Written by Marieke Hammes - Sustainability & Operations Manager

Welcome to our first blog in our new "Sustainable Sips" series! 

Where did the idea come from? 

At Canned Wine Co., we are on the long, imperfect journey towards integrating sustainability into every part of our business. Sustainability has always been core to our business – trying to showcase wine in a more sustainable format and rethinking how business can be conducted in a traditional industry. However, sustainability is complex, nuanced and there is not always a straightforward answer. We want to be humble about our imperfections and struggles, continuously learn from our peers and industry experts, and share our insights along our journey to becoming as sustainable as we can be.  

Last week we had our first Sustainability Strategy Day, a whole day dedicated to updating the rest of the team on our progress so far and doing workshops around people / planet / profit and actions every team member can take in their area of responsibility to improve our impact. During the final workshop, our Head Wine Buyer Ben and myself (Marieke), Sustainability & Operations Manager, made a pact to keep ourselves accountable and share our journey in a weekly blog. So here we are – welcome to our first blog in this series! 

Why "Sustainable Sips"? 

In the name of transparency (which we are championing with this blog series), Chat GPT helped us with the naming. Seriously. It immediately resonated with me due to the symbolism of a repeated small quantity, which reflects the small steps forward we are aiming to take every week on the road towards sustainability.  

What can you expect? 

My aim with this blog series is to: 

  • Champion a new level of transparency around what it means to grow sustainably as a start-up 

  • Highlight small and big wins on our sustainability journey every two weeks 

  • Open the conversation about challenges and nuances we face in trying to build a sustainable brand 

  • Feature guest writers to share their insights on sustainable business practices and winemaking, industry trends and environmental & social innovation 

This week's highlight: Canned Wine Co.'s first Sustainability Strategy Day 

At Canned Wine Co., we have started the tradition to host a strategy day for the whole team every six months to review our goals and business strategy. Sustainability has always been a part of it, but for the first time we dedicated an entire day to it – very exciting day to be a Sustainability Manager! 

While my head is still buzzing from all the conversations and serious discussion points identified, a few reflections have crystallised. 

Importance of Teamwork 

Given how social, environmental and economic sustainability intersects with every product, business and department, it is essential that sustainability issues are not relegated to the dedicated Sustainability Manager. Every single employee should be engaged and integrate action into their job role. I am feeling incredibly relieved that I had the chance to share knowledge on the severity of climate change, case studies of innovative community and business projects, and the importance of action with the rest of the team. It now feels much more like a team effort and actions for every team member have been identified! 

Embrace Creative Tension in the Team 

There will be times where the brand and sales team will want to create point of sale materials, host events, target a specific type of customer that from a sustainability point of view I may challenge. We have agreed to embrace creative tension in the team and discuss the pros and cons transparently to decide what aligns both with our goals for brand development as well as our values around positive social and environmental impact.  

Understand Scope 3 

As we source our wine from our partner wineries, packaging from can manufacturers and local cardboard suppliers, and don't have our own canning site, our environmental footprint can mostly be classified as Scope 3. While this makes measurement and reduction more challenging, it is important to understand what areas are under our influence. Here are some examples: 

  • There are over 2 million wine growers in Europe – we choose our partners carefully based on strict quality and sustainability criteria, ensuring our winemakers share our values 

  • Choose better packaging – from the get go, Canned Wine Co. has been dedicated to recyclable, lightweight cans. All of our outer packaging is cardboard and we try to reuse as much of our packaging as possible.  

  • Encourage low carbon transport for commuting – by being located in central Bath, half of our team actually walks to work and several take the train. Only two team members drive to work regularly and this compromise is made to ensure our small team come together in the office to grow the business, with a flexible approach that allows them to work from home as and when it is preferable or more efficient.

Combining Growth with Sustainability 

As a challenger brand, one of our goals is to increase our presence in the market and disrupt traditional ways of drinking wine. It is evident that our resource consumption and environmental footprint will increase as the business grows – from raw materials and logistics to marketing materials and employee travel. One of our defining challenges as a business will be ensuring that this growth is as sustainable as can be.  

This includes increasing efficiency of resources and logistics to minimise negative impacts; creating stricter sourcing standards; reducing our packaging per product; considering the sustainability strategies of our distributors; creatively thinking about content creation and POS; selecting the right investment and debt partners; reclaiming furniture for our new office; restructuring the website coding to reduce our customers' online footprints.. the list goes on and I am sure there are many areas of improvement we have not yet identified.  

Accept Imperfection 

I can say with absolute certainty that we will make mistakes, however hard we try not to. I do not want perfection to hold back our sustainability journey and would rather take action with small mistakes along the way. At Canned Wine Co., we don't want these to be hidden and happen behind closed doors, but instead transparently share our difficulties and discuss with the wider community. We welcome being challenged and want to continuously learn to become better!

 Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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