Adopting sustainable business practices is a top priority for any business whose entire product is at the mercy of climate change. While it may be obvious to implement environmentally friendly changes in the vineyard, sustainability doesn’t end there.

Starting with your wine brand’s overall packaging design, you can. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition reports, 70% of a product’s environmental impact comes from its design. That means you can lower your brand’s carbon footprint simply by reconsidering aspects of your packaging design.

You don’t have to make sweeping changes overnight. Instead, there are many small ways you can start making changes that add up quickly. Along the way, you’ll find you can make your team more efficient and tighten relationships with your customers.

Sustainability doesn’t just mean switching to all recycled packaging materials or committing to creating less waste. It means thinking about the entire lifecycle of the product from beginning to end.

Practicing sustainability means considering the entire lifecycle of your product

A wine brand’s packaging is just as important as the contents inside. So when you’re starting to think about sustainability as it pertains to your packaging, it’s understandable if you’re not chomping at the bit to change it.

But here’s the thing: Sustainability doesn’t just mean switching to all recycled packaging materials or committing to creating less waste. It means thinking about the entire lifecycle of the product from beginning to end — and the environmental impacts of each process point. Sustainable Packaging Coalition reports “envisions a world where all packaging is sourced responsibly, designed to be effective and safe throughout its life cycle, meets market criteria for
performance and cost, is made entirely using renewable energy, and once used, is recycled efficiently to provide a valuable resource for subsequent generations.”

So as you begin to consider how your wine brand approaches sustainability, think about this: What does it take for your materials to be made and shipped? And what happens to the bottle once it’s empty?

When you look more closely, you might realize:

• Your capsule is sourced unsustainably from materials mined from the earth, is shipped from overseas, and ends up in a landfill.

• You can fit more product on a truck per load with the lighter bottles than you can with the heavier bottles. The heavier bottle you use for your top tier requires more greenhouse gas emissions to produce and transport.

• Your label’s paper material isn’t made of recycled materials or produced with renewable energy.

• A screw cap ensures your wine stays crisp, but isn’t recyclable and ends up in a landfill.

• If you narrowed your glass bottle portfolio down, you could use the same bottle, thereby reducing extraneous sourcing and production.

• It’s more important to your wine brand to have a lower environmental impact than to have an ultra luxury presentation.

• Ordering items in bulk, like bottles, reduces the carbon emissions it takes every time you place a new order. Plus, ordering in bulk typically comes at a lower price point.

If you have a wine club, offering a recycling program for bottles could help customers who don’t have a glass recycling program in their communities.

• Many of your wine brand’s opportunities for sustainability may be hard to identify without talking to your vendors first, which is exactly what you should plan to do next.

Adopting sustainable practices doesn’t just prove to your customers you’re serious about decreasing your carbon footprint. It also gives you a chance to engage with your customers sans a sales motive.

Work with your vendors to identify sustainable sourcing opportunities

You can’t have a full understanding of your packaging’s environmental impact until you talk to your vendors. Find out how they can help you achieve a more environmentally friendly product.

Some questions to get the sustainable ball rolling may include:

1. What sustainable materials do you offer?

2. Do you have a recycling program for your waste?

3. What is the general travel path of my product? Is there any way to reduce it?

4. What sustainable sourcing practices do you follow?

5. Do you use renewable energy and/or clean manufacturing production technologies to produce your materials?

From bottle producers to capsule companies, vendors are stepping up their sustainability game. They should be prepared to answer your sustainability questions and ready to offer solutions, depending on your unique needs.

If they don’t offer anything, you should pressure them to come up with solutions. After all, you’re not the only ones who want to minimize your carbon footprint. Your customers do, too. So much so that in a recent Washington Post article they mention a petition that asks people who review wine to start including bottle weight so the consumers can start to see who is still using heavy bottles.

Grow relationships with your wine brand’s customers by reaching out about sustainable choices

Increasingly, customers prefer buying from brands that align with their values. This means if you have environmentally conscious customers, they’ll want to know the steps you’re taking toward sustainability.

But adopting sustainable practices doesn’t just prove to your customers you’re serious about decreasing your carbon footprint. It also gives you a chance to engage with your customers sans a sales motive. You can find out what resonates with them in a different way.

For example, you could ask your customers if they prefer getting their bottles shipped in a wooden box or corrugated cardboard box. You could learn that your customers prefer cardboard boxes because they don’t know where to recycle their wooden boxes along with their shipping carbon footprint being smaller and more economical.

Would your customers be interested in minimizing the frequency of their shipments? Find out by asking if they want to minimize their environmental impact and receive one or two big shipments rather than multiple small ones.

Fewer shipments mean less waste and greenhouse gas emissions due to transportation. And it also means more efficiency for your team. Sending out one big order versus several shipments can make a noticeable difference.

Not sure if a capsule is worth the financial and environmental cost? Reach out to your customers to see if they would notice if you went without it. Many wine brands are realizing that the costs aren’t worth it. And sure enough, for some brands, their customers rarely notice the absence.

Fully embracing environmentally conscious business practices takes time, effort, research, and creativity — from wine brands to vendors and customers. But by taking small steps, you can be confident you’re doing what’s right. Along the way you’re sure to find win/win side effects like lightening your team’s load and making your customers love your brand even more.