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Is it just about the carbon? – The Adelaide Hills Wine Region Cluster Group Approach.

Andy Chambers and Richard Furler

Green Ochre Pty Ltd Unit 5, 1 London Road, Mile End South Australia
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Wine businesses around the world continue to watch the carbon debate. Carbon footprints, “food miles” and green credentials have become hotly debated, particularly for Australian wine exporters to European and British markets. The Adelaide Hills Wine Region, whilst interested in carbon issues, is particularly conscious of broader environmental factors, given its location in the water catchment for Adelaide, surrounding biodiversity hot spots and its unique South Australian tourism destination.

The committee of the Adelaide Hills Wine Region (AHWR) prompted action by deciding to offer its members a novel cluster group approach to environmental learning, with the intent that members could participate in environmental change, simply and affordably. The aim was to promote a collaborative support network through exchange of ideas, learning by doing and an outcome of demonstrated environmental improvement.

A cluster of 12 members were offered a simple learning by “doing”, 3 part EMS course using the EcoMapping™ tool. Participants included individual growers and large wine companies. Cluster group sessions allowed themes to be developed, ideas to be exchanged and experiences to be shared both formally and informally during smaller group site visits. The EcoMapping tool enabled participants to simply and clearly record environmental aspects and start developing an environmental action plan. Whilst carbon was a theme, environmental aspects were considered holistically and with regard for national carbon accounting and local water & natural resource management regulations.

Within 6 months, group members had all developed a simple 10 page working EMS. The cluster group approach demonstrated successful development of a regional approach to EMS.


The Adelaide Hills Wine Region (AHWR) has developed a strong environmental identity given the region is influenced by a unique set of environmental issues. Covering a large area of the Mount Lofty Ranges and Fleurieu Peninsula, much of the region is part of the Adelaide metropolitan area water catchment. It is surrounded by bio-diverse hot spots, national parks and contains an active and well known tourism industry.

The South Australian wine industry is no stranger to carbon issues, with local and national representative groups assisting the industry with information and techniques for calculation of wine business carbon footprints.

The AHWR was well progressed in development of an Environmental Management Systems (EMS) program for its members, when the wine industry became more active in promotion and assistance with carbon calculation issues. In seeking a solution for its members AHWR had adopted an innovative cluster group approach to EMS development and saw introduction of carbon calculation techniques as a natural step within the measurement and monitoring component of EMS.

Twelve AHWR members participated in a 3 part EMS course, enabling simple learning by “doing”, using the EcoMapping™ tool. A cross section of the local industry participated, included individual growers, cellar door facilities and large wine companies. Cluster group sessions allowed themes to be developed, ideas to be exchanged and experiences to be shared both formally and informally. Smaller group site visits enabled further on-site experience in EMS themes as the participants built their EMS. The EcoMapping tool enabled participants to simply and clearly record environmental aspects and start developing an environmental action plan. Whilst carbon was a theme, and the importance of good measurement and collection of monitoring data emphasised, environmental aspects were considered holistically and with regard for national carbon accounting and local water & natural resource management regulations.

Cluster group training is not a new concept, but in the context of learning about and implementing EMS within the AHWR, the concept has proven to be a successful method of introducing topical regional and global themes, such as carbon, within an EMS framework.


EMS cluster group training was offered by the AHWR association and accepted by 12 members. Consisting of three morning workshop sessions and a site visit, participants were first introduced to topical regional themes such as water regulation, soil salinity and management and biodiversity. This helped to set the scene and consider environment in the context of local, regional and global issues. The concepts of an EMS were then discussed and a simple, low document tool, EcoMapping™, was introduced.

Figure 1. An example of an EcoMap including use of symbols to identify environmental aspects.

Built around simple visual methods of hand drawn and schematic maps, EcoMapping™ helped participants to collate environmental information through use of seven maps covering the local situation, water, energy, waste, soil and storage, air odours noise and dust, and environmental risk.

Having learnt the simple process of EcoMapping™, through the hands on exercise at the training facility, participants then took these skills away to their own business for a trial run. On return to the second session, experiences in the exercise were shared with other members of the cluster group.

Group members were then shown how to build environmental objectives and target and develop simple action plan outcomes with specified responsibilities and completion dates. Participants were then given simple recording sheets and folders to store any events, trainings or documents relevant to their EMS.

A field visit to vineyards owned by the participants included hands on EcoMapping™ of the seven environmental elements and an opportunity to further share experiences with peers. Two sites were covered in smaller groups of 6 each. Information and observations were taken back to the larger group for discussion at the final session.

Having considered and built an effective EMS, the importance of the link to measurement and monitoring was shown through reference to the wine industry carbon footprint calculator. In this, the final session, the group members considered what information needed to be collected and recorded, with respect to carbon footprinting, focusing on Scope 1 and 2 emissions. These parameters were generally simple to collect as they related to bills and receipts already collected for the business.

The session completed by reviewing the process of EcoMapping, including the process of identifying environmental problems and practices, setting objectives and an action plan, completed in to one page.

Figure 2. Example of a Water EcoMap from Hahndorf Hill Winery

A simple binder including space for storage of the seven ecomaps, a monitoring and measurement page and two pages for record of actions, events and trainings was provided. Ten simple pages in total were created. The option for running a simple opinions poll for employees was also provided in the form of an environmental weather map.


The cluster group approach gave opportunity for sharing of experiences in a small, non threatening forum.

Participants found they had many wine industry issue in common, particularly relating to water, waste and energy, the later being a key carbon issue in calculation of carbon footprints. The link to measuring and monitoring was established, and whilst referenced to carbon, it was clear that being provided with tools and skills to consider monitoring and measurement in the wider EMS context was the greater gain for the group members, most of who were only starting on their journey of environmental improvement.

The program was delivered a relatively low cost, approximately $500 per participant. This provided low cost, simple but high quality, effective training, removing price and complexity barriers, which traditionally can be viewed as substantial barriers to both learning and adoption of change.

The provision of a low document (10 page), visual based EMS was considered to be a success. The measurement and monitoring components enabled those that wished to, to collect the relevant scope 1 & 2 carbon emissions data and report consistently with the industries own carbon footprint tool. Again this enabled reduced processing and administration and removal of potential blocks to change. Participants were able to create and visualise the links between all aspects of an EMS, for instance collection of electricity data with respect to pumping and irrigation assisted with understanding of carbon emissions and efficient use of water.

The adaptability of the EcoMapping™ tool enabled a number of participants to develop highly visual and meaningful EMS documents where continuous improvement can be easily achieved and demonstrated.


The AHWR EMS cluster group approach enabled targeted environmental learning and opportunity for members to participate in hands on learning by doing development of a simple EMS.

Cost effective and simple, the EcoMapping™ approach provided participants with good grounding to continue with an ongoing environmental action program. The visual and low document nature appeared to assist with removal of traditional barriers to adoption of EMS, namely cost, complexity and excessive documentation.

The value of measurement and monitoring within an EMS was demonstrated through training and provision of tools to assist with collection of carbon emissions data but linked to other aspects such as water use efficiency.

Simple and effective EMS development for the participants was an outcome.

Three key learnings:

  • Small cluster groups of same sector enables peer sharing of information in a non threatening environment.
  • Carbon footprinting exercises highlight the importance of data gathering, measurement and monitoring in building an effective EMS
  • A focus on one issue, such as carbon, often highlights the critical link to other related important issues.


EcoMapping™ guide

EMASasy workbook

Winemakers Federation of Australia – international carbon footprint calculator version 1.2

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