The Symington family has been installed in the Douro since the 19th century, it has become one of the main wine producers in Portugal and is implementing the sustainability strategy “Mission 2025” to contribute to the fight against the environmental crisis. “The values of sustainability, both environmental and social, have always been part of our company”, Rob Symington, a member of the fifth generation of the family and responsible for the sustainability area, told Lusa agency.
It has British and Portuguese origins and, after five generations, Symington Family Estates is one of the world’s largest producers of premium Port wine, the main owner of vineyards in the Douro and one of the main wine producers in Portugal.
“We currently have four members of the fifth generation and four members of the fourth generation here”, said Rob Symington.
The family company believes that its ability to continue producing wines for many years depends on a stable climate and a healthy ecosystem and, therefore, argues that it is necessary to “apply the creative and pioneering spirit of previous generations to the “challenges of future”.
And it is for thinking “in the long term” that the wine producer outlined the “Mission 2025”, defined “a new sustainability strategy” and “ambitious goals” to implement in its operation.
Rob Symington specified that the more than a thousand hectares of vineyards that they own in the different properties are worked in an integrated production mode, that is, using “a protocol of minimum intervention and with very strict rules in terms of products that can be used in the field”.
At this time of year, the vineyards are stripped and the work is mainly concerned with pruning the vines, as is the case at Quinta do Bomfim, in Pinhão, municipality of Alijó.
During a visit by Lusa to this property, Fernando Alves, responsible for the development and research area at Symington, explained that the strategy involves “crushing and incorporating into the soil” the material resulting from this winter pruning, “as recommended in integrated production of the vineyard”.
The company has the “largest area of organic vines in the North of Portugal” and where, according to Rob Symington, “very strict restrictions” also apply in terms of, for example, the use of chemicals.
With 27 farms (26 in the Douro and one in the Alentejo), Symington produces an annual average of two million nine-liter cases of wine, of which about 92% are exported to countries such as the United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands , United States of America (USA) and France. Turnover is around 90 million euros.
Port wine, with the brands Graham’s, Dow’s, Cockburn’s and Warre’s, represents the bulk of the business, which has also been focusing on the DOC Douro and Alentejo segment.
Another goal for 2025 is to reduce water, electricity and carbon (CO2) emissions per liter of bottled wine.
For example, the company suggests the “water reuse more than once”, that is, the installation of a system that allows the treatment and recovery of water for more than one use in the process, before being rejected in the form of effluent”.
It also intends to establish maximum amounts of water by type of tasks, placing flow limiters, and reusing treated water at Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTP) in the irrigation of green areas.
The wine producer wants to act on the main areas that contribute to the carbon footprint such as bottle production, transport, use of fertilizers and dispatch of the finished product, reinforce the photovoltaic installation, create a “carpooling” platform and implement a transition plan for the electric fleet.
By 2025, all new vehicles purchased will be electric or hybrid.
The company is also “eliminating 100% plastic”, using recyclable packaging and wants to minimize the impact of buildings and cellars, maximizing, for example, the movement of wine by gravity or opting for new insulation solutions in remodeling the building.
“In terms of climate change, we have three areas of focus: the first is to adapt to changes that are undoubtedly already happening and that will, unfortunately, get worse, the second is to reduce our contribution to the problem, reduce our emissions, and the third area is to use our voice and our platform to draw attention to this problem”, said Rob Symington.
He continued: “this is an existential risk that we are taking very seriously”.
In 2020, Symington Family Estates celebrates “two historic milestones”: the bicentenary of the Graham’s brand and the 350 years of the Warre’s brand and, to mark these two events, the company created a fund “with the amount of one million euros” for support social and environmental initiatives in the areas where it is installed (Douro, Porto and Alto Alentejo).
In recent years, the company has supported the Douro volunteer fire brigade corporations, to which it donated 13 ambulances, and Bagos d’Ouro, an institution that helps disadvantaged children from the Douro.
It also employs around 400 people, a number that increases at harvest time and requires more labour force.
In 2019, Symington was the first wine producer in Portugal to become a “B Corporation”, certified by demanding social and environmental responsibility standards, and was awarded with the Ethical Company of the Year, within the scope of the Drinks Business 2019 Green Awards.