As winemakers, at Chapel Down we think not just in years but in generations. We take long term positions on land with long views on its management in order that we can continue to produce our exceptional wines. The sustainability of our operations is important to us as a business and to us all as individuals. And we apply the same long-term perspective to all our activities across the Chapel Down Group.
There are a number of aspects to addressing the Sustainability of our business. In some areas we are operating to exemplary standards and in others we have improvements to make. This is our first statement on the subject and below we detail current status and actions across the different areas. Our pledge is to a process of continuous improvement and we will update on progress every six months.
We understand that healthy soils are good for our vines and good for the planet. We are lucky to have vineyard soils rich in organic matter which is important to maintain healthy populations of micro-organisms and improve water retention and nutrient availability. Building and maintaining humus-rich soils in our vineyards aids natural cycles and helps keep carbon and nitrogen in the soil rather than lost to the atmosphere or water courses.
We are continuously reviewing our soil management programme including protocols for soil sampling, nutrient replenishment and ground cover management. To date we have re-introduced indigenous grasses within our vine rows and on headlands and apply organic fertilisers to replenish nutrients and maintain soil health. We are continuing to invest in new equipment that enables us to significantly reduce our use of chemical herbicides and we have introduced sheep grazing on land waiting to be planted with vines.
We are developing a long-term plan for both cultivated and non-cultivated land that protects and enhances natural features and boundaries, including developing wildlife habitats in field margins and hedgerows.
Quality soils are also critical for the growing of top-quality malting barley and certain hops for our beers. We monitor the sustainability practices of our suppliers to ensure they are aligned with our standards.
We see significant benefits by supporting and strengthening biodiversity in the local environments. Not only does this enhance the natural ecosystem providing habitat for indigenous species of flora and fauna but also helps provide a natural control for pests and diseases and weed management.
Our Pest and Disease Management
The profitability and sustainability of a vineyard relies on the health of its vines, therefore limiting impacts from pests and disease is essential. We have an holistic, integrated approach to pest and disease management adopting cultural methods of prevention to minimise chemical control. Our viticulture team have an understanding of the life-cycles of pests and diseases, and how they interact with their environment particularly the vine canopy and vineyard microclimates. Our vineyard managers regularly monitor for pests and diseases to ensure appropriate and timely controls are planned. By understanding the bigger picture, impacts can be managed in a more cost-effective way, with the lowest possible impact on the environment.
In the winery we are moving towards the use of environmentally friendly refrigerants and at the brewery we are already there. Regular maintenance is mandatory to ensure that they are not released into the atmosphere.
We are starting a programme to monitor and manage our noise and light emissions to reduce social impacts, especially around harvest when work can go on late into the night.
This year we will change the reversing beacons on our fork lift trucks to use white noise.
Our waterways are replenished by high annual rainfall compared with other regions in Europe. But water is still a scarce, expensive and precious resource.
Water is of critical importance for the production of beer and also for vine nutrition and winemaking activities. Sustainable water management at Chapel Down centres on minimising water use and protecting the purity of our water sources.
We monitor our water supply at the brewery rigorously. We currently use 4 pints of water to every 1 pint beer produced. Our 5 year goal is to reduce that to 3:1 by CIP optimisation, dry cleaning and water recovery.
At the winery we do not yet have water monitoring systems in place and we plan to implement these by the end of 2020.
While all agricultural production generates waste, the majority of our manufacturing and raw ingredient waste can be repurposed.
Vine prunings are mulched and/or composted and then applied back on to vineyards as organic matter. Grape stalks and skins are sent for anaerobic digestion for renewable energy production. Some marc is used to make our own gin.
In the brewery we recycle all our spent grains and hops as feed for local farmers to minimise the impact of that waste to the environment and maximise its value for profit.
A growing area of interest and opportunity for winery by-products is the processing of grape seeds to extract antioxidants for use in health and cosmetic products. We have been working with a national retailer on this in recent years.
Some packaging materials from the winery, brewery, vineyards, distribution and offices are recovered and recycled by nationwide and regional recycling programmes. But not all. A key target for us this year is that by end 2020 all cardboard, plastic wrap, glass, batteries, and even solvents and waste oils will be reused or recycled rather than ending life as landfill.
We are committed to reducing packaging wherever possible and if plastic is to be used then recycled not virgin. An audit of our products used for packaging wine, spirits and beer will be undertaken prior to our next statement (including colour & weight of glass, nature of stoppers and use of cardboard and plastic) and planned improvements recorded.
Finally management of wastewater is also an important issue. Our winery and brewery manage their wastewater to ensure there is no nutrient enrichment or salination of downstream water sources, and our vineyard teams ensure no degradation of soil structure, no contaminate in soils or excessive odour emission during treatment.
Our Energy Use
Reducing our carbon footprint is a necessity and it starts with our use of energy.
In a winery or a brewery, energy conservation begins in the planning and construction stages. The architectural design, building material selections, and insulation requirements focus on maximising efficient and natural lighting, reducing heat build-up, and maintaining even temperatures year-round. Our new brewery at Ashford is highly energy efficient, but we will continue to look at ways we can reduce our fuel use and our emissions.
Our new and upgraded winery building, when finished, will feature technologies to assist with energy conservation including: computer-controlled heat pumps, heat recovery systems and variable speed pumps to minimise energy required to pump wine and water.
At the existing winery we will make improvements this year including in our lighting and air-conditioning and we will update on progress.
Our success depends on the commitment and passion of our teams, through each step of the growing, production and sales and distribution chain.
We take long term views on people and invest in their development and ensure they are motivated to stay at Chapel Down by being an integral part of the ownership of the company through share incentive schemes, share save schemes and regular business update briefings
We encourage everyone to think and behave more sustainably, to help reduce wastage and costs, and increase efficiency and good environmental outcomes. And going forward – 2021 on – we will include this as a cross-business KPI on our appraisals.
We passionately believe in a diverse and inclusive recruitment and development policy, with equal opportunities for all whatever your background or beliefs.
Our vineyard, winery and brewery practices - such as labour relations, environmental legislation, animal welfare and food safety - are governed by legislated programmes. We are on a journey of continuous improvement and each manager has objectives in place across their respective areas.
Sustainability is critical to the longevity and legacy of the Chapel Down brand. Practices that enable our production, retail and tourism maintain balance in our growing environment, add value to local communities, and make substantial cost savings long-term.
The entire supply chain is factored into our sustainability equation, from sourcing raw materials through to in-market communications, packaging through to transport and logistics, and everything else in between. Less IS more!
We recognise that selling our product domestically significantly decreases the environmental impact versus shipping internationally. UK sales remain our priority and this positive will be one of the benefits we communicate to our consumers.
And last but not least is profit. We can only be a sustainable business if we generate profits. Our teams and our practices need to ensure we are generating sustainable profits from our business. Sustainable practices that deliver improved sustainable profits will always be implemented faster and more effectively than practices that don’t. That’s human and business nature!
Sustainability is an important focus for us and a growing number of businesses and industries. We are mindful that together we will achieve far more and we are proud to announce we are founding members of both the Wines GB Sustainability Policy the Walpole Sustainability Policy. The former will allow us to measure and benchmark across the English & Welsh wines industry and the latter across the British Luxury industry. Both are in their formative stages – we will update with learnings and metrics we will adopt as we go.