AUB experts integrate sustainability at local wineries

​​​Safa Jafari Safa <ss152@aub.edu.lb>​, Office of Communications

A sustainable consumption and production project is being piloted by an AUB team of professors, led by the Nature Conservation Center (NCC) at AUB. The project focuses on the wine production sector in Lebanon, a sector that is significant and growing in the country. Working alongside government entities, local wineries, and other stakeholders, the AUB team is helping to build capacities that ensure sustainability factors such as the efficient use of resources, including scarce water, and that efficient waste management are taken into consideration at every step of the production process.

Within this collaboration, a three-day workshop was conducted by AUB experts offering guidance to a group of local wineries on integrating sustainability in their business. Held at the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture of Zahle and the Beqaa, the workshop aimed at identifying technical and business solutions to increase the economic and environmental efficiency of wineries. The sessions worked to build the capacity of local wineries and related stakeholders on a variety of technical topics, such as wine waste valorization techniques, remote sensing applications in agriculture, wastewater treatment, and quality control, while also working on business related topics such as ways that local businesses can adopt a circular economy which ensures sustainability.

“In line with NCC’s mission to help local businesses adopt a circular economy, this project focuses on finding eco-friendly solutions and develop by-products from the waste that is generated by the wine making process,” said Dr. Najat Saliba, NCC director and project lead.

A circular economy features the low consumption of resources and energy, low emission of pollutants, high efficiency in production, and efficient waste management. Through this pilot project, researchers hope to work closely with the Lebanese private and public sector players to show the economic and ecologic viability of the use of circular economy principles such as composting.

Apart from the AUB project academics and technically specialized guest speakers from the public and private sectors, the workshop was attended by 26 representatives from 11 wineries, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), and Saint Joseph University (USJ), attracting old and new wineries and participants from several geographical locations and business sizes. The workshop allowed for networking, knowledge sharing, and impact evaluation of different circularization procedures in the wineries.

Dr. Alain Daou, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at AUB’s Suliman S. Olayan School of Business, explained the significance of focusing on the wine production sector. “Over 42 wineries contribute an estimated $41 million to the economy, the wine sector in Lebanon is a very innovative and forward thinking industry,” he said. “Its positive impact on the Lebanese economy, particularly in rural and remote areas, is undeniable. However, this sector has not caught up yet with the sustainability bandwagon. Today, through initiatives like this one, we want to give value to solid and residue by-products by transforming them into value-added products. We have the opportunity to tackle the ecological challenges through social innovation and a circular economy approach."

Several compounding factors specific to Mediterranean countries make sustainable consumption and production a priority today: water scarcity, population growth, increase in waste generation, a changing climate, extensive tourism, and rapidly urbanizing coastal areas.

In Lebanon, where seven million bottles of wine are produced annually by over 40 wineries, waste management from both the crop residue and wine production waste has traditionally been the responsibility of the individual wineries. To encourage sustainable development as a policy in wine production, experts from OSB and NCC are working with producers to emphasize the efficient use and recycling of resources for environmental protection. Many wineries were interested in developing their own composting process and minimizing the opportunity cost of burning or landfilling organic waste resulting from the wine-making process.