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Oak deserves its fine environmental credentials
Environmental sustainability is not a new concept in winemaking, with oak barrels providing an ideal example of the longstanding delivery of green benefits for everyone in the supply chain.
THE INCREDIBLE FORESIGHT of the French oak industry has far-reaching implications for a sustainable industry, with Australasian winemakers reaping the rewards.
Regional sales manager, Seguin Moreau Australia, Dan Eggleton has highlighted the significant environmental benefits of using oak in producing quality wines.
'There are a range of clear examples of multigenerational thoughts and systems that encompass the ethos of sustainability in the wine industry,' Eggleton said.
'We have seen long-term plantings at Seppeltsfield and protective legislation in Champagne and Burgundy, however the protection of the source of a raw material such as oak has never been more important,' he said.
Napoleonic awareness sets the trend
'Even in pre-Napoleonic times, oak forests required greater protection and the practice of planting multiple trees for each tree harvested was implemented.'
Eggleton said this remarkable decision has been critical in the ongoing ability for coopers such as Seguin Moreau to not only survive wars, fires and the ravages of population growth, but also expand and develop new markets.
Set up in 1870 and 1838 respectively, the Seguin and Moreau cooperages were joined in 1972 under the auspices of Remy Martin, while the Cognac cooperage was entrusted with barrel production.
The Merpins site, near Bordeaux in the area of Cognac, was opened, though production not fully utilised, and managers took the opportunity to expand production of barrels for top-quality wines in a rapidly developing market.
'Since the early days, Seguin Moreau has sought to combine the best of traditional craftsmanship with the most cutting-edge scientific research and development,' Eggleton said.
'The coopers still carry out the same traditional tasks by hand, though aided by mechanisation and automation of certain tasks.
'To maintain its pre-eminent position, the cooperage has partnered with universities worldwide on groundbreaking research and maintains a full-time research laboratory.'
Three production sites worldwide
Today, the cooperage encompasses three production sites worldwide, two seasoning yards and two integrated stave mills (in France and in Missouri, US). Complete control over the production process means consistent control of the oak's quality from the tree to the finished barrel.
The raw materials in all areas, France, Caucasus mountains and the US are sourced under the agreed terms of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), meaning that all materials are to be sourced from sustainable forests where the trees are replanted in larger quantities, that there is a significant triple bottom line effect for the company, the environment and the community involved.
Carbon neutral program
'Seguin Moreau is constantly conscious of its position as leader and has been committed since 2005 to sustainable development through the PEFC Global Compact,' Eggleton said.
'It is, therefore, natural that we decided to undergo Bilan Carbone, in accordance with the program set up by the French Agency for the Environment and Energy Management (ADEME).
'The aim of this program is to estimate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions originating from all the stages of Seguin Moreau's activity, from the cutting down of the trees right through to the delivery of the finished product to your premises, whether it be an oak barrel, a vat or a tank.'
This program helps identify and measure the dependence on fossil energy, define the key ways in which this can be controlled and restricted in order to limit our impact on the environment.
Using the results of this diagnosis, and with the help of this accounting model, Seguin Moreau is able to commit to an action plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
'The fact that Seguin Moreau is certified PEFC (wood coming from sustainable forests) means that we can already reduce our carbon accounting,' Eggleton said.
'Moreover, since the wood used comes from sustainable forests and the product made from this wood can last as much as a century (vats and tanks), it is classified as timber and becomes a 'carbon sink'.'
Carbon neutral protocol
The protocol assures the quality of carbon footprint assessments, offset projects and communication and is regularly reviewed by an independent advisory group. Following the assessment Seguin Moreau reduced the emissions to net zero through carbon offsetting in renewable energy projects in China, India and Guatemala.
Seguin Moreau selected a portfolio of international renewable energy projects to offset its emissions in:
Candelaria hydropower (Guatemala)
Sakri windpower (India)
Damao windpower (China)
Sichuan hydropower (China).
These projects save CO² from being emitted by replacing energy that would otherwise have been derived from fossil fuel sources. The amount of CO² saved is measured and sold as a carbon credits, which are used neutralise the CO² produced by business activities - in this case, the production and distribution of oak barrels.
Why did Seguin Moreau choose Bilan Carbone registered by ADEME?
'We found this to be the most comprehensive method. We chose a realistic and exhaustive approach. It is a process involving diagnosis and management. Transparency is essential as it helps us progress and be more competitive on the economic and ecological levels. Also, ADEME is a public body and a reference in terms of sustainable management.'
Who carried out the Bilan Carbone for Seguin Moreau?
'For both reasons of expertise and objectivity, Seguin Moreau appointed an outside consultant, Carbone Consulting. (www.carbone-consulting.com).'
What are the advantages of undergoing such a process?
'Independently, from the obvious advantages for our planet, we can point out two main ones:
It's a chance for a company to analyse the way it works and to make improvements in its methods (flow of raw material, stock management, transport and technical processes).
Our customers are satisfied, as they are committed themselves and need this information to undergo their own analysis.'
Applications of the process in Australasia
'Well before carbon taxes were being introduced in Australia, Seguin Moreau Australasia was already beginning to develop a forward plan to complement the work being completed in France.
Systemic changes to process and development of efficiencies have continued to further enhance Seguin Moreau's claims for carbon neutrality.
The integration of office, storage and distribution mechanisms has cut a whole step out of the stock movement and management cycle. This in itself has generated significant carbon savings, whilst delivering a more streamlined and reliable service to the clients.
This vertical integration has also enabled Seguin Moreau Australasia to not only offer products that are globally showing environmental benefits, they are also being offered at a more competitive price point.'
How do you compare ?
'In the future, all companies will have to undergo carbon accounting, and it will be difficult to compare results as this will depend on the method used by each company and the area covered.
As far as Seguin Moreau is concerned, it is worth pointing out that the process covers the widest area possible, from the cutting down of the tree up to delivery of the finished product.'
'Bilan Carbone is a starting point,' Eggleton said. 'It gives a picture at a given point in time and the aim is to see it improve. We now have a measuring tool and can identify how to progress and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We are committed to completing this action plan.'
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