Wow, time flies when you aren’t drinking wine and have a wine blog.
I feel sad for not having kept the creative juices flowing but, hey, it’s like being sent to Gibraltar to write about top quality football.
Indeed, my creative juices have been replaced by frustration at my own industry; sustainability. I am becoming exasperated at the increasingly pompous, insular and pie-in-the-sky beliefs of some of my peers. The main reason I am frustrated is the disconnect between rhetoric and tangible, practical output. But I am also frustrated at the cooing over the actions of certain companies and the language commonly used by people in this industry.
Last week, M&S gave the annual update of their Plan A sustainability plan. Plan A (‘because there is no Plan B’) – whilst well-known by those of us in the industry – is virtually unknown by most consumers. I don’t mean to belittle M&S. What they have achieved is important and impressive (as a beacon of leading practice and thinking) particularly over a sustained period since 2007. My frustration is at the fawning and ass-kissing our industry displays whenever M&S is mentioned. It’s just a bit embarrassing and, frankly, boring. Of course the media has its darlings but, really, guys, can we move on a bit?
On the same day as the M&S update, Richard Branson & Jochen Zeitz (he’s the former CEO of Puma) launched ‘The B Team’ – whose mission is “to deliver a Plan B that puts people and planet alongside profit. Plan A – where companies have been driven by profit motive alone – is no longer acceptable”. Not only was this an amazing bit of poor PR coincidence given M&S’s comms, but it’s exactly the kind of talking-shop that winds me up and is sure to turn people off. It’s not entirely clear what the B team will actually do – practically I mean – to change businesses for the better. Perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt…
Then there is the language used by many in the industry; a kind of code for new ways of working, schemes and fandangled ideas for business or societal change. Humour me, if you will; I know that ‘sustainability’ is considered by many to be the worst offender of all. Here are some other examples:
- ‘Net positive‘, ‘Net Zero’ or ‘Net Good’
- The ‘Water-Energy nexus‘
- The circular economy
The language seems to be an unnecessary and pompous way to add credence to the industry’s fundamental aims; getting businesses to act responsibly and ethically by treating people properly, reducing pollution, conserving resources and minimising corruption. I came across this article by Eric Rosten at Bloomberg which sums this up nicely.
Back to wine, then, where the industry has evolved evermore complex and seemingly mad ways of differentiating their product. In-jokes, jargon and stories that are aimed at, and understood by, an inward-looking industry are commonplace. You could argue that, unlike sustainability, wine is an agricultural product where sometimes flouncy language is deployed because smell and taste conjure up memories and associations. In sustainability, a business construct that relates to the physical world, we have to find a way to communicate in a simple, compelling manner – one that doesn’t turn off even industry people like me.
The most recent bottle of wine we drank was a Sottano Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from Mendoza in Argentina – a celebratory tipple for the 20th week of my wife’s pregnancy. My wife’s iron levels were a little lower than desirable, so we loaded up on spinach and red meat. Big, bold but a bit young still, the Sottano was all about dark berries, rubber, green pepper and a hint of oak. It went nicely with our chili con carne, and on a week when I was raging, this simple wine helped me to calm down a bit.
Hopefully I kept my wine language simple enough…