Change for good

The 'occupy' movement that started last year seemed pointless to many. The protestors' purposes were many and varied, some were benign and opportunist, others more understandable and serious. 

Yet if we look behind the maze of tents, something was different about occupy. Every day people people of all walks of life protested. The movement demonstrated what many felt: a loss of trust in government, business and capitalism and a call for a new democracy that is creative and local. They also felt a strong call for sustainability. 

To quote the BNZ, “is money bad?” Further, has capitalism lost its way? Perhaps it's a bit of both. 

As the world's population increases and a middle class pops up in developing countries, pressure on resources like water, energy and food increase enormously.

Business is changing and a call has been made for financial reporting that incorporates the triple bottom line  of profit, people, place). Commentators believe scarcity will drive radical innovation.

Water is the new oil and, because of unpredictable weather patterns, industrial and urban pollution and urban development, arguably the most valuable resource. Countries such as Vietnam, Singpore, Australia, Indonesia and South Africa all have strong policies around water protection. In New Zealand we depend on water for energy as much as our large agrarian economy, of which the wine industry is an important part. A deep and long drought will bring this country to its knees. Commentators believe scarcity will drive radical innovation, but do we have to wait to run out before we innovate?  

How does this affect the wine industry and how can we affect the 'carbon ledger'? The Australian state of Victoria generates more than half of the carbon per tonne of grapes grown compared to that generated by New Zealand, and similarly per litre of wine produced. The reason for this is thought to be our clean hydro energy sources. 'Water footprinting' has been suggested as an alternative to the carbon footprint, as water is the most scarce resource. This concept is gaining traction elsewhere.

Sustainability is relative - it means different things to different people. The New Zealand wine industry has made significant progress by adopting the Sustainable Winegrowing system. More than 90% of our vineyards are accredited within this framework - it's designed to improve all aspects of environment, economic and social performance.

Through this programme and others, like organic certifications and biodynamic methods, Kiwi grape growers and winemakers seek business improvement by optimising resources. THis gives their brands a better story and helps forge new markets.

It's harder to farm sustainably - compliance costs are higher and control of pests and diseases without chemicals is initially difficult to manage. But there's definite demand from wine consumer for sustainability, especially among consumers in places you might least expect, like India and China.

The New Zealand wine brand is perceived as clean and green. Strong brands are important for attracting foreign investment, higher calibre recruits and to yield political power. But how vulnerable are we? For example, is intensification of farming in industries like dairy production accompanies by inadequate safeguards? If Tourism New Zealand departs from its “100% Pure” message and rebrands the country, what will that mean for producers? 

Sustainability also drives us to look at the supply chain. The GFC forced efficiencies and a flood of bulk shipments left our shores. Ironically, this flies in the face of 'Brand New Zealand' and the small, exclusive niche that's been carved.

This challenge is daunting, but if we do not innovate and collaborate, our world will be a miserable place.

Erica Crawford is the marketing guru behind Kim Crawford Wines and a member of NZTE's Beachheads Advisory Board.