All human activity makes an impact on Earth's environment. A carbon footprint measures the impact a human activity has on our environment in terms of how much greenhouse gas (GHG) the activity produces, expressed in units of carbon dioxide (CO2). The less CO2 produced by an organization, product or individual, the smaller its carbon footprint.
In response to the threat of climate change linked to dangerous levels of CO2 atmospheric greenhouse gases, and to growing business and consumer demand trends towards greater sustainability and transparency, many businesses and industries are engaged in various stages of tackling the carbon footprints of their businesses and products.
On a comparative basis, the wine industry is already well ahead of most in contributing a relatively lower industry carbon footprint. As stewards of the vineyards, responsible resource use, conservation and long-term management of vines, soil, water, pests, waste and air quality are vital concerns for grape growers and winemakers alike. Growing adoption of local, organic and biodynamic farming, and other sustainable agricultural and winemaking practices are further serving to reduce winery and vineyard carbon footprints. And many wineries are already seeking greater efficiencies elsewhere, e.g. in energy, water-use, transportation and packaging.
More and more, wine industry standards are emerging and being adopted on a wider scale. Still, there remain several methods and measurements for assessing the carbon footprint and/or sustainability of your business. Regardless of the standard you choose, for most companies, progress along the path towards carbon-neutrality (that is, an ideal carbon footprint of zero) requires a three-part solution:
- Assessing your carbon footprint
- Adopting technologies and practices that prevent or reduce CO2 emissions
- Compensating for CO2 emissions through investments in carbon offsets
Cork Supply is working aggressively to meet and advance our own sustainability goals, one of which is minimizing our company's carbon footprint. Additionally, as a member of and vendor to the wine community, our aim is to assist others in minimizing their carbon footprint. This we are doing in three ways:
- Optimizing efficiencies 'upstream' at Cork Supply that result in positive, exponentially magnified reductions 'downstream' throughout the marketplace
- Offering products and services that enable our customers to reduce their carbon footprint
- Investing in research, education and advocacy in support of CO2 reduction
During 2007-08, Cork Supply completed a global carbon footprint study that assessed the CO2 emissions of each of our local operations. This involved a detailed bottom-up accounting of all Cork Supply activities conducted worldwide, and included CO2 emissions due to associated cargo and freight.
In the US where Cork Supply maintains cork finishing, laboratory, inventory, sales and support operations to service our North American customers the study identified transportation of incoming raw materials and outgoing finished products as the main contributor to our carbon footprint. As these emissions occur during transport from our vendors and to our customers, Cork Supply opted to include them in our own calculations so they remain visible to us, and enable us to collaborate with our industry partners to reduce them.
Some examples of initiatives we are undertaking to reduce transport-related CO2 emissions include:
- Optimizing container-load efficiency (via new pallets, packaging and improved load-staging standards)
- Encouraging our materials and transportation vendors to maximize use of energy-efficient, clean-air and renewable-fuel vehicles and consolidated deliveries
- Encouraging our customers to plan and book orders earlier to avoid airfreight on deliveries
Electricity consumption was identified as the second-largest contributing factor to CSU's carbon footprint. Since this study, we've undertaken several initiatives that reduce electricity-related CO2 emissions:
- Consolidating and re-engineering our plant and storage operations for optimized workflow efficiencies, reduced energy use, and decreased waste (e.g. less machine idle times, shorter forklift distance requirements)
- Improving energy efficiency at our new CSU facility (e.g. installing energy-saving light sensors, fixtures and bulbs)
- Conducting feasibility study of renewable energy sources
Moreover, Cork Supply is considering the role offsets may have in our carbon footprint strategy. In addition to appraising market-based carbon offsets, our team is conducting scientific research on the carbon sequestration function of cork forests and evaluating the beneficial CO2-reducing impact of our own numerous cork forestry initiatives.
Another key to ensuring sustainability involves addressing any impact our products may have on the planet. Ongoing research in this area is empowering Cork Supply to work internally and with our vendors for continuous improvements, enable our customers to make more informed choices, and advance the collective wisdom of our industry.
Being a supplier of various 'competing' types top-of-the-bottle products, Cork Supply is fundamentally committed to conducting and communicating fair, objective research and reporting. Regardless of closure type, we strive to deliver scientifically sound data that avoids subjective bias for or against any closure type, and which permits objective reasoning and fact-based decision-making.
Products, like companies, can be measured for the impact of their CO2 emissions on the environment. Increasingly, manufacturers, retailers and the media are citing product carbon footprints, and market and regulatory trends are rewarding brands and products with lower burdens.
As more and more product carbon footprints are published, the growing body of data helps us establish and validate the relative impact of individual products on our environment.
Cork Supply completed a carbon footprint assessment of our natural corks in 2008 using an LCA approach supported by the GHG protocol database, a standard methodology widely recognized around the world by businesses, governments, environmental groups, the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Additionally, we have had an independent third party, AlternConsult (France), validate the carbon footprint of our natural corks using the widely adopted Bilan Carbone® methodology.
The results of these studies are being published since 2009.
For other products that Cork Supply distributes, we are partnering with our vendors to provide manufacturer carbon footprint data. We are pleased to offer our customers the following manufacturer data: