Jackson Family Wines aims to slash carbon footprint in half by 2030

Jackson Family Wines, Sonoma County’s largest wine company, said Tuesday that it would cut its carbon footprint in half by 2030 and become climate positive by 2050 without buying carbon offsets.

The Santa Rosa-based wine producer said it would accomplish those goals by continuing to invest in renewable energy, installing wind turbines and solar panels, transitioning to zero-emissions company vehicles and spearheading efforts on soil carbon sequestration in its vineyards.

“We don’t think you can buy your way out of this. It has to be accomplished through direct mitigation efforts,” said Julien Gervreau, vice president of sustainability at Jackson Family Wines, the nation’s ninth-largest wine maker by annual caseload.

The goal for the company is to reduce by 50% the amount of carbon dioxide it emits into the atmosphere from all of its operations. That’s from the gas in the tractors that haul the grapes to the winery, to the electricity needed for fermentation in the tanks, to trucking caseloads of wine across the country to retail outlets that sell brands like La Crema and flagship Kendall-Jackson. The goal of being carbon positive is have zero emissions and contribute excess renewable energy back into grid.

The environmental initiative builds upon the company’s previous efforts back to 2015. Since then, Jackson has cut its total carbon emissions by 17.5%. That’s primarily occurred through the use of renewable energy as the company has installed 23,000 solar panels on its properties in California and Oregon.

“We need to have a leading voice,” Rick Tigner, chief executive officer of Jackson Family Wines, said of wine industry efforts to protect the planet. “We need to be part of a conversation.”

Jackson has not been the only local wine company to make such environmental commitments since climate change is causing more disruption in the region and around the globe. Fetzer Vineyards in Hopland last year announced it would be climate positive in its business operations by 2030, in an effort to limit global average temperature from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Tigner said all corners of the wine industry will have to join forces in such an effort to make an overall climate difference.

Other wineries also are jumping on board to switch to lighter bottles could force suppliers to produce more of that packaging. Lighter bottles means less transportation weight and, thereby, less carbon emissions.

Tigner said Jackson sells 6 million wine cases a year and would need even larger companies like E. & J. Gallo Winery of Modesto that produced 88 million cases last year and The Wine Group that made 51 million cases to also join the carbon-reduction movement.

“These are very large users of glass, packaging and transportation, so it’s going to take a village,” the Jackson CEO said.

While the cost of these sustainability investments are coming on top of rising costs for labor and grapes, and at a time when wine is competing with spirits and beer for share of consumers’ palettes, these investments by Jackson and others in helping save the planet and society will pay off for the wine business in the long run, Tigner said.

“Ultimately, sustainability requires commitment and investment in our farming and winemaking operations,” he said. “Making a sustainable product has a financial cost, but we believe this is an investment in our future.”

He cited recent research that suggests consumers are willing to pay more for these beverages made under stricter environmental guidelines. Sonoma County Winegrowers commissioned studies in recent years that has explored whether third-party environmental certifications on wine labels make a difference in consumer preferences.

“We are optimistic that these consumers will join us and continue to support us by purchasing our wines, even if prices increase,” Tigner said.

North Bay Business Journal contributed to this version of the report.

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