Several AUB professors, under the Nature Conservation Center (NCC) and Suliman S. Olayan School of Business, are piloting a project that incorporates sustainable consumption and production practices into a developing sector - wine production.
Sustainable consumption and production (SCP) is a hot priority for Mediterranean countries due to the compounding factors of water scarcity, population growth, increase in waste generation, a changing climate, extensive tourism, and rapidly urbanizing coastal areas. The program named SWITCH MED is a EU-funded initiative that supports and connects stakeholders to scale-up social and eco innovations in the Mediterranean.
Forty Lebanese wineries produce 7 million bottles annually using grape varieties that reflect a historical French influence: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. Waste management from both the crop residue and wine production waste has traditionally been the responsibility of the individual winery. To encourage sustainable development in wine production, OSB professors along with the NCC team are working with producers to emphasize efficient use and recycling of resources and environmental protection. They are working with key wineries to encourage a Circular Economy, which features low consumption of resources and energy, low emission of pollutants, high efficiency in production and efficient waste management.
“With over 42 wineries contributing $41 million to the economy, the wine sector in Lebanon is a very innovative and forward thinking industry," noted
Dr. Alain Daou , OSB assistant professor of entrepreneurship. “Its positive impact on the Lebanese economy, particularly in rural and remote areas, is undeniable. However, this sector has not caught up yet the sustainability bandwagon. Where others see problems, we see opportunities. Today, through initiatives like this one, we want to give value to solid and residue by-products by transforming them in value added products. We have the opportunity to tackle
the ecological challenges through social innovation and a circular economy approach."
Until recently, the development of a circular economy concept in Lebanon has been limited in large part because of mismanagement of solid waste and, at times such as the summer of 2015, lack of collection for prolonged periods. 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.
The opportunity cost of burning or landfilling the organic waste resulting from the wine making process has two components. First, the organic material currently destroyed or discarded is high in key nutrients that could help nourish subsequent crops and may replace the use of fertilizers, which are of a high cost for wineries. Second, unless the waste is sold as animal feed, additional costs are incurred from transporting waste from the winery to the landfill. To overcome these drawbacks, many wineries are interested in developing their own composting process around their wine operations.
OSB is helping wineries find their own plans for environmentally friendly waste management and improving sustainable production. That is something to celebrate! “This is one way how we at OSB are committed to transform business thinking in the MENA region," concluded Dr. Daou.