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Virgin Wines: NQA’s Perspective

25 July 2023
Virgin Wines is one of the UK’s largest direct-to-consumer wine retailers, operating through online subscription and pay-as-you-go models. Over the past 20 years, the retailer has sold more than 100 million bottles of quality wine, won several awards and achieved PAS 2060.

In September 2022, Virgin Wines became the first online wine retailer to achieve Carbon Neutral status.

The company underwent PAS 2060 verification via NQA to ensure its claims were credible and accurate, facing challenges and solutions along the way.

Keep reading to discover NQA’s take on Virgin Wines’ journey to carbon neutrality.

Want to read Virgin Wines’ perspective on the PAS 2060 verification process? Click here.

PAS 2060 at NQA: from pilot programme to UKAS-accredited

NQA has a wealth of expertise spanning the environment, energy and carbon. We provide global certification standards in these areas – ISO 14001 (Environment) and ISO 50001 (Energy) – alongside PAS 2060 and GHG Inventory Verification.

One of our priorities is challenging the claims of greenwashing in business, focusing on carbon neutrality and verification in particular.

For this reason, NQA jumped at the chance to be one of three organisations taking part in the UKAS* pilot for PAS 2060 – the programme that would verify Virgin Wines’ green claims.

*UKAS, or the United Kingdom Accreditation Service, is the UK regulator accrediting all NQA services. From our core ISO 9001 (Quality) to the latest ISO 27001 (Information Security) standard, UKAS gives us the backing to conduct audits and hand out accredited certifications.

Should your organisation consider PAS 2060?

Pressure for the entire supply chain to become greener is only expected to grow.

The most robust, effective way for an organisation to prove their carbon neutrality claims is to be independently verified – with PAS 2060 being the only standard offering this.

While PAS 2060 is a British standard, it is globally recognised. Another standard, ISO 14068 (Greenhouse Gas Management and Climate Change Management and Related Activities), will be launched over the next few years.

PAS 2060 provides third-party verification that an organisation's green claims are credible.

Going for the PAS 2060 framework

Virgin Wines opted for PAS 2060, as it’s currently the best framework for carbon neutrality.

Some of the reasons for this include:

Reducing carbon emissions throughout

Rather than simply calculating and offsetting carbon to achieve PAS 2060, organisations must reduce emissions throughout the verification cycle.

Detailing the specifics in carbon calculations

The standard gives guidance to its users on what must be included within the carbon calculation.

While all emission sources need to be considered, there is information provided on what circumstances may relate to a justified exclusion.

Once Virgin Wines had chosen PAS 2060, it was time for the next step: preparing for verification.

Preparing for PAS 2060 verification: top tips

Jessica Anderson (Virgin Wines’ Head of Strategic Change and Governance) did a fantastic job leading the PAS 2060 verification project.

Not only was the project alongside Jessica’s day job, but she also gained a solid understanding of greenhouse gases in next to no time.

According to Jessica and Steve Burt (NQA’s Field Director), the best way to prepare for PAS 2060 include:

Keeping everyone in the loop

PAS 2060 verification involves conversations with employees across the organisation.

It’s vital to tell people what they may be asked in advance (e.g. their commuting habits) and why (e.g. for carbon calculations). This way, the necessary information is readily available.

Retaining robust records

The main element of PAS 2060 verification is delving into an organisation’s emissions data.

Delivery notes, waste transfer notes, electricity invoices, gas invoices… all records help NQA assessors look beyond the data presented and track down the original source.

The key to preparing for PAS 2060 verification? Organisation, precision and commitment.

What are the stages of PAS 2060 verification?

PAS 2060 has four stages: pre-verification, verification, post-verification and repeat verification.

Stage 1: pre-verification

Overview: A short visit to ensure there aren’t any major gaps in the data, records or documentation.

Pre-verification assesses whether the organisation is ready enough for the verification stage. It helps clients, such as Virgin Wines, feel more at ease before going ahead with PAS 2060.

Stage 2: verification

Overview: Examining the data presented, speaking to people at various levels and responsibilities across the business, and verifying that the data matches up.

For Virgin Wines, NQA visited its three sites (Norwich head office, Bolton warehouse and Preston warehouse). These were a combination of virtual and on-site visits.

Stage 3: post-verification

Overview: A requirement via ISO 14064-3 (Greenhouse Gases), which controls how the verification body (in this case, NQA) conducts verifications.

The post-verification stage for Virgin Wines entailed another NQA assessor reviewing the work undertaken, making sure everything had been covered. The assessor is also qualified in greenhouse gas verification but hadn’t been involved in Virgin Wines’ verification journey prior.

Once the findings had been approved, the Verification Opinion Statement was awarded to confirm Virgin Wines’ carbon neutrality.

Stage 4: repeat verification

Overview: Takes place a year after the organisation receives PAS 2060 verification, ensuring the requirements continue to stay in place and are adhered to.

This is essentially a repeat of stages 1 to 3 for the consecutive data period, with some exceptions.

In the first year of PAS 2060, the organisation can offset carbon emissions. However, in subsequent years, they must:

  • Reduce carbon emissions AND

  • Offset the residual carbon emissions

Stage 4 involves some additional checks, including:

  • Making sure no greenhouse gas-emitting activities have been offshored or transferred elsewhere (carbon leakage*)

  • Checking that the qualifying explanatory statement and carbon management plan are updated and valid

  • Confirming that the offsets used originally have been retired

*Carbon leakage is when production moves to countries with fewer emissions constraints. It’s often in response to increased production costs associated with stricter climate policies at home.

The PAS 2060 verification cycle involves four stages, with NQA offering support throughout.

What NQA says about Virgin Wines

According to Steve Burt (NQA’s Field Director):

“It was a dream verification to do, as […] it was just beautifully organised: all of the records in place, all of the data really clearly presented. Jess got her head around the different categories in the greenhouse gas protocol, and the different requirements in the PAS 2060, which considering this isn’t in her background, was superb.

The company itself was obviously highly committed to the process as well, which makes it much easier […] to strive towards carbon neutrality and net zero. Jess’ own willingness and commitment to the process was also commendable.”

Watch the full conversation with Virgin Wines


Final thoughts from NQA

NQA is extremely proud to have Virgin Wines as a client – an organisation striving to reduce its environmental impact on the world.

For any sustainability or environment-related enquiries, get in touch with our friendly sales team.

Discover everything you need to know about PAS 2060 with our global virtual training courses.