Sustainable Practices Have Always Been at the Heart of Rathfinny

Words by Sarah Driver, Rathfinny Co-owner

A few weeks ago, Mark, Cam and I were delighted to welcome Professor Christopher Marquis to Rathfinny. Christopher researches and writes about how businesses are creating more resilient and sustainable capitalism by focusing on the elusive ‘triple bottom line’ which relates to environmental, social and financial performance. Recently relocated to Cambridge University, he taught at Cornell for 6 years and before that, Harvard Business School for 10 years, where he developed an award-winning course on Social Entrepreneurship.

I knew about Christopher from his excellent book ‘Better Business – How the B Corp Movement is Remaking Capitalism’ and was really looking forward to talking to him. The book covers the history of the movement, and I found it particularly interesting to read about companies’ individual journeys.

It was good to be reminded of the reason we’ve applied for BCorp status (you can read a recent article I wrote here about some of the sustainable practices we’ve implemented at Rathfinny). Indeed, the B Lab’s Declaration of Interdependence (mostly unchanged since 2006) states:

We envision a global economy of a new type of corporation – the B Corporation – which is purpose-driven and creates benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.

As B Corporations and leaders of this emerging economy we believe:

  • That we must be the change we seek in the world.
  • That all business ought to be conducted as if people mattered
  • That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.
  • To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.

Coincidently, Chris arrived on the same day BHESCo (Brighton & Hove Energy Services Cooperative) were visiting us to discuss their idea of a community application for a wind turbine on the Estate. The good news is that they have now been successful in getting a grant to do a feasibility study for this community project. I know it’s a contentious subject, but my mantra on this is ‘if not now, then when?’

We talked about our journey of applying for B Corp status and the challenges we face. I was particularly vocal about the fact that I felt there should be some recognition for smaller companies like us, trying to make a difference and do the right thing, who are making little or in our case, no profit yet!

We also talked about carbon counting, and how we’ve measured ourselves by the highest international standards, which maddeningly don’t allow us to take any ‘credit’ from the thousands of vines and trees we have planted. Cameron threw in his ‘beef’ about beef (see what I did there!) where the current method of counting the carbon footprint doesn’t account for the difference between poorly performing farms and better ones like most UK farms, with open fields where cattle are free to graze on grass or forage. The point is, not all beef is equal which is why we use locally sourced beef in our Tasting Room and Flint Barns Dining Room.

We had a great day and covered loads of ground, both on foot and by subject. I’m hoping Christopher will come back later in the year for the roundtable we’re planning with other Sussex wineries on sustainability and how we can support efforts in our community.

If you would like to read or listen to more about our conversations with Professor Christopher Marquis, he has kindly written a couple of Forbes articles; one about our efforts to build a skilled, local workforce and another article about sustainability practices we’ve implemented across the board:

U.K. Winery Cultivates Local Hiring Practices And Community Involvement To Build A Global Reputation

Rathfinny Wine Estate Builds Sustainable Business Practices From The Ground Up

P.S. watch this space as we’re producing our Annual Report on Sustainability later in the month, which discusses everything we’ve done in the last year on the Rathfinny Estate to help become a better business in all that we do.