We have also started to formalise many internal procedures that we were already using, which is helping us to gain control and better analyse our internal data, and therefore become more effective.”

Indeed, sustainability now lies at the heart of every decision taken by importers, distributors, hospitality businesses and retailers. As a proud member of our diverse industry, Harpers has led the way in galvanising different sectors of the trade, encouraging the dissemination of best practices and shared objectives. Thanks to the passion and dedication of the Harpers Sustainability Charter’s signatories, a once high-minded goal is becoming a plausible reality.

Harpers Sustainability Charter Signatories

Sustainability Champions

Our Champions headline the companies working closely with us on initiatives to forward the debate on sustainability and highlight issues.

Enotria & Coe
North South Wines

Sustainability Partners

Our Sustainability Partners also work closely with us to forward the debate on sustainability and highlight issues.

Alliance Wine
Bodega Argento
Hatch Mansfield
Lanchester Wines

Charter Signatories

Our sustainability signatories have committed to engage with and drive forward sustainable progress.

Barrique Fine Wines
Broadland Drinks
Concha y Toro
EWGA Wines
Hallgarten & Novum Wines
Hatch Mansfied
Kingsland Drinks
Lawson’s Dry Hills
LineClenze International
Spirits of Virtue
Sustainable Wines of
Great Britain
The Good Wine Shop
Humble Grape
The Vinorium
Vintage Roots
Virgin Wines
VSPT Wine Group
WBC (WineBox Company)
Yealands Wines