A livable world will be determined by the choices humanity makes during this 'decade of action.' JFW is taking point to fundamentally shift how the wine industry future-proofs itself and does business for good.
Jackson Family Wines has unveiled a robust, 10-year sustainability strategy to tackle the climate crisis and build resiliency for changing social and environmental landscapes.
For nearly four decades, the privately owned wine company has carved a niche for itself crafting a broad portfolio of thoughtfully cultivated wines. JFW’s Rooted for Good sustainability and climate action plan aims to build on this legacy by setting a new standard for the wine industry through climate-positive commitments, positive social impact, and investments in long-term resiliency.
It also just so happens to be the largest program JFW has ever undertaken.
“This has to be the decade of action … We need to have a leading voice,” JFW president Rick Tigner said at a recent press event. “If we can lead by example, get other wineries to join in on this conversation and be more collaborative, this decade of action will get off to a great start.”
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Back-to-back record-hot years, severe droughts and wildfires sealed JFW’s commitment to rigorous environmental and social targets. The company tallied the cost of a runaway climate, and determined that it owed itself and the world greater sustainability commitments. They chatted with employees, suppliers, communities, conservationists, biologists and activists. After reviewing the data and hearing from stakeholders, they determined more action was needed, and fast.
In 2019, JFW joined the Torres family of Spain to form the International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) to evangelize the scientific imperative for climate action, and create a model and network to help peers take action. Two years later, JFW announced Rooted for Good.
Tigner sees JFW as a proof-of-concept for scalable climate and social justice solutions. If the winemaker can prove sustainability is financially beneficial, he believes its leverage can help supply chains and other wineries follow suit.
“We need to be moving collectively,” Julien Gervreau, VP of Sustainability at JFW, asserted at the event. “The new IPCC report is a stark reminder of the scientific imperative that we have as a global economy and global society to change, and to accelerate that change and work together.”
Rooted for Good is a bold, comprehensive set of goals and initiatives crafted to lead climate solutions, spur positive social impact, and support JFW’s vision for the wine industry’s sustainable future. It hinges on four key sustainability goals to reach by 2030:
Climate action and greenhouse gas emissions
JFW wants to lead the wine industry into a decarbonized future — as shown in the company’s founding of the IWCA and membership in the UN’s Race to Zero campaign — and Rooted for Good is the starting line. JFW aims to halve its scope 1-3 (direct and indirect) carbon emissions by 2030 and strives for climate positivity — sequestering more carbon than it emits — by 2050, all without purchasing carbon offsets.
“We don’t think you can just buy your way out of this,” Gervreau said. “This isn’t something that has to be accomplished through direct mitigation efforts.”
To start, JFW will continue to invest in onsite renewable energy (it’s well on its way already: The company’s 23,000+ solar panels provide 30 percent of its electricity, making it the largest on-site generator of solar energy in the US wine industry). JFW will also transition to zero-emission vehicles (JFW is actively encouraging EV adoption for its employees and offering free charging onsite) and product transport, develop advanced soil-carbon sequestration in its vineyards, and more — all in an effort to galvanize climate-positive vintning as industry-standard best practices.
Social responsibility and DEI
Recognizing the interplay between social and environmental justice and their role in overall sustainability, JFW will work to reflect diverse wine industry stakeholders and customers in its leadership, launching an internal DEI steering committee and employee council to enact meaningful diversity and inclusion. JFW’s recruitment and talent acquisition efforts partner with various organizations to remove barriers of entry for diverse candidates, including women and people of color. The company will also broaden opportunities for professional growth among underrepresented communities — providing scholarships, mentorships, and career-advancement programs aimed at diversifying the winery’s workforce and leadership.
JFW will also refine its sick and family leave policies, with a focus on flexibility and holistic wellness and mental health.
Farming and land use
By 2030, JFW will integrate regenerative farming practices across all of its estate vineyards, boosting soil health and sequestering 20,000 MTCO2e annually. Through techniques such as organic mulching and composting, reducing or eliminating soil disturbance, rotational livestock grazing, cover cropping, and protection of natural ecosystems, the company resolves to flourish synergistically with the biome while simultaneously reducing and sequestering emissions and boosting climate resiliency.
The company has already seen promising benefits of erosion control, water retention and soil fertility. It will work with the scientific community to further understand and implement regenerative practices across all of its estate vineyards, and develop vineyard-specific strategies tailored to the unique agronomy and climate impacts of each locale.
“The thing we work on is future-proofing our vineyards,” Tigner said. “If we’re going to plant a vineyard in 2021, we need to plant it thinking about what the climate is going to be like in 2042.”
Aside from future-proofing vineyards and drawing down carbon, regenerative ag is a necessary step towards ensuring JFW continues to produce high-quality wine despite a warming climate.
“Sustainability really does tie to better-quality wine,” said Katie Jackson, CSR SVP at JFW. “Regenerative techniques are just going to make our wines more resilient in the face of climate change. As we continue to implement these practices, we're going to see better-quality wines coming out and more resilience achieved.”
An exceptional drought continues to grip the western US, as seen in unprecedented water shortages in the Colorado River Basin and widespread wildfires. According to the US Drought Monitor, Santa Rosa, California — JFW’s hometown — is in an extreme drought that has worsened dramatically in recent months, with temperatures soaring 9-12 degrees higher than average amidst dwindling water reserves and wildfires raging in the nearby hills.
As such, the company is reinforcing its commitment to water conservation and quality-improvement projects for local watersheds, with key initiatives including water recycling, rainwater collection, and real-time water monitoring to increase efficiency. JFW plans to adopt precision irrigation in its vineyards and water-evaporation reduction in reservoirs. On the remediation side, the company will partner with government and private agencies to increase groundwater recharge and watershed-restoration projects to protect and enhance local ecosystems and their services.
Rooted for Good from the beginning
Four decades of sustainability efforts have created a name for JFW among conscious vintners. The company formally began baselining various footprints in 2008. In 2015, it released a comprehensive sustainability report outlining its efforts and identifying 10 key areas of improvement. After tackling most of its original 2015 goals, JFW set out new targets, and with a new sense of urgency.
“A lot has changed since 2015,” Jackson said. “We’re seeing the impact of climate change in a much more serious way.”
A livable world or a runaway climate will be determined by the choices humanity makes during this decade of action. Jackson Family Wines is taking point to fundamentally shift how the wine industry future-proofs itself and does business for good.