The easy-to-use greenhouse gas calculator gets to work
As the New Zealand and Australian wine industries seek to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, a simple tool, designed in California, is helping producers calculate
greenhouse gas emissions.
By Simone Madden-Grey
In 2015, California-based Jackson Family Wines (JFW) conducted its first-ever carbon footprint inventory. In doing so, the company developed a way to calculate where and how the winery was spending its energy and identify areas where the company could reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. JFW then worked with International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) to use this experience and knowledge to refine the process, develop an easy-to-navigate version, and make it more widely available. Yealands Wines in Marlborough, New Zealand, also an IWCA member, has since sponsored the adaptation of the IWCA calculator for use in New Zealand and Australia.
The IWCA Calculator is a multi-tab Excel spreadsheet with step-by-step instructions and pre-populated calculations based on region-specific emissions factors. Wineries enter their data into each tab and pre-populated formulas calculate the GHGs associated with each activity. Data is converted to metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MT CO2e) and grouped in the Summary tab, where high-level information is presented in tables, graphs and a comparative view against the IWCA average. Once a baseline calculation is complete, the calculator can also be used to model or predict how changes to business operations could reduce emissions.
According to Katie Jackson, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility for Jackson Family Wines, the calculator was created in response to feedback from IWCA members. Small producers, in particular, have been discouraged by annual requirements for reporting and verifying greenhouse gas emissions. To streamline the process, JFW (in partnership with fellow California wine companies Silver Oak Cellars and Spottswoode Wines), worked with Josh Prigge, director of Sustridge Sustainability Consulting, to modify its existing calculator and create a more user-friendly version.
Prigge says regional and national emission factors, greenhouse gas protocol and best practices used by IWCA members informed the development of the calculator. “Without a consistent methodology for inventories, it would be much more difficult for companies to benchmark their performance against the IWCA average and other members,” he says. The calculator is free to download for everyonebut IWCA members receive additional support from Sustridge Consulting as well as the benefit of collective problem solving.
Demystify the process
At Marlborough, Michael Wentworth, managing director of sustainability and strategic projects, said Yealands was keen to support the adaptation of the ECU. “We wanted to develop a tool that was rigorous, tested, science-based and accessible to anyone who wants to make a difference,” he says. Based on the IWCA calculator, Wentworth worked with Prigge to develop two calculators, one for New Zealand and one for Australia. Country-specific emission factors and best practices were taken from government publications Measuring emissions: a guide for organizations (New Zealand) and National greenhouse account factors (Australia). Each calculator was then ratified by Lloyds of London before release.
Felton Road in Central Otago, New Zealand has just started working with the calculator. “It’s very easy to use,” says owner Nigel Greening. “It allows the user to understand the whole process in greater depth – to identify weaknesses and quantify how easily they can be fixed.” As an example, he says that after using the calculator, they realized employee carpooling would save more carbon than a huge capital investment in equipment. He sums up his experience with the calculator as “a huge step towards demystifying the process, making it faster and more profitable”.
Good data produces good information
Voyager Estate in Margaret River is one of the first Australian wineries to use the calculator, released in March 2022. Michelle McManus, Voyager Estate’s sustainability manager, appreciates that the calculator has a strong focus on real data. The level of granularity means a high level of detail is required, but McManus describes the process as “very step-by-step. As with everything, it’s only as good as the information that comes in.
During the first year of using the calculator at Voyager Estate, the focus is on attaching data to existing data collections, where possible, or modifying established processes for capturing data required. McManus says most of the information already exists within the company, which would be true regardless of size. The task ahead is to streamline processes to ensure that data can be easily extracted from its systems.
Create a path to the future
Although still in its infancy, McManus says it’s clear from using the calculator that packaging and transportation, followed by electricity and fuel, will drive changes across the business. . This is echoed by Jackson, who says the tool has helped identify these same trouble spots at Jackson Family Wines, where lightweight bottles have already been implemented. Future packaging adaptations at Jackson Family Wines will provide an additional 5-13% reduction in associated emissions. Jackson says two of JFW’s largest distributors have also been hired to work on reducing transportation costs. Lessons learned from these discussions will be shared with all IWCA members.
Reducing carbon emissions is a universal goal for the wine industry. Unified and consistent measurement of emissions, along with low-cost, easy-to-use tools and collaborative sharing of data and experiences will be key to bringing the wine industry together to achieve net zero carbon emissions.
Simone Madden Gray
Based in Melbourne, Australia, Simone Madden-Grey writes about the people, places and stories she encounters on her travels. Her portfolio can be found at happywinewoman.com, including articles on climate and sustainability in the wine industry, as well as wines, regions and food destinations in Australia and her home country of New Zealand.