The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), a San Francisco-based 501(c)3, recently introduced a new online Performance Metrics tool to complement its Sustainable Winegrowing Program. The CSWA works to establish standards of sustainablity practices and educate on the importance of sustainable practices. In addition to workshops and reporting, CSWA has a well-respected certification program through which wineries can receive certification for some or all of their vineyard and winery operations. Many of the states large and small wineries, including Parducci Winery, Ravenswood Winery and Hess Selections, are CSWA-certified.
CSWA’s initial set of metrics, to be piloted in 2012, includes water and energy use in vineyards and wineries, and greenhouse gas emissions related to energy use. These metrics were selected by CSWA’s Sustainable Winegrowing Joint Committee, comprised of 50 growers and vintners from throughout the California wine industry, because they met specific criteria, such as economic and environmental impact, data availability, ease of use, and state of the science. With matching funds from a U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Innovation Grant, CSWA has developed an online Performance Metrics calculator. Growers and vintners can track and store their metrics data and access associated educational information in the secure online system. Participants can compare their metrics from year to year and, eventually, link measurable outcomes to changed practices. The new online tool is part of CSWA’s existing free online system that also includes a sustainable winegrowing self-assessment.
Once enough data is compiled, CSWA will use the aggregated data to identify opportunities to assist industry operators through education and technical support to gain better performance through reduced use of water and energy, and achieve lower GHG emissions related to energy use. Additional metrics may be developed in the future with guidance from the Sustainable Winegrowing Joint Committee. Workshops for calculating metrics online are available starting this month.
The use of performance metrics to enhance the effectiveness of sustainability initiatives in all industry sectors, including agriculture, is increasingly common. The online Performance Metrics calculator will allow operators to measure and track the effect of specific sustainability practices, which is essential to developing a business case for sustainability.
Said Allison Jordan, executive director of CSWA:
“California wine is committed to a leadership role in sustainability. These important measurement tools enable farming operations and companies of all sizes to more effectively improve sustainability performance and to ‘manage what they measure. For growers and vintners, relating and tracking both practices and measurable outcomes helps prioritize vineyard or winery plans for greatest impact and operational efficiency – reducing inputs, saving money and minimizing adverse environmental and human impacts.”
Jordan explained that the data can help vintners and growers not only prioritize operational efficiencies, but also address increasing market requests for product information. The data could also potentially help vintners and growers take advantage of developing financial incentives. With the addition of metrics to sustainable practices information, the industry will have an opportunity to quantify and describe the benefits of the Sustainable Winegrowing Program.
According to the CSWA website, to date, over 1,566 vintners and growers – representing approximately 68% of the California’s vineyard acreage and 62% of wine production – have self-assessed their operations at over 200 workshops and more than 9,200 have attended 188 targeted education workshops.