Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Programme

Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Programme

WASP intends to support the improvement on the environmental, social and economic performance of the region's winemaking activities and to promote the recognition of the sustainability performance of the region's wines as an instrument to respond to an existing market failure and to affirm Alentejo brand in internal and external markets.

It also seeks:

  • The integration of the entire Alentejo wine sector in a philosophy of social, environmental and economic well-being at local and regional level, with emphasis on the incorporation of eco-efficiency principles with the objective of promoting a more efficient use of resources, reduction and reuse of by-products thus reducing internal operating costs;
     
  • The production of Alentejo wines with recognized sustainable performance, resulting from the incorporation of knowledge acquired in R&D projects;
     
  • Identifying producer performance, comparing the output from producers (business cooperation), and defining areas for improvement and action plans that will change production practices;
     
  • The definition of the certification process according to the sustainable production benchmark that will allow the recognition of the quality of Alentejo wines for their sustainability performance, avoiding exposure to reputation risks.
     

In this context, the project had the financial support of the European Union through the Alentejo Regional Operational Programme.

 

Policy for the Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Programme 

Wine production is totally dependent on natural resources: solar energy, appropriate weather conditions, clean drinking water and healthy soils. These elements should be successfully integrated in an environmentally responsible way. The Alentejo Regional Wine Growing Commission considers that protection and enhancement of these natural resources through sustainable practices performed by a well-trained and highly skilled work force is a priority.  


Mission

  • Articulate the philosophy of social, environmental and economic welfare to the wine industry of Alentejo from a local, national and international perspective;
     
  • Develop a spirit of collaboration amongst the largest possible number of Alentejo grape and wine producers in a mutually beneficial manner;
     
  • Provide the grape and wine producers of Alentejo sufficient incentive to invest time, effort and resources into innovative solutions to achieve economic, social and environmental benefits;
     
  • Stimulate research and eco-innovation to provide the necessary tools for the wine sector of Alentejo to implement more sustainable practices;
     
  • Provide training and education in order to widely disseminate existing knowledge on best available practices to grape and wine producers of Alentejo in a timely fashion;
     
  • Disclose the sustainable production credentials of the wine region of Alentejo to the public in order to gain recognition and a greater appreciation for the wines of Alentejo.

Vision

  • Build a shared strategy of sustainability for grape and wine production in Alentejo;
     
  • Adopt innovative approaches to grape and wine production that lead to conservation of natural resources and biodiversity;
     
  • Contribute to the adaptation to climate change. Create opportunities for market growth and value for the wine sector;
     
  • Develop at the same time, new markets for products and services and promote the maintenance of natural resources (water, air and soil quality, biodiversity conservation);
     
  • Use the best available professional knowledge and scientific research to integrate the wine supply chain and balance social, economic and environmental aspects.

Values

  • Maintain leadership in the Portuguese wine sector and always look to the forefront of innovation;
     
  • Increase the quality of grape and wine production in Alentejo;
     
  • Take the lead in environmental protection and conservation of natural resources in the wine sector of Alentejo;
     
  • Support the competence as well as the economic and social welfare of the vineyard and winery employees;
     
  • Enhance the involvement of local communities through job creation, collaboration with local businesses and respect for local traditions and culture;
     
  • Support collaborations with research institutions in national and international development;
     
  • Ensure the continuous improvement of WASP.

Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Programme

Why a Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Programme (WASP)?

To connect competitiveness with environmental objectives and create opportunities from a sustainability strategy geared to:

  • Reduce costs and increase economic viability
  • Encourage pro-activity to deal with increasing environmental pressures
  • Respond to social concerns
  • Improve the quality and competitiveness of the final product
  • Reduce production waste
  • Minimise risk and exposure to liabilities
  • Place the product in new markets
  • Integrate a network of producers with similar sensitivities
  • Ensure longevity of the business
  • Provide greater transparency within the supply chain and implement intelligent communication strategies

 

The WASP

WASP is a voluntary initiative organised by the Alentejo Regional Wine Growing Commission that targets the grape and wine producers in Alentejo. Collective sustainability plans are common practice in some world wine regions and have been gaining importance in markets where Alentejo wines have also been gaining position. International and domestic markets are starting to demand the application of sustainability principles.

WASP should in addition provide the domestic Portuguese market with such information is rightfully could demand.

In order to implement WASP, members are first required to perform a self-assessment. The self-assessment consists of a standardised method, aligned with the Programme, to ultimately give a level of performance against an assessment matrix. It is intended that this self-assessment is aligned with the classic method of continuous improvement of a system and therefore, members will be required to conduct a self-assessment every year.

The self-assessment is organised into three distinct sectors (Viticulture; Cellar; Viticulture & Cellar). This distinction between sectors has to do with the type of producers amongst the members of the Alentejo Regional Wine Growing Commission.

NAWines of Alentejo Sustainability Programme Scope

The first implementation phase, called Primary Intervention Chapters, was developed for these three general sectors of wine production. In a second implementation phase released in 2018, the evaluation method was adapted to accommodate the increase in Chapters. This started the evaluation and implementation of the Secondary Intervention Chapters for eligible members, according to the WASP rules.

Primary and Secondary Intervention Chapters

After completion of the self-assessment for the 11 Primary Intervention Chapters, an overall ranking called the ‘General Sustainability Category’ will be established. This ranking will fall within one of four ranges defined for the General Sustainability Category (Pre-Initial, Initial, Intermediate and Developed). The 11 Primary Intervention Chapters were developed with 108 criteria.

Chapters and Criteria of Primary Intervention

The ultimate goal for every WASP member is continuous improvement. This will be achieved through the identification of opportunities for improvement and the development and implementation of annual action plans, in order to achieve in the medium term, the General Sustainability Category of ‘Developed’.

Once the WASP member has reached this Category, the 7 Secondary Intervention Chapters are made available, with 63 Criteria distributed as follow.

Chapters and Criteria of Secondary Intervention

Currently, the WASP has 18 Chapters with 171 evaluation criteria.

Once WASP members have established which category they fit into, the Secondary Intervention Chapters will be made available and the same method applied. A third-party validation and recognition of the sustainability system for the WASP member's production process will only proceed when the WASP member achieves the Final Category of Developed in the Secondary Intervention Chapters.

In order to ensure credibility of the project, the results of the self-evaluation for each WASP member will be subjected to an internal audit by the Alentejo Regional Wine Growing Commission. The self-evaluation will serve as an annual individual diagnosis on the sustainable practices of WASP members.

 

General Sustainability Category

The General Sustainability Category will be established after completion of the self-assessment for the 18 chapters, as shown below (for more information please see the Certification tab).

Minimum Value Required for Designation of the General Sustainability Category of WASP

The ultimate goal for every WASP member will be to work towards their own continuous improvement in order to ultimately reach the General Sustainability Category of ‘Developed’.

 

The story so far.

Planning for the WASP started in 2013 and the Programme was officially launched to producers in May 2015.

With a strategy based on actions requiring low investment leading to fast returning benefits (low hanging fruits) the 11 Primary Intervention Chapters (PICs) were released. This was done in order to demonstrate the clear benefits of joining and implementing the WASP to Alentejo’s grape and wine producers.

This strategy had almost immediate results, with the Programme gaining 93 members by the end of 2015, a number that has increased every year.

It was with great satisfaction that at the end of 2018, we opened 7 new intervention chapters - Secondary Intervention Chapters (SICs) - to members who had already reached the level required by implementing the 11 PICs.

With a very heterogeneous group of members (having varying land areas, economic and financial capacities, team sizes, objectives or strategies) the method of continuous improvement adopted by the WASP allows members to develop and implement the Programme at their own speed. This is shown in the graphs of the annual evolution of the WASP presented at the bottom of this page.

 

How our numbers have evolved

The CVRA conducted two evaluations of the regional implementation of the WASP.

The CVRA evaluated the implementation and continuous improvement of the 11 Primary Intervention Chapters (PICs) on a regional basis up until 2018. This evaluation was later expanded to include the 7 Secondary Intervention Chapters (SICs) in 2019.

When analysing the PIC evaluations as spider graphs, it appears that they expand and compress with each passing year. This is due to two characteristics of the WASP: the continuous improvement model (which makes the values for each member’s evaluation increase, subsequently “expanding” the graph) and the constant increase in new members (causing the implemented level of sustainability to decrease, subsequently “contracting” the graph).

Results primary intervention 2015-2019
Annual Average score for the primary intervention chapters
Results secondary intervention 2019
Annual Average Score for the Secondary Intervention Chapters