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Sainsbury’s commits to natural corks

Sainsbury’s is to become the first retailer to make sure all its cork closures are certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council.

Natural cork is used for a wide variety of wines, spirits and beers, alongside synthetic closures and screw caps. Sainsbury’s is committed to ensuring that all the cork it uses, comes from some of the most sustainably managed forests in the world. This will make Sainsbury’s the largest user of FSC certified cork in the world.

One of the first wines to be bottled with the new cork will be Sainsbury’s award-winning Blanc du Noirs Champagne, which has been selling at a rate of almost 10,000 bottles per week in the run up to Christmas celebrations.

All FSC certified corks are stamped with the FSC logo so customers know that the cork comes from well managed forests.

Sainsbury’s wine maker, Barry Dick, said: “The type of closure we use is based on a number of factors including quality, style and appellation laws which stipulate the stopper that best suits each individual wine. Where we use cork, it is important to us to make sure that the harvesting of that cork makes a positive contribution to the wildlife in the area, while at the same time managing traceability, consistency and quality to ensure our wines taste their best.

“Our shift to FSC certified corks will make a huge difference, particularly when you consider that we sell over 6m bottles sealed with cork closures every year. We’re aiming to bottle all 6m using FSC certified cork by the end of 2010, and we’re starting straight away by producing the first bottle at the end of January.”

The Mediterranean cork oak forests are home to a number of endangered species including the Iberian lynx, Europe’s last wild, big cat, of which there are fewer than 100 remaining. They are also home to the Iberian imperial eagle of which only 150 breeding pairs remain. FSC certification ensures that the forest habitats of these animals will be managed to guarantee the long term protection of these and many other species.

Cork oak trees are unique in their ability to regenerate after their bark has been harvested.  This means that cork forests undergo fewer disturbances than conventional commercial forests, creating a unique and valuable eco-system.  FSC certification is the best way to protect this environment for the long term benefit of communities living and working in these regions, as well as wildlife.

In order to gain certification, cork producers have to ensure that they have minimal impact on biodiversity in the area, while also ensuring that harvesting practice is fully sustainable.

Victor Ribeiro, Stopper Division CEO at Amorim – Sainsbury’s sole cork supplier, and the first packaging company to gain FSC status - commented: “The UK wine trade makes a vital contribution to the maintenance of this unique triple bottom-line balance between environmental, social and economic issues. Because 70% of the value-added income created by natural cork comes from its wine and champagne stopper application, the kind of leadership demonstrated by Sainsbury’s goes a long way to help support a more sustainable trade.”  

Julia Young, manager of WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN) in the UK said: “The fragile, other-worldly cork oak forests are part of the unique natural  heritage of the Mediterranean; a valuable and threatened forest region right on our doorstep. WWF wants to thank Sainsbury's for its excellent commitment to the use of FSC certified corks, helping maintain the sustainability of cork oak forest landscapes by supporting vital livelihoods and habitats. Leadership like this sets the bar for UK retailers, as Sainsbury's achieve a first going into the New Year, and an iconic forest habitat faces a more secure future."

Charles Thwaites, executive director of FSC UK, said: “FSC congratulates Sainsbury’s for going that extra mile in seeking to source so many of its timber-based products from responsibly managed forests.  We tend to associate trees with everyday goods such as timber, paper and tissues.  But supporting the cork industry so that cork-oak forests continue to thrive is vital to the local ecology, especially in the Iberian Peninsular.  We hope Sainsbury’s example will tempt other companies to make similar commitments and together we will preserve these precious landscapes and habitats.” 


About Amorim

Corticeira Amorim SGPS has become the world’s largest natural cork and cork-derived company in the world, generating over Euro 450 million in sales throughout 103 countries. Corticeira Amorim and its subsidiaries are an integral part of a conservationist effort to guarantee the survival of millions of cork oak trees throughout the Mediterranean Basin.

1 January 2010 - Felicity Murray