ENVIRONMENT: Distell Appoints Top Level Expert
Recent Western Cape Business News
In its efforts to minimise its carbon footprint, Distell is prioritising the measurement and management of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and has appointed Jacques Rossouw as its new environmental manager, says Dr Gert Loubser, the company’s director of quality management and research.
Rossouw, who comes with international expertise having worked in the Australian environmental regulatory industry, was previously the manager of the South African wine industry’s environmentally-sustainable Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) programme, considered the most progressive of its kind in the world.
In this role, he worked extensively with Distell on an international project to establish a globally accepted basis for wine producers to calculate their GHG emissions. Called the International Wine Industry Greenhouse Gas Accounting Protocol and Calculator, the system identifies and provides a universally accepted basis for quantifying CO2 emissions throughout the grape growing, wine production, packaging and transportation processes.
He worked with Distell and Winetech as part of the South African team involved in the project. They collaborated with representatives from the wine industries of California, Australia and New Zealand in developing the new system, which has since been tabled with the World Resource Institute, the body that sets GHG protocols for manufacturing industries worldwide, as well as with the Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV). The system has also been formally endorsed by the International Federation of Wine and Spirits (FIVS).
“With the methodology for carbon footprint calculation now at our disposal, we can begin to record our emissions and develop strategies to lessen still further our impact on the environment,” says Loubser. “Although intended for wine producers, the protocol and calculator can be modified and applied to measure Distell’s impact on the environment in other areas of production, such as spirits, ciders and ready-to-drinks (RTDs).”
The company has already received international praise for its recycling of CO2 released during the fermentation of its ciders. The gas is captured and then purified for use in carbonating its ciders.
Loubser adds that Rossouw’s former role in administering the IPW programme on behalf of the South African wine industry will give further impetus to Distell’s progress in achieving ISO 14001 accreditation for more of its production facilities. “As it is, the IPW programme is based on the principles of the ISO 14001 environmental management system. To date, Nederburg, Bergkelder, Durbanville Hills and Plaisir de Merle are already ISO 14001-certified but our current focus is on achieving accreditation for our Adam Tas and Green Park production and bottling facilities.”
In his new capacity, Rossouw will remain on the steering committee of the recently launched co-operative project between the South African fruit and wine industries which is seeking to develop a comprehensive response to climate change.
Rossouw, previously at the Western Cape Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, believes that for the wine industry, water is the most critical natural resource associated with climate change. “As far as Distell is concerned, the focus on water management will be applied throughout the business. In addition to the recycling of waste water for vineyard irrigation, already underway at Durbanville Hills, Stellenzicht, Neethlingshof and Le Bonheur, Distell is also looking into expanding this practice where possible to its other cellars.”
The company is also working with the University of Stellenbosch and other research bodies to develop strategies to curtail water usage and wastage elsewhere in its wine production operations, as well as in the production of its spirits, ciders and RTDs.
Rossouw says an important feature of Distell’s water management programme includes the removal of water-thieving alien vegetation across its farms. The eradication of invasive vegetation is also a practice closely linked to the local wine industry’s Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI) that is involved in protecting the abundant biodiversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom and setting aside areas where indigenous habitat can be conserved or re-introduced.
Rossouw holds a masters degree in microbiology from the University of Stellenbosch.
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