Cultivating Tomorrow – Mike Turner looks at how Bordeaux is prioritising CSR
You feel sometimes that you can’t move in the wine world these days without someone (usually me) mentioning the word “sustainability”. I hate to say it, it’s because it’s so damn important! It’s all about future proofing what we, as an industry, are doing whether that’s from an environmental, societal, economic, or energy usage angle. The wine trade, as an agricultural industry with huge links to the communities and culture that surround it, must have sustainability initiatives front and centre of everything they do. In few wine regions of the world is that felt more keenly than in Bordeaux.
In France, the government has already set their own sustainability guidelines for all agriculture in the country; the Haute Valeur Environnementale (HVE). The wine regions across France also know they need to do more, with increasingly industry and regionally specific initiatives to “bolt on” to the HVE structure. The newly conceived Bordeaux Cultivons Demain is a fabulous example of the trade doing exactly that.
Bordeaux Cultivons Demain is a new corporate social responsibility scheme. It brings together businesses across Bordeaux’s wine industry to create best practices for how to look after their staff, both present and future, and their communities. The pilot scheme began in 2019 and by the end of 2021 we had our first 13 businesses (a mix of producers or negociants) that will carry the new badge proudly on their labels.
The Bordeaux Wine Industry is by far the biggest employer in the Gironde and the industry with the biggest cultural impact across the region. Bordeaux Cultivons Demain recognises that responsibility in 4 pillars of charter. They include:
- looking after the livelihood of the whole Bordeaux region
- making the wine trade attractive for a future set of employees
- creating transparency of what they’re doing and also what needs to be done for consumers, partners and stakeholders
- do all this whilst ensuring the preservation of the environment
It’s not a simple task. There are large numbers of different industries, businesses, and people that are involved in getting bottles of wine to the thirsty masses. It could be the supermarket that ultimately sells the wine all the way to the company you call out to clean the pipes of your bottling line. But by working together, this initial cohort of 13 are setting their standards clear for all to see and helping each other push for change.
Some of the initiatives coming out of the class of 2021 might sound obvious, but it makes a huge impact once it’s written down and enshrined in your business culture. One example is using only local Bordeaux companies in procurement decisions. Another is using local communities to staff wine tourism or cultural festivals at the Châteaux. As I said, they sound obvious, but it’s about getting it down there in black and white and make everyone buy-in. “Certifications allow us to establish action plans” states deputy director, Benjamin Vimal of Château Lagrange in Saint Julien. “It’s like a toolbox in the company that unites all employees around a common goal and values.”
Those initiatives involving current and future staff is where Bordeaux Cultivons Demain really shines. If one of the 13 are asking their staff for suggestions on how to make their daily lives better, or getting staff in different roles to swap now and again to better understand their colleagues’ tasks and pressures, then it might not take long for the rest of the 13 to follow suit. From there, see how long it takes future members to do the same, and even add to those.
This is only scratching the surface of what Bordeaux Cultivons Demain is all about. I’d encourage anyone with an interest in the idea of sustainability in the wine trade to find out more. I know I’m not alone in saying that when I’m presenting wines during events to clients (especially corporates), this is exactly what they want to hear more of; that our industry is changing for the better. It’s initiatives like Bordeaux Cultivons Demain that mean arguably the most famous wine region in the world will never be left behind.
For more information on Bordeaux Cultivons Demain, please contact Claire White at Cube Communications (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mike Turner works as a wine writer, educator, presenter, and judge through his company Please Bring Me My Wine (www.pleasebringmemywine.com). He also runs a wine events and e-commerce business, Feel Good Grapes (www.feelgoodgrapes.com), from his base in the East Midlands.