Sustainability in Action

BCorp. I’d never heard of it until I met the marketing director of Innocent Drinks on holiday a couple of years ago, and I was intrigued. We’ve always had sustainability and the environment at the heart of what we do at Rathfinny. From the water recycling plant we installed and the flint we used to build the Winery, to our solar panels and the way Cameron Roucher, our Vineyard Manager manages the vines – the list goes on – but BCorp is on another level.

Rathfinny Tractor on the Vineyard

BCorp is regarded as the gold standard when it comes to sustainability and it believes in using business as a force for good. The goal is extraordinary – transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities and the planet. I decided this was something I wanted us to be part of, and I found a willing partner in Cameron who has worked with me on this for more than two years. Yes, I did say two years as it’s quite an undertaking and we’re a more complicated business than you would at first think, covering not just a Vineyard growing grapes, but incorporating production within the Winery, hospitality in our tourism business, and distribution of our wines across the UK and around the world. Luckily, our UK distributor, Liberty Wines, has been certified as carbon neutral since 2014.

Cam Roucher Rathfinny Vineyard Manager Spring
Cam Roucher, Rathfinny Vineyard Manager

So, whilst the journey has been a long one, and we’re not there yet, as we have only recently submitted our BCorp application, it has already led to several changes in the way we work and the way we think. For a start, we’re now legally committed, by changing our Articles, to the Triple Bottom Line. We are bound, when making decisions, to take account of not just economic considerations, but social and environmental ones too. Working our way through the five sections – governance, environment, workers, community and customers, we’ve changed and added policies including a menopause policy, which I’m very proud of! We’ve changed our packaging so that it is smaller and lighter, cutting our cardboard usage by 26% and allowing 40% more bottles on a pallet, thereby cutting down on transport emissions, and we installed a composter for food waste.

We’ve also cut down on tractor usage, planting every other row with wild flowers, allowing our grass margins to grow longer, and we’re now cultivating under-vine rather than spraying herbicide, which has greatly increased the biodiversity on the Estate, but the unexpected outcome is more insect bites for the Vineyard crew!

July Wildflowers
Inter-row wildflowers reduce our tractor miles.

We’re now at the stage of setting our goals for the future. Most of these will revolve around embedding BCorp into the culture of the Rathfinny team. Everyone has received training and been asked to think about what changes they can make, big or small, as part of a team and individually. We’ll be looking at reducing our newly calculated carbon footprint, expanding our biodiversity – having done an initial survey as a baseline, and looking at renewable energy in the form of more solar panels and being part of a community-led initiative for a wind turbine based on Rathfinny. Our aim is to be carbon neutral by 2030.

It’s all very exciting and it’s good to see the enthusiasm of the team for what we are trying to do – it’s a way of working that relies on everyone’s commitment. It’s made me really think in a different way, questioning lots of decisions that I just took for granted. It’s made me feel – if not now, then when? When do we start making the changes not only to save our planet, but also to live in a more caring and engaged way? For starters, I found this list that Tony Milanowski, our Winery Manager, put together when considering new purchases really useful. I’ve started to use it at home and thought you might find it helpful too. It stopped Mark buying a large new cafetiere after the kids had broken yet another one, – so that’s a win. I decided we could make do with a small one and boot the kids out to break their own ones!

  • Can an existing product be repaired or refurbished?
  • Can an existing product be modified?
  • Can this product be hired or borrowed?
  • Can this product be shared within Rathfinny?
  • Can this product be purchased second hand or refurbished or renewed?
  • Where does this product, including key components and raw materials, come from originally?
  • Does this country cause concern for environment or human rights
  • Consider: Energy, water, emissions, waste-water, solid waste, noise, local environment.
  • What impact does using this product have on the environment?
  • How long will this product last?
  • What will happen to it after its use?