Tracking and Talking at the Green Wine Summit

It’s time for the 4th annual Green Wine Summit, and I’m looking forward to robust conversations about sustainability issues in the wine world.

Words like “green” and “sustainable” are in frequent use these days, but what exactly are we talking about? Some details are more important to track than others, so we need to know what we’re tracking – and how we’re interpreting that information. Several sessions at the Green Wine Summit address this topic, including:

  • “Global Green Perspectives: Benchmarking California With Other New World Countries”
  • “Green Operations: Measuring What Matters”

I’m glad to see that both of these sessions will include participation from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), an organization I highlighted in my previous post “Wine Without Regrets: Award-Winning Sustainability Programs.”

Another aspect of performance tracking supports the business case for sustainability. I expect to hear more about this at the morning session on “Business & Sustainability” and also from the lunchtime speaker, Bob Bunting, who will be sharing highlights from the International Integrated Reporting Committee and their efforts to develop integrated reporting as  “a globally accepted framework for sustainability accounting.”

Refining our ability to track and interpret the key measures of  sustainable wine-making is the focus of my work in the Sustainability Practices Certificate Program at Dominican University, under the auspices of their Green MBA program.

While tracking helps us to “know what we know,” we won’t get very far unless we can talk about what we know – and in a way that makes sense to everyone involved. In this regard, I’m grateful for the work of Matthew Hoffman, a graduate student at UC Davis working to clarify winegrape grower perceptions of sustainability programs.

I learned a lot from Matthew’s article in the Spring 2011 issue of Practical Winery and Vineyard Journal: “Defining sustainable viticulture from the practitioner perspective.” The article includes a really interesting graphic illustrating the range of issues that are important to winegrape growers. It might not surprise you to learn that the top concerns of many California wine producers are expressed in terms of “continuing into the future” and “generational succession.” Preserving what we have for future generations is of course a core sustainability goal, but it helps to be able to connect-the-dots between family farming and approaches such as integrated reporting.

Matthew will be a panelist at the Green Wine Summit during the session “Green Operations: What Is New & Upcoming In Sustainable Winegrape Growing?” To learn more about his work, I invite you to visit the UC Davis project page: Sustainable Viticulture: Practice Adoption and Social Networks. (For a link to the article mentioned above, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the pdf titled “Hoffman_Defining-2011”).

I’ll report back on other highlights from the Green Wine Summit in future posts – just let me know if there are specific topics you want me to cover.

In the meantime, my hearty thanks to the Hoffman family, who hosted my recent visit to Heritage Oak Winery. I was back up in Lodi earlier this month to participate in the annual First Sip event, and had a chance to meet up with Matthew at his family’s winery; Matthew’s dad Tom is the fifth generation to farm that land. It’s always good to see the links between academic research and real life experience. And thanks, Carmela, for the cup of coffee!


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