Can sustainability make or break a business?

John Garn and the ViewCraft team have been advising Sonoma Wine Company (a custom crushing and bottling facility) on their sustainability plans since 2005. At a recent meeting with the President and the CFO of the company the CFO said, “I don’t think you can prove that sustainability has helped us sell one more case of wine.” The first question John asked them was, “Do you track the number of hits you get on the ‘sustainability’ button on your homepage?” They looked at one another and then shook their heads, “No, not that we know of.” Then John referred back to 2007, when the Company wanted to double the size of their operations – potentially doubling energy use, and, more important to the local community, doubling water consumption. Local advocates, who had fought expansion of previous companies in the same facility, were prepared to challenge SWC’s expansion plans as well. This meant that SWC might not be able to obtain the necessary wastewater pond permits without spending millions of dollars on a contentious battle.  This would not only result in delays but also negative community relations and publicity. SWC brought in ViewCraft, an engineering associate and PG&E, and through an integrated resource audit were able to identify methods to actually reduce energy and water use relative to the baseline while still doubling capacity. Through dialogue and tours of the facility, local residents ultimately became advocates for the project, culminating with eight activists attending the Planning Commission hearing to speak in favor of the permit for expansion. As the Planning Commissioner stated, “This is the first time in 30-years on this Commission that I have seen an activist group speak in favor of a winery.”  Recalling this success John turned to the President and asked what getting that permit was worth to their business. “We had budgeted $2 million to get that permit and without it we wouldn’t have the additional 1.5 million cases of production.” John then turned to the CFO and asked, “What are the sale of 1.5 million cases worth to you?”