Environmental stewardship has received much attention in the wine industry, but firms must also address social sustainability to be considered ?sustainable? enterprises. This means growing wine grapes and making wine in ways that are environmentally sound, socially equitable, and economically viable. On the production side it is (or should be) about commitment to communities and commitment to workers ? taking care to provide workers a healthy environment in which to work in the vineyard and in the winery. Employee-related issues include workplace opportunity, human resource policies, quality of life, governance, democratic processes, worker development, gender diversity, bonus-pay systems, seasonal worker housing and health insurance.
Additional societal concerns include local purchases, local hiring, supporting local community events, product impacts on society, treatment of the under-privileged, and being a good citizen in the community.
Following are best practices by wineries, prominent charities and good works in various regions.
Talley Vineyard?s Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers, California
California?s Talley Vineyards established an endowment in 2004, the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers, with the goal of amassing a $1M fund, the interest of which will fund (in perpetuity) grants to nonprofit organizations that assist San Luis Obispo County agricultural workers and their families. Their Mano Tinta series is specially designated for the fund, and local grape growers and winemakers are invited to produce their own specially designated wine as cause marketing for the endowment?s sake. Mano Tinta, ?Red Hand?, is a wine dedicated to the pride and commitment of farm workers to their craft. All of the grapes, materials and services used to make this wine are donated and all profits from the sales of Mano Tinta benefit the Fund.
The recipients of these funds are nonprofits dedicated to local charity work including education, reading programs, literacy, after school programs and housing for migrant and seasonal labor. https://www.talleyvineyards.com/
RdV Vineyards, Virginia
RdV Vineyards in Delaplane, Virginia, has ?put the state of Virginia on the global wine map,? according to wine critic Jancis Robinson. Founder and General Manager Rutger de Vink is a former US Marine who has produced a high quality Bordeaux style blend. Rutger?s philosophy guides RdV?s labor and community practices. From the beginning he was very adamant about having no seasonal workers/labor. RdV has a full-time vineyard team that works year round. Another aspect of RdV?s social responsibility is being a part of the community and the winery?s charitable commitments to Hope for the Warriors and Navy Seals. As a result, a lot of individuals coming back from combat spend a lot of time at the winery, including helping out with harvest. RdV did a special bottling in 2010 called Exurgo and all of the proceeds from this wine went to Hope for the Warriors. http://www.rdvvineyards.com/
Domaine Chandon, Argentina
Domaine Chandon in Argentina has collaborated with its neighbors on a program for children of harvest workers called ?Education in Harvest.? The harvest workers had been accustomed to taking their children to the vineyard at harvest time, which exposed them to a variety of risks and accidents. Since 2006, Bodegas Chandon has been going beyond the legal framework related to child labor and has implemented a recreational education program for children of pickers at harvest time. This happens during the month of February, when the children are not attending school. Up to 100 children between the ages of 1 and 15 are moved from their rural homes to the nursery garden and sports center of Tupungato, where they participate in sports and recreational activities. They also receive breakfast, lunch and medical checks.
The program?s positive impact led other companies to join, including Bodega Catena Zapata, Canale Group (Alco) Shirley Hinojosa, and Don Antonio Vineyards. This program strengthens the employment relationship and the parents can work in a concentrated way, knowing that their children are cared for and safe; and so the workers return to Chandon each year. http://www.chandon.com/
Backsberg Estate, South Africa
In 1998 South Africa?s Backsberg Estate Cellars introduced a special wine series titled Freedom Road. A cause-marketing initiative, Freedom Road aimed to raise funds for housing construction projects so that laborers of Backsberg would own their own property without being encumbered by significant debt and lessening reliance on employer housing that is common in South Africa. The South African government was a key player in this effort, providing housing subsidies for first-time homeowners. The workers themselves were responsible for maintaining their 14 hectares of land and the buildings. Backsberg created and marketed Freedom Road, financing the initiative for its laborers. The collaborative nature of the effort is evident, but the winery itself was the facilitator of the process, making it all possible. http://backsberg.co.za/
Murphy Goode, Alexander Valley, California
Through the sales of their Operation Homefront Red, Murphy Goode Winery, a Sonoma County Winery, supports Operation Homefront, an organization that provides emergency and financial assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. http://murphygoodewinery.com/wine/homefront-red
Ehler?s Estate, Napa Valley, California
In 1985, French entrepreneur and philanthropist Jean Leducq began acquiring small parcels of vineyard land in Napa Valley?s acclaimed St. Helena appellation ? parcels that would eventually become Ehler?s Estate. In 2002, Jean Leducq passed away from heart disease, leaving the winery in trust to the nonprofit Leducq Foundation that he and his wife had founded in 1996. One hundred percent of the profits from the sale of Ehler?s Estate wines are returned to the Leducq Foundation, which awards over $30 million annually to directly support international cardiovascular research. Additionally, they produce a Cabernet Sauvignon with the name ?One Twenty Over Eighty? ? a nod to the ideal blood pressure (120/80) and to the heritage and main philanthropic cause of the estate.?? http://www.ehlersestate.com/
Staglin Family Vineyards, Napa Valley, California
Staglin Family Vineyards in the Rutherford area of Napa Valley created the Salus wine label to support the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO). IMHRO funds research to find better treatments and cures for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. “Great wines for great causes” has been the winery?s motto. The Staglin Family has donated and raised more than $800 million to support charities, including their main cause, the Music Festival for Brain?Health, which brings together generous chefs, wineries, top-billed musicians and scientists to raise significant funds and awareness for the cause of brain health. http://www.staglinfamily.com
Ken Wright Cellars, Oregon
?Salud!, a program sponsored by winemaker Ken Wright, is a joint venture between the Oregon wine industry and Tuality Hospital, and provides healthcare for the seasonal workers and their families who are so integral to the industry. An annual event in November benefitting ?Salud! showcases the Valley?s top 42 Pinot Noir producers who auction just five cases of wine from the best barrel in their cellar. With over $6 million raised to date, ?Salud! has had a profoundly positive health impact on thousands of seasonal workers and their families. http://www.kenwrightcellars.com/history.shtml
At the regional level, organizations are engaging with social responsibility in a number of exciting ways. Bonded by their geography, participating vineyards and wineries are joining together for greater social involvement, too.
Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation
The mission of the Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation is to support and promote Napa Valley?s vineyard workers through education and professional development (ranging from safety in the vineyard to English language) totaling over 215 hours to more than 2,800 farmworkers in 2014.
The foundation offers other valuable community resources. Napa growers assess themselves in order to fund farmworker-housing centers, where individuals benefit from lodging, meals, laundry, and recreational amenities.
In terms of pay and benefits, entry-level Napa Valley farmworkers are usually hired for a minimum wage of $12/hour, substantially more than the national average ? not just for agriculture, but the entire private sector. Experienced Napa Valley farmworkers and those with certificates and additional training can be paid as much as $40/hour. Year-round employment is a regular occurrence, as vineyards often need upkeep year round. The 2011 Napa Valley Wages & Benefits Survey shows that 91% of supervisors and 69% of vineyard workers are offered medical insurance plans (compared to 52% nationwide in the private sector) and 55% are offered 401k plans in Napa.?https://www.napagrowers.org/in-the-vineyard/farmworker-education-fund/fund-overview/
Since its first year in 1981, the annual Napa Auction has raised and donated $120M on behalf of philanthropic causes in its local community. Organized by Napa Valley Vintners, the auction in 2013 alone generated $18.7M with 49 lots donated by Napa?s wineries. These donations go to a variety of local charities and initiatives with a wide array of purposes: to healthcare providers and access; education; mental and emotional health and wellness; family services and geriatric care.? http://auctionnapavalley.org/
Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation
Sonoma County grape growers have stepped up their commitment to improve the social plight of their workforce by contributing nearly $100,000 towards construction of a farmworker-housing complex. The Foundation raised the money from donations from companies such as Balleto Vineyards and Winery, Rodney Strong Wine Estates, the Rubin Family of Wines, Sangiacomo Vineyards, Vino Farms and Jackson Family Wines.
Rents in the apartment complex will be capped at 30 percent of families? incomes. Farmworkers normally spend about half of their estimated $18,000 to $22,000 annual income on housing.?http://www.sonomawinegrape.org/
Must! Charities in San Luis Obispo?s North County of California work to empower local health, education, and social service organizations to make significant changes in the lives of children in the area. Given the proximity to the Paso Robles and Santa Lucia Highlands AVAs, many of those in need are children of seasonal workers. Must! works with organizations like The Boys and Girls Club to ensure that these children have a safe place to go after school and have mentors in the community to lean on, and with The Food Bank Coalition?s Children?s Program to take meals to every eligible child in the north county. http://www.mustcharities.org/
(Photo credit: Wine Insitute)