“We believe the next 10 years are critical to address and make an impact.” That is the challenge, but also the opportunity that Jackson Family Wines sees as being essential for producers of its scale and influence to make every effort possible to tackle climate change, explains Katie Jackson, senior vice president for Corporate Social Responsibility at Jackson Family Wines. Here she sets out the steps the family producer is taking and why it so proud to be one of the founding members of the International Wineries for Climate Action.
Katie Jackson sets out the steps that Jackson Family Wines is taking as part of its 10 year Rooted for Good: Roadmap to 2030 initiative to make a significant impact across the wine industry by leading the way on how to become climate positive.
How has it been growing up in such an esteemed wine family?
Grape growing and wine have always been part of my life. Growing up around the business with my parents’ guidance has allowed a unique opportunity and vantage point to learn from them and gain experience working in a wide variety of job functions across our family wine business. It started at a young age when we’d walk the vineyards as a family and my parents would explain the importance of farming and land conservation. It was such a great way to connect to our land and also helped shaped by values and my passion for sustainability and climate action.
What sort of roles have you done in the wine sector and what lead you to your current position?
I have worked in quite a few different roles at our family wine company. Ever since childhood, I have been around our family wine business, visiting vineyards and wineries, and shadowing my parents. But, my formal entry into the business started in 2007 when I worked harvest. I fell in love with the winemaking process, and all of the excitement and hard work that goes into making wine. It felt magical to see the culmination of the work that started in the vineyards to grow the best quality grapes, and to understand everything that went into making a beautiful bottle of wine.
I also worked in our marketing department, helping promote our Cambria Estate wines, which was a fun experience to see that side of the business and also work on a wine bottling that is close to my heart – my parents named the Chardonnay vineyards at the Cambria Estate after me, Katherine’s Vineyard – it’s always meaningful to share the story of that beautiful Chardonnay.
I was always drawn towards sustainability and found an opportunity to oversee a couple habitat restoration projects that allowed me to collaborate with government agencies, local environmental groups, and resource conservation districts, as well as other stakeholders to improve fish habitats and help protect our natural resources. This was a turning point in my career and reinforced how much I wanted to make a difference through our sustainability and climate action efforts.
Why did you want to get involved in sustainability and a role connected to government relations?
My passion for sustainability started at an early age. Growing up, my parents always talked about their vision to build a multigenerational wine company that would last for generations to come. That mentality meant that the decisions we make today must always look towards the long-term future in order to provide a positive impact for the next generation. Sustainability is what ties all of this together and our efforts have always been connected to the principle that we must protect and improve the environment, take care of our employees and communities, and make business decisions that help our company be more resilient.
In addition, I’m also a mom of three children, so these sustainability initiatives have become even more important to me knowing these efforts will positively impact them in the future.
Can you give some example of the type of project and challenges you have to take on in your role?
My role allows for a wide variety of projects to work on, from social impact initiatives to help improve the lives of our employees and our communities to habitat restoration projects that improve the environment, and climate action initiatives designed to reduce our carbon footprint.
One project that I’m extremely proud of which showcases the power of working together is a creek and restoration project that we collaborated on with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the California Deptartment of Fish and Wildlife, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Trout Unlimited, and others. Through this project, we collectively restored and enhanced critical Coho salmon and steelhead trout populations on one of our Sonoma County ranches. Conserving, protecting, and restoring critical watershed habitats such as rivers or creeks next to our properties is something that is critical to wildlife conservation and which we are very passionate about.
This project occurred on the Yellowjacket Creek, on our Kellogg Ranch property located in Sonoma County’s Knights Valley AVA, and in this case, it allowed us to become one of the first private landowners to have a Safe Harbor Agreement with NOAA Fisheries that covers ESA-listed salmon and steelhead populations. Since 2020, we’ve re-introduced 30,000 Coho Salmon eggs directly into the creek to help restore the local salmon population. We feel like it is a great example of how the private and public sectors can make a significant difference when they work together for the common good.
Sustainability and the environment are very important to Jackson Family Wines – can you explain some of the steps they have taken to date?
Throughout our four-decade history, the company has made social responsibility and environmental stewardship a top priority. For example, in 2015 we released one of the first and most comprehensive sustainability reports in the wine industry, detailing our efforts and identifying 10 key areas of improvement with goals to achieve in our vineyards, wineries, and business operations over a five-year period.
This included greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) reductions, land conservation, supply chain management, renewable energy development, water conservation, zero waste initiatives, community involvement, and others. These efforts resulted in us investing significantly in on-site renewable energy, with an end result of Jackson Family Wines using more on-site solar energy than any other wine company in the United States.
Altogether, our solar arrays currently power 30% of our winemaking operations. Since 2015, we’ve reduced our total greenhouse gas emissions by 17.5%. We’ve also saved 28 million gallons annually in our wineries though smart water management practices, the equivalent of filling 44 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
We were very proud of these efforts, but knew we needed to do more. After accomplishing most of our goals in 2015, we got back to work to develop our next phase of ambitious groundbreaking sustainability and climate action initiatives that would continue our legacy of innovation and help lead the wine industry forward to meet the challenges of today and into the future for generations to come. That work resulted in our new Rooted for Good: Roadmap to 2030 climate action and sustainability initiative.
What are some of the big outstanding challenges that need to be overcome?
For us, we don’t view things in terms of challenges. We take a more optimistic approach and consider it an opportunity. That being said, we acknowledge that climate change is a significant threat facing the wine industry today – for us, it impacts how we plan for the future and for the next generation. Our environmental stewardship and climate action initiatives are guided by global urgency to accelerate the implementation of innovative solutions and mitigate the effects of climate change.
Innovation is integral to taking us into the future and it will provide critical solutions. It’s a big part of what drives our sustainable initiatives. That is why we launched our Rooted for Good initiative, which has a focus on cutting our greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and become climate positive by 2050 without the purchase of offsets.
Where does Katie think the big potential wins could be in how wineries and producers tackle climate change?
In 2019, we co-founded International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) with Familia Torres of Spain with a mission to take collective action to decarbonise the global wine industry. IWCA’s objective is for all members to commit to becoming Net Zero by 2050 across Scopes 1-3, 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 more than 20 wine companies spanning seven 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. We believe the big potential wins would be if we could mobilise a large contingent of wineries globally to successfully decarbonise their operations, by sharing best practices and knowledge to achieve these ambitious goals, but that the real win will be if this wine industry-led effort could serve as a blueprint for other industries and sectors to decarbonise through collaboration.
We also are excited about the potential of having all of the well-respected and influential voices of IWCA’s members garnering attention for and action taken towards this critical issue. I am excited about the potential of our organisation, and I would like to invite all other wineries and producers with a concern about climate to join and collaborate with us on climate action.
How is Jackson working with others in the trade to help drive the sustainability message?
While preparing for the launch of our Rooted for Good initiative, it was very important to us that we’re transparent with the public and wine trade about our efforts. We wanted not only to share our journey, but also hopefully motivate and inspire other wineries and partners to join us in these important efforts. For that reason, we’ve launched a 5-part virtual Masterclass Series entitled “Rooted for Good: Fostering a Sustainable Future for the Wine Industry” to highlight our sustainability goals and create a global dialogue among the wine community about the important role our industry plays in climate solutions, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.
We partnered with wine academic and commentator, Elaine Chukan Brown, to moderate these webinars, which features representatives of Jackson Family Wines on a panel with guests who are experts in their fields, such as scientists, researchers, influencers, industry leaders, and others. Each session is also recorded and posted to our Youtube Channel and provide a lot of great insight and details on our sustainability practices, but also from some incredible guest panelists including leading scientists, visionaries, and other experts. (Click here to watch the sessions and below for one of the episodes). https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx4gmCgtTK1Bc4z8vVRH89g/featured.
Our sustainability team also participates as featured speakers and panelists for a lot of wine industry conferences, wine trade educational events, and other various business community events to share details of our sustainability and climate action initiatives.
Can you tell us about the Rooted for Good programme you are working on – what does it entail?
After we completed the sustainability goals we set out in our 2015 Sustainability Report, we knew there was a lot more work to be done. We assembled a wide range of employees and external stakeholders from 2018 to 2020 to build a roadmap for the future, and to ensure that Jackson Family Wines becomes more resilient in all facets of our business. These 100+ stakeholders included members of the Jackson family, senior executives and key departmental leaders, winemakers, vineyard managers, marketing and sales representatives, soil scientists, climate experts, elected officials, resource agencies, nonprofit groups, and others.
The result of this work is Jackson Family Wines’ Rooted for Good: Roadmap to 2030, a 10-year plan to make a significant impact across the wine industry by leading the way to become climate positive, create positive social impact, and support the Jackson family’s long-term vision for a sustainable future. We launched this initiative in August and we’re very proud of the positive reception we’re receiving from the global wine trade, our winery peers, and the media.
This is the most ambitious sustainability and environmental stewardship initiative in our 40-year history. Our long-term goals are to be climate positive, implement smart water management, adopt regenerative farming practices across all our estate vineyard properties, and champion social responsibility. We feel like making progress towards these goals is critical to ensure a healthy and sustainable future, both for the short-term and many generations from now. In keeping with the science on climate change, we believe the next ten years are critical to address and make an impact, and so we are considering this our decade of action to advance innovative solutions, become more resilient, and continue to build on all the good we can do as a global wine company.
What initiatives are you doing as part of the programme?
Our Rooted for Good initiative is focused on four key areas and goals over the next decade:
- Social Responsibility: Build a workplace where diversity, equity, and inclusion thrive, while empowering our employees to foster more resilient communities.
- Climate Action and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Cut our carbon footprint in half by 2030 and become climate positive by 2050, across Scopes 1-3 without purchasing offsets.
- Land Conservation and Farming: Transition 100% of our estate vineyards to regenerative farming by 2030.
- Water Management: Reinforce our commitment to water conservation and water quality improvement by enhancing our local watersheds.
For each of the focus areas, we have identified specific target areas and solutions to meet our goals by 2030. For example, with our goals around cutting our carbon footprint in half by 2030 and be climate positive by 2050, we have created a variety of initiatives to reach these goals, including reinvesting in renewable energy and transitioning our fleet of tractors, trucks, cars, etc. towards zero-emissions vehicles. We are installing a utility-scale wind turbine at our Monterey winery that we estimate will offset 100% of the winery’s electricity consumption each year and provide additional generation capacity.
With more than 23,000 solar panels across California and Oregon, we are the wine industry’s leader in solar energy. But we plan to invest even more in order to provide more than 50% of our annual winery operations electricity consumption from onsite renewable energy.
What are your plans for the programme going forward?
Our plans are to continue the work we’ve developed through this roadmap and ensure we meet all our goals as a company. We know these are bold, ambitious goals, but I’m confident we can achieve them all through hard work, smart and innovative solutions, testing and learning new methods, and collaborating with others in the wine community, leading scientists and researchers, and those from other industries who share the same mission.
- To find our more about what Jackson Family Wines is doing on climate change then go to its website here.