We ask the senior vice president of corporate social responsibility for Jackson Family Wines to share how she’s working to make her winery sustainable for generations to come
The daughter of California wine producers Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke, Katie Jackson is committed to keeping the family business at the forefront of quality and environmental stewardship. In her position as senior vice president of corporate social responsibility at Jackson Family Wines, Katie has spearheaded some of the company’s most ambitious environmental initiatives, including advancing water security and innovative energy management, adopting regenerative farming practices, as well as working towards the goal of becoming Climate Positive by 2050.
Environment 911 caught up with the eco warrior to find out how she's lowering her winery's environmental impact and, of course, to get some tasty eco-friendly wine recommendations...
E911: What is Jackson Family Wines' philosophy on sustainability?
Katie: Jackson Family Wines takes a comprehensive approach to sustainability that factors in best practices for environmental, business and social responsibility across our winery and vineyard operations. For the past 40 years, Jackson Family Wines has been rooted in the land, which is why we’ve made environmental stewardship a top priority. We embrace climate-smart farming and winemaking practices that lower our environmental impacts, including preserving open space to building soil health through regenerative farming practices, and reducing our water and energy use. We’ve also made a bold, ambitious commitment to become climate positive by 2050, without purchasing offsets.
As a multigenerational family wine business, we also understand the importance and value of implementing sound business practices that make us more resilient in the face of these global challenges. This includes investing in renewable energy sources, like solar; planning and forecasting our CapEx (capital expenditures) for a healthy balance sheet; and many other sound business practices.
Finally, we are a people-first organization that cares deeply about our employees and the local communities where we live and conduct business. We are committed to building a workplace where diversity, equity and inclusion thrive, while also empowering our employees to foster more resilient communities. As part of our Rooted for Good: Roadmap to 2030 plan, we are taking meaningful actions to ensure progress is made to improve the lives of our employees and our communities.E911: Has Jackson Family Wines always been focused on sustainability? When did it become a priority?
Katie: Sustainability has been a core value and focus of the Jackson family and our global wine business since the company was founded 40 years ago. We’ve always believed in “leading through action,” which has resulted in a lot of positive outcomes over the years. All our estate vineyard properties are certified sustainable by third-party, industry-leading programs and we were one of the first wineries to pay a premium for certified sustainable grapes in a show of support to our long-time grower partners. Most of our wines you enjoy are certified sustainable and that logo is depicted on our labels, such as Certified California Sustainable (CSWA), Oregon’s LIVE Certified and others.
For us, climate action and corporate social responsibility is not just a priority—it’s a way of life—and weaved through our entire business practices.
E911: The goal to cut your carbon footprint in half by 2030 and become climate positive by 2050 is ambitious. What steps are you taking to achieve this?
Katie: Yes, this is our decade of action and we’re proud to be leading a global effort to decarbonize the wine industry. Since 2015, we have reduced our absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 17.8 percent, which is the equivalent of taking more than 4,000 cars off the road every year. That’s a result of our investment in renewable energy, including installing more than 23,000 solar panels across California and Oregon, becoming the U.S. wine industry’s leader in solar energy. At La Crema Winery, for example, our solar-powered winery consists of 3,000 solar panels, Tesla stationary batteries and energy efficiency measures to minimize our reliance on the grid. Every year, this solar array generates over 1 GWh of clean, renewable energy, enough to offset 70 percent of our winery electricity usage each year.
To meet our carbon footprint goals, we are increasing our investment in renewable energy to ensure that more than 50 percent of our annual winery operations’ electricity consumption comes from clean, onsite renewable energy by 2025. In addition, we are going to install a utility-scale wind turbine at our Monterey Winery that is estimated to offset 100 percent of the winery’s electricity consumption each year and provide additional generation capacity. We also understand that glass bottles make up a significant portion of our carbon footprint, which is why we put an emphasis on light-weighting our bottles (more on that later). Finally, we are going to invest in zero-emission vehicles by updating our fleet of tractors, trucks and other equipment over the next decade.E911: Can you tell us about your plan to transition to regenerative farming by 2030 and why this is important to Jackson Family Wines?
Katie: We believe it’s our responsibility to maintain biodiversity, preserve native habitats, maintain clean waterways, and enhance soil health within the lands under our care. That is why 60 percent of our estate vineyard properties are left unplanted and in their natural habitat, enabling our vines and native landscapes to exist in harmony.
In the next 10 years, we are committed to transition 100 percent of our estate vineyard properties to regenerative farming practices. It’s always important to remember that wine is an agricultural product, and everything you admire most about that glass of wine—the aromas, flavours, connecting you to the terroir—it starts in the vineyards. By integrating regenerative farming practices, such as adding carbon-rich compost to the soils, reducing or eliminating tillage, introducing livestock into our vineyard environments, and planting a biodiverse range of cover crops, we believe we can maintain a healthy ecosystem on our estate vineyards, while also advancing the quality of our wines that our customers love and enjoy.
E911: And can you tell us about your water conservation goals?
Katie: Water is one of our most precious natural resources and it’s vital that we continue to implement proactive water-management practices that improve water quality and efficiency, while also protecting and enhancing our local watersheds. That is why we’ve made proactive, smart water management a key focus area of our Rooted for Good plan. Over the next 10 years, we will deploy innovative water management solutions in our vineyards and wineries to save and reuse water, protect wild habitats and watersheds and recharge our natural aquifers.
We’ve been an industry leader in developing and adopting the latest innovative water management practices in our vineyards and wineries. For example, we were one of the first wineries to use Blue Morph UV technology to clean and sanitize our tanks. We prefer this as an alternative to using water or applying chemicals to sanitize.
We also created our own rainwater capture system to store rainwater in our steel tanks, and we’ve also built a state-of-the-art barrel-washing system that reuses water up to three times. These efforts have helped us reduce our water use by 43 percent since 2008 in our wineries. We use soil moisture probes, drone and other technologies in our vineyards to get real-time data on a vine-by-vine basis to measure soil moisture and ensure we’re giving each plant the optimal amount of water.In addition, we’ve led efforts on ground water recharge. Over the past several winters, we have flooded some of our vineyard properties to capture rainfall and use that water to recharge groundwater and also replenish the local aquifers and watersheds. We continue to improve this practice to ensure we are able to help create a healthy ecosystem, protect critical fish populations and supports groundwater recharge.
E911: What glass do you use for your bottles and how does it help you work towards your climate goals?
Katie: When we did an exhaustive audit back in 2015 to measure our carbon footprint, we learned that a big portion of our carbon emissions was coming from our packaging, specifically the weight of our glass bottles. So, we worked with our glass suppliers to update our bottle molds, including reducing the bottle weight of our Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay by 5 percent. It's really hard to tell, but a majority of that change came from reducing the size of the punt at the bottom of the wine bottle.
These bottle light-weighting efforts have reduced our overall carbon footprint by 2 to 3 percent annually, as well as saved us a significant amount of money annually in glass costs and in fuel costs from lighter truck loads during transportation. We are now evaluating our other wineries to see if there are opportunities to lightweight those bottles. In addition, across all the wines we produce, 55 percent of the glass in our wine bottles is made from recycled cullet.
E911: How often are you improving your sustainability practices?
Katie: The simple answer is constantly. We have always believed in innovating and researching the latest sustainability advances in technology, viticulture practices, winemaking and other business operations. We have close relationships with the leading universities and other experts in soil science and health, enology and we're constantly looking at ways to adopt new practices and advancements that can improve on our core focus areas, like smart water management, regenerative farming and reducing carbon footprint.
In addition, we have built a strong culture among our employees to work collaboratively on adopting innovative sustainability methods, and best practices are shared freely amongst our different winery teams. For example, our wineries in the past have competed against each other to take home the “Winery Water Wise” trophy, which recognizes innovation in water conservation and reuse.
Our barrel-washing program is an example of that collaboration and competitiveness, and it’s been a game-changer for us to significantly reduce our water use. Our cellar team at Kendall-Jackson worked in tandem with the Tom Beard Company to develop this innovative barrel-washing program that allows us to reuse and recycle our water up to three times, saving us almost 2 million gallons of water each year at that winery. We’ve since started to deploy similar barrel-washing systems at our other wineries.E911: Can you give us an example of a sustainability initiative that has been super successful?
Katie: In 2019, we co-founded International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) with the Familia Torres of Spain with a mission to take collective action to decarbonize the global wine industry. IWCA’s objective is for all members to commit to becoming Net Zero by 2050 across Scopes 1 to 3, ensuring constant reductions to meet intermediate targets by 2030. We’re proud of the collaborative work so far, which has led to our membership growing to close to 30 wine companies spanning seven different countries and five continents.
As a result of this commitment and leadership, we joined the United Nations’ Race to Zero campaign, becoming a facilitator and champion within the wine and agricultural industries to build momentum and support for immediate solutions that help move wine producers and vineyard owners closer to becoming climate positive.
E911: Can you give us some advice on shopping for a sustainable wine? What should we look for to make the best choice for us and the planet?
Katie: Always look for the Sustainability in Practice (SIP) logo; SIP Certified shows that winegrowers have used practices that protect the people and planet so you’ll know that your wine was made with care.
E911: Are any of your wines vegan?
Katie: Yes, we do have a number of vegan friendly wines, such as our wines from Gran Moraine and Cambria Estate Winery.
E911: Which are your favourite Jackson Family Wines to drink during spring/summer?
- Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay
- La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
- La Crema Monterey Rosé