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Amidst the Threat of Wildfires, Clif Family Winery & Farm Builds a Better Future

It’s unarguable: the effects of climate change are very present around us. From wildfires to floods, businesses and individuals alike are reckoning with risks that were previously unseen. To stave off these disasters, it’s imperative that we limit global warming, and do so fast.  

Based in Napa Valley, California, wine and food company Clif Family Winery & Farm is one of the millions of small businesses around the world facing the real impacts of climate change. With the yearly threat of wildfires, they’ve seen the need to take immediate action firsthand. We spoke with their team to discuss how they’re baking sustainability into their company to build a better future — both for the planet, and for their business — and how they’ll rely on the SME Climate Hub to help them with their work.  

Tending to the Vegetable Gardens at the Clif Family Farm

Tell us about your company (size, industry, background, values etc.).  

Clif Family Winery & Farm is a family-owned, small production wine and specialty food business located in the Napa Valley, California.  Owners Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford also founded and co-own Clif Bar & Company.  We farm over 90 acres of organic vineyards, olive orchard, fruit orchards and vegetables.  We have a small Tasting Room and Farm-to-Truck Food Truck in St. Helena, California.    

We work to craft unique, regional wine and foods using practices that care for the earth and support sustainable and organic farming.  In this way, we can contribute to a more vibrant and healthy community.    

We encourage our employees to “Think Like a Tree” in all aspects of our business. Trees run on renewable energy, recycle all waste and sustain and improve the places they grow.  We focus on Organic Food and Farming, Sustainable Production, Zero Waste Practices and Conserving and Restoring our Natural Resources.    

Community Service revamping a school garden for a school in their community 

What inspired your company to take climate action? Why do you think it’s important?  

Over the past five years, our business has been greatly impacted by severe wildfires driven by climate change. These wildfires have disrupted our business in numerous ways.  They have displaced our employees and caused damage to the land we farm and our products.  They impact our community both physically and mentally.  We have seen firsthand that we must take action as a business now to protect our community and our people for the future.    

What role should small businesses play in the race to net zero?  

Collectively, small businesses can have a significant impact by achieving net zero emissions.  Many small businesses work with larger businesses in their supply chains.  We can influence greater impact by pushing for change up and down our supply chains.  Small businesses need to collectively use their voice and influence for greater change.  

What are your plans for 2022 to further reduce your emissions?    

A big part of our plans in 2022 will be to begin the work with our co-packers and supply chain partners to get a baseline of our emissions and to determine what work we can do with these partners to reduce our emissions.    

Cycling to work

When will your company meet net zero goals? How far along is the company now?  

While we already do a lot as a business to reduce our emissions, we have a long way to go.  We are just now setting the foundation for the future.   

What business benefits have you seen so far as a result of taking climate action?  

We are able to inspire our community and our people with the actions we take.  A small example was our transition a number of years ago to MCE’s Deep Green clean energy program (https://www.mcecleanenergy.org/).  We did this for our business and then provided tools and education to our employees to make this choice on a personal level.    

What support do you need to take robust climate action? What do you need from policy / government, multinational corporations, or even your customers?  

Our farming community needs support regarding the effects of wildfires, both those we have experienced and those that are to come.    

Why did your company join the SME Climate Hub? How has the initiative benefitted you in your climate action journey so far? How are you utilizing its tools and resources?  

We have participated in Climate Collaborative for a number of years and when we learned about SME Climate Hub, it felt like a great resource and partner to help us achieve our sustainability goals, particularly around net zero emissions.  We will be making this a critical part of our sustainability programs in 2022.    

Clif Family Winery & Farm winemaker Laura Barrett during harvest.

What advice do you have for other small businesses within your industry aiming to start their climate journey?  

Just get started!  It may feel daunting, but we all have to begin this important work now.  There is no time to waste.  Use the resources available to you, share with others, find mentors to help you and know that it will be a journey.     

Small businesses like Clif Family Winery & Farm provide invaluable insights on the journey towards net zero. Interested in sharing your own climate journey for potential inclusion as a business spotlight? Tell us how you’re working towards reducing emissions today via this short form, and we’ll be in touch.  

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