31 Oct 2019 2 min read

sustainable investing environment wine

By Matthew Courtnell

Unquestionably, sustainable investing and a growing consideration for ESG factors are increasingly important trends for investors. An affinity with sustainability has also had a big impact on the wine industry, where its implementation is on course to re-shape the future of winemaking. 


For most industries, climate change and eco-social responsibility are areas of increasing focus. In the case of wine growers and producers, this represents an entire ecosystem change. Despite the fear from some of the unknown impact, this change creates opportunities. Greater focus on responsibility has not only improved the winemaking process, but has already led to positive social and environmental outcomes.

As part of my time enjoying the delights of Sicilian wineries this summer, it was fascinating to see how the island is adapting. Having travelled from Etna to Noto to Menfi, I encountered numerous examples of sustainability entrepreneurship. This strengthening momentum highlights a commitment that is driving an impressive balance of quality and sustainability from the vineyard to the winery.

“From the vine to the bottle, there is no quality without sustainability”

My time at wineries such as Frank Cornelissen, Planeta, Donnafugata and Tasca d’Almerita offered insight into a handful of producers where “natural” and sustainable winemaking is firmly imbedded into their philosophy and approach. These techniques have led to a reduction in CO2 emissions, the integration of better management of agricultural activities, increased traceability of grapes and wine produced, and the introduction of 100% recyclable bio-synthetic corks.

Hearing directly from producers about how this paradigm is interpreted in the wine industry resonated with how we think about ESG as investors. Interestingly, through programmes such as SOStain and VIVA sustainability, this has helped the Italian wine industry move forward with initiatives to implement more biodynamic, organic and natural methods.

In recent years, there has been increasing support from global research foundations and academic projects, resulting in commitments from growers and producers to take a more holistic approach that looks to re-establish more natural winemaking.

“This is a movement as part of a driving force for good”

Much like investing, there are various interpretations of how to proceed with the implementation of sustainability practices. But ultimately, the desire to produce wines whose quality increases over time finds an important ally in biodiversity and environmental commitments. At a time when tactics are changing amid earlier harvest dates, temperature rises and demand for a greater respect of nature from the next generation of consumers, the significance of this movement will continue to grow.

For Sicily and its wine industry, early evidence suggests these changes have been welcome. With changing winegrowing conditions and a focus on more responsible environmental practices, the region has seen a series of excellent vintages and is now producing some of the best white and red wines they’ve ever made. The wine world is finally taking note of its success, with the whole planet benefitting on more than one front.

Today, the strength of focus from the investment community on sustainable investing and positive impact is still relatively new. However, as it rapidly becomes a more important theme, much like in the wine industry, it is about understanding materiality, implementing change and driving a positive outcome for all.

Matthew Courtnell

Responsible Investment Analyst - Active Strategies

Matthew is a responsible investment analyst within the Active Strategies team and has over 16 years industry experience working in asset management. Matthew is focused on equities, with his role covering company sustainability analysis, ESG thought leadership, portfolio management and being heavily involved in corporate engagement as part of our active ownership model. Matthew also applies the same level of passion for investing to the wine industry, where he has actively worked for several years on events and consulting. 

Matthew Courtnell