Doing Good

The Winery of Good Hope is a business. But it’s also much more than that. Our “business” is also a way of life, a team, a common ethic and a set of values. As much as we avoid competitions, medals, trophies and the craving for status that seems to drive many egos in our industry, we do want official recognition for other aspects of our daily interaction with the land, its people and the planet.

Why “official” recognition? Because it’s easy to say you’re environmentally friendly or socially responsible. But unless you open yourself up to the critical scrutiny of an independent accreditation agency or auditor, how can anyone be sure that you’re walking the ethical-winery walk?

Premium Independent Wineries of South AfricaTo prove that we are, we set ourselves targets in four critical non-business areas: the environment, ethics, social upliftment and BEE. Some of these topics are becoming trendy, and are being used in a tokenistic fashion to sell wine, but not by us. We’ll stick to these principles when the next vogue appears and the less serene move on to greener pastures. That’s why The Winery of Good Hope’s a founding member of Premium Independent Wineries Of South Africa (PIWOSA), which possesses the gold-standard ethics charter in today’s industry.

The environment

Vineyards and environmentThe South African wine industry has taken the lead when it comes to ecological and environmental regulation. Don’t believe us? Here’s an extract from the IPW website:

Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) is a voluntary environmental sustainability scheme established by the South African wine industry in 1998. The 2000 vintage was the first to be certified under this scheme. Certification of IPW compliance falls under the jurisdiction of the Wine and Spirit Board (WSB), with a dedicated IPW office responsible for administering the scheme since its promulgation in 1998.

IPW complies with international wine industry environmental sustainability criteria, including the “Global Wine Sector Environmental Sustainability Principles”, as published by the International Federation of Wine and Spirits (FIVS) and the “Guidelines for sustainable Viti-viniculture: Production, processing and packaging of products”, as published by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV).

The production practices on farms and/or cellars of persons joining the scheme are evaluated and audited by the board.

The Winery of Good Hope is a fully accredited member of IPW, and our most recent independent audit took place in December 2010 (there are annual self-audits and periodic independent or external audits). We do everything we can to be eco-friendly and sustainable throughout the production process – from the vineyards and the winery to our waste-water management system, our packaging and even our logistics.

Another exciting development for the SA wine industry (since 2010) is the new sustainability seal on eco-friendly local wines. If you see that seal on a bottle, it means the Wine and Spirit Board, appointed by the Department of Agriculture, certifies that:

  • The vintage, variety and origin on the label are correct.
  • The wine has been produced sustainably, in an earth-friendly manner.
  • The wine can be traced all the way from the vine to the bottle.
  • The wine was bottled in South Africa and is 100% South African!

Watch this video for more info.

Hand-sorting grapes in the background, cleaning lug-boxes in foreground

Social upliftment

Apartheid may have ended 20 years ago, but there’s still a lot of social inequality in South Africa. That’s why The Winery of Good Hope set up a trust for its Previously Disadvantaged Individuals (or PDI) employees.

The Trust is called LAND OF HOPE and it’s an optimistic, positive instrument that facilitates a brighter future for the children and dependents of our PDI team members.

From the start, we decided to focus on education. Why? Because you can’t build a new society without giving its young people the intellectual capacity to take themselves – let alone their community – to the next level. We think that giving a first-rate education to every child or dependent of our PDI employees is the ideal way to reward our team members for their loyalty, beyond-the-call-of-duty work ethic and dedication over the past 16 years.

The Land of Hope Trust is our contribution to the social and economic development of our staff, their families and our immediate community. It has won many awards, both for the concept’s ethics and efficacy and – more importantly – for the quality of its work and its wines. Click here for more info.

BEE

AQRateBEE stands for BLACK ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT, which isn’t the same as affirmative action (although employment equity forms part of BEE). The concept is to economically uplift people who were disadvantaged and disenfranchised under Apartheid in South Africa. It’s official government and national state policy and an increasingly prevalent reality across the economy. For an official explanation, click here.

But BEE or no BEE, we’ve been promoting the principles of employment equity since we started The Winery of Good Hope. Our team is totally multiracial and egalitarian, from bottom to top, and that applies to gender as well as race. For many years, we just did what we thought was right – rather than waiting for legislation to tell us what to do – and that gave us quite a head-start in this sector.

To quantify that head-start, we decided to submit ourselves to the independent scrutiny of an annual full BEE audit, the latest in February 2013. The results?

  • BEE status: Level 1 contributor (the top out of seven levels)
  • BEE procurement recognition level: 135%
  • Pride: Off the charts!

Ethics

Let’s start with a few interesting numbers:

  • About 12% of the country can be used for crop production.
  • Some 1.3 million hectares (ha) are under irrigation.
  • Wine farming in the Western Cape comprised +/- 107 000 hectares under vine in 2013.
  • Primary agriculture contributes about 2.5% to the gross domestic product (GDP) of South Africa, and about 8% to formal employment. However, there are strong linkages into the economy, so the agro-industrial sector comprises about 12% of GDP.
  • The wine industry alone employs close to 300 000 workers, including wine tourism.
  • Wine is South Africa’s biggest agricultural export, earning R2.75 billion in foreign exchange in 2012.

Since the South African constitution arrived at the dawn of democracy in 1996, regulations, conditions and working practices have been finely tuned to protect the rights of all workers, including those in agriculture.

The Winery of Good Hope is a small, privately owned winery and a tiny speck on the agricultural landscape of South Africa. But, to borrow from Shakespeare, “though we be but little, we are fierce”. In everything we do, we maintain our morals and promote ethical, common-sense practices.

We learned about the concept behind WIETA (Wine Industry Ethical Trading Association) towards the end of 2010, while researching Fair Trade and similar accreditation organisations. The Fair Trade model – probably the most widely known internationally – doesn’t necessarily fit well with all types of ownership and all organisations. In our case, we felt that WIETA to bore more relevance to what we do and how it impacts our team.

WIETA’s mission

To improve the working conditions of employees in agriculture by:

  • Setting up a code of good practice and employment standards for people involved in primary growing and secondary production operations.
  • Encouraging all producers and growers to adopt – and stick to – this code of good practice.
  • Educating producers and workers on the provisions of the code.
  • Appointing independent social auditors, to make sure that members of the association observe the code of good practice.
  • Finding ways to encourage implementation of and compliance with the code, and outlining the consequences of non-compliance.

What’s in the WIETA code?

The code contains the following important principles:

  • No child labour
  • Freely chosen employment
  • The right to a healthy and safe working environment
  • The right to freedom of association
  • The right to a living wage
  • Reasonable working hours
  • No harsh or inhumane treatment
  • No unfair discrimination
  • Providing regular employment
  • Respect for workers’ housing and tenure security rights

The code is based on the ETI Base Code and South African legislation, and elaborates on each of the above principles within the agricultural context. Click here to download the full document (PDF).

We completed our first Audit in November 2010 and have received our full WIETA accreditation since March 2011.

To sum up

We aren’t rebels, but we do have a cause. We do everything we do because we believe it is right, not because it’s politically correct, fashionable or expedient. This philosophy is the mirror image of our natural approach to winemaking, and it all comes down to being real. If you care about such things and if you enjoy our wine, then you’ll know what that means. For real.


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