Santa Rosa, Calif., (May 15, 2017) – Although Jackson Family Wines formally launched their sustainability program in 2008, the company was founded with sustainability in mind. When the late Jess Jackson, founder of Kendall-Jackson, thought about farming he was mindful of taking care of the land and wanted to build a company that would last for multiple generations.
His daughter, Katie Jackson, who now manages JFW’s sustainability program and external affairs, said her father’s long term view point meant he was focused on being a responsible land steward as well as a responsible business owner and community member.
“He was thinking about sustainability even before sustainability was a commonly used word,” Jackson said.
In 2008 Jess Jackson and his wife Barbara Banke decided to focus on how the company could incorporate sustainability into all areas of their business and look at greenhouse gases generated by the company, reducing their energy use and continuing to reduce water in the wineries and vineyards.
As a leader on the sustainability front, Jackson Family Wines will be honored with the Luther Burbank Conservation Award on July 13th. The Jackson family will be presented the award at Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Love of the Land event alongside the Walker Family, receiving the Farm Family of the Year Award, as well as Earl and Dot Holtz who will be inducted into Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Hall of Fame.
Jackson said she sees sustainability and conservation as slightly different with conservation falling under the umbrella of sustainability.
“Sustainability is certainly focused on environmental stewardship and conservation of natural resources and land, but it also has that added layer of considering how the financial viability of the business is impacted by the practices,” said Jackson.
“The third pillar of the sustainability framework is the social equity piece. It’s really important how you take care of the people you work with, your community and your neighbors. “Paraphrasing a famous quote, our CEO, Rick Tigner, recently defined sustainability as doing the right thing when nobody’s looking,” Jackson said, “and I think that’s a big part of it too. Making business decisions that are very responsible, and having integrity when you’re doing that.”
Last year, the Jackson family published a sustainability report that outlines four of the family’s core values they see as key to their ability to sustain their longer term success and achieve their goals. These include sustaining their lands, crafting their wines, advancing the field and innovation.
Alongside these, they have 11 goals to meet by 2021, including committing to one land conservation project per year, powering 50% of winemaking operations from onsite renewable energy generation, further reducing water intensity per gallon of wine by 33%, achieving zero-waste tasting rooms, and further reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% per gallon from their 2015 baseline.
Jackson said conserving water is one of their main goals and will continue to be a key focus going forward. As the company has grown over time, they measure water intensity: how much water is needed in order to produce one gallon of wine. They’ve already reduced this by 41% per gallon of wine produced and their 33% goal is on top of this. In 2016, they used less than 3.5 gallons of water to produce a gallon of wine, which is less than half the industry average.
Since 2008, Jackson Family Wines has saved $8 million in electricity cost savings through their energy efficiency initiatives.
In terms of energy usage, they have reviewed all their wineries and looked at how they could become more efficient, evaluating where their main sources of energy consumption are. They changed out all equipment that was old or inefficient and replaced inefficient lighting. They took the savings from the energy program and have reinvested them in more technologies to save energy including solar.
Jackson Family Wines has deployed 6.5 megawatts of onsite solar PV systems over the last five years offsetting 1,400 homes annual usage. They are the largest solar generator of any U.S. winery with eleven different wineries having solar arrays.
Jackson Family Wines is partnering with Tesla to work on an energy storage project, and they have batteries at six wineries in Northern California. They store energy from the grid when it’s less impacted for use during the day when it’s more impacted. They eventually plan to take energy from solar and store it in the batteries.
The company plans to implement zero-waste in their wineries, and their goal is to cut their 2015 baseline waste generation in half by 2021.
Jackson said one of the goals she is personally excited by is the land conservation and restoration goal. The family wine company partners with local resource agencies to work on natural resource conservation. In the past, they have worked on stream restoration projects at several sites and they currently have another large project going on.
Along with conservation and energy usage, social equity is very important to the Jackson Family. “We want to make sure we’re an employer of choice and we’ve been putting in place various programs to do that,” said Jackson.
They have recently started a volunteering project, allowing employees to take two paid days to volunteer. Their goal is to have 75% of their employees out in the community to volunteer every year, and they are currently at 55%, a 5% increase over last year.
Jackson Family Wines has also started a foundation to provide employees cash grants in time of need. These grants which don’t have to be paid back, are a financial safety net for employees.
“Part of the impetus behind it was that a lot of people who work here wanted to help their fellow employees out when they had a hardship in their life,” said Jackson. “In the past, the company has done things to support employees but not in a formalized manner. There was no way for employees to contribute to it.”
The Jackson family contributes half of the money in the yearly fund, while the executive team puts in another quarter. Other employees have the opportunity to deposit money with an option to take it directly from their paycheck every two weeks.
The Jackson family is constantly looking for new ways to innovate and be more responsible. They recently found success with a rainwater catchment system on the roof of one of their wineries and plan to roll this out to other wineries.
They are also working on a pilot project with Fruition Sciences to test sap flow in the vineyards. Monitors on the vines are measuring how much water the vines need by how much sap is flowing, indicating how much stress the vines are under. The technology then tells the company when to water.
Jackson said the project has been a success, and they have been able to reduce the amount of water used – significantly in some areas, while increasing fruit quality. Drones are another addition to the company’s expanding technology. Equipped with sensors, they are using the drones to locate nutrient deficiencies, overwatering and checking solar panels. The company is still exploring what they can do with drones.
While Jackson believes everything the company is doing is important, she thinks looking at water conservation and management is the most important area the company is focusing on right now. They are also planning to continue their efforts to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gasses.
Jackson said when the company’s sustainability journey started, they didn’t know how successful they could be and how far they could come as a company. She said the more they do, the more they learn and the more opportunities there are to improve. She recommends others be creative and think outside the box on how they’re doing things to find new solutions.
“Sustainability is a journey where you never quite reach your destination,” said Jackson, “you can always improve. That’s the case with us; we’re continually finding new ways to continue to be better environmental stewards and also make an impact in other ways.”
By Rachel LaFranchi
Courtesy of Sonoma County Farm Bureau