Gonzalez Byass Tracks Plastics From the Vineyard to Your Wine Glass

Feature by Leah Cartal
Dec 4, 2023 3:00 PM ET
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Wine is a fascinating beverage with a long and storied history. Its origins can be traced back 9,000 years to China, when the residue of a fermented fruit drink was found on pottery shards in the Henan province.

Winemaking emerged in Europe several thousand years later, and it is now home to many of the world’s most famous wine-producing regions. When paired with food or served for special occasions, wine consumed in moderation can awaken the senses and contribute to cherished memories. Spanish wine producer Gonzalez Byass shares this ethos, defining its purpose as to “bring moments of joy, helping people to savor and share their most precious moments.”

Headquartered in Jerez de la Frontera, Gonzalez Byass was founded in 1835 as a family-owned collection of wineries across Spain’s principal wine producing regions, overseeing the wine-making process from vineyard to wineglass. Grapes are harvested from its 2,000 hectares of vines under cultivation in nine wine-growing regions in Spain, Chile, and Mexico, and then pressed in traditional stone tanks, fermented, and the liquid aged in steel or oak barrels. After a few months or years, the wine is bottled and ready for consumption.

What does not usually come to mind when contemplating the art of winemaking is the amount of plastic and other non-sustainable materials that may be involved, from the material encasing the corks, to the packaging used to safely transport the bottles. Gonzalez Byass saw an opportunity to address its use of plastic and promote regenerative agriculture in its industry through the implementation of a comprehensive sustainable business strategy and circular economy program in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

Confronting the Plastic Problem

Plastics are among the most consumed materials in agricultural industry, as they are used in large production structures, production inputs, agrochemical packaging, and food product containers, and thus generate vast amounts of waste. In response, consumers are turning away from single-use materials while governments are adopting an extended producer responsibility approach in the form of plastic taxes. These taxes are a hugely important policy tool to combat the rapidly growing amount of plastic waste and discourage the production and use of plastic packaging.

The European Union (EU) instituted a plastic packaging levy in 2021, with some EU member states, like Spain and Italy, enacting their own new taxes. Spain’s tax which took effect this year imposes a tax on non-reusable plastic packaging and on waste incineration and disposal in landfills, with the goal of making all packaging in Spain recyclable by 2030.

This reality has spurred consumer goods producers like Gonzalez Byass to drastically minimize use of plastic. Its efforts have seen the replacement of plastic packaging tapes with paper ones, replacement of plastic in bottle caps with wood and cork, and adoption of more sustainable plastic alternatives like bioplastic made from sugarcane. These steps have been instrumental in helping to recover and recycle 99% of the waste generated. The company also buys cardboard boxes and wood sourced from certified forests in line with its commitment to preserve and regenerate natural resources.

The Key Role of Suppliers and Data

Plastic taxes are designed to discourage waste, prompting producers and distributors across the supply chain to reconsider their packaging choices. In its efforts to reduce use of plastic and purchase only recyclable packaging materials, Gonzalez Byass also needed to commit to sustainable purchasing throughout the entire value chain. Regular assessments with its suppliers have helped to gauge the progress on both sides. However, this kind of assessment requires not only trust and the fostering of great relationships — a skill at which it excels — but also, crucially, data.

While the wine producer is committed to both sustainable production and procurement, compliance with new regulations in multiple different regulatory environments is a daunting task. The recently enacted extended producer responsibility measures in Spain and in other countries where it does business mean multiple different data streams, declarations, and timelines in different regions. Managing these myriad competing factors is one of the most complex challenges facing the consumer goods industry today. Being able to collect real-time data and centralize it all in one place is a key requirement for Gonzalez Byass to be able to realize its sustainable ambitions, embed circularity principles into its core business processes and comply with regulations.

SAP’s cloud solution for the circular economy, SAP Responsible Design and Production is designed to address all the requirements of the new plastic taxes.

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Implemented by Minsait, which offers end-to-end digital transformation solutions, SAP Responsible Design and Production will enable Gonzalez Byass to accurately calculate fees and taxes in line with all the latest regulations in key markets, optimize its material choices in line with corporate commitments, and significantly reduce risks from unforeseen future regulations.

SAP Responsible Design and Production provides intelligence that will enable Gonzalez Byass to monitor, measure, and act on its plastic data, so that it can make the most informed choices and carry out the critical work of eliminating waste and regenerating the natural systems that the company cares so passionately about.

Regenerating Nature to Address Biodiversity Loss

The transformation of the agriculture sector in Spain over the past 50 years has significantly boosted productivity and wealth but has also resulted in a substantial increase in the use of natural resources like water, at the cost of soil erosion and a negative impact on genetic diversity. Sustainable business practices require a fundamental shift in the way that we interact with nature, with a recognition that success depends not just on financial profit but also upon careful stewardship of the natural environment.

Gonzalez Byass’ vines include indigenous varieties on the verge of extinction that have been coaxed back into production to preserve regional biodiversity. This work is in tandem with its efforts to protect local wildlife, such as placing nesting boxes in a number of its vineyards, creating adequate ecosystems to promote pollination by bees, and promoting reforestation efforts in all the regions where the company operates. And as water is essential for growing grapes and nurturing life, Gonzalez Byass employs sustainable irrigation techniques that use much less water in order to preserve this precious resource.

Gonzalez Byass’ ambition is to leave the lightest possible footprint on the environment. Its commitment includes promoting sustainable agriculture and implementing circular business practices like precision-tracking plastics from the vineyard to your wineglass.

Next time you buy a bottle of wine, make sure that the company you purchase from has a sustainable vision for the future, and that it is compliant with key regulations that help protect planet and people. That is a goal worth raising a glass of wine.

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