The first wines entitled to carry South Africa’s fully traceable new ethical seal have been announced by the Wine and Agricultural Industry Ethical Trade Association (WIETA). In what is believed to be a world-first amongst wine-producing countries, the seal, based on rigorous auditing of WIETA’s code of good conduct, provides confirmation that fair labour practices are being adopted by the producers of these wines.

The list of  wines includes wines produced under the Fairview, La Capra and Spice Route labels and all 7 of the Fairview and Spice Route farms are Wieta acredited.

30 Wines will be on show and available for international wine buyers and journalists to taste at Cape Wine 2012, the industry showcase hosted by Wines of South Africa (WOSA), later this month. This will include 10 wines from  the Fairview, La Capra and Spice Route labels; six from Robertson Winery; six from Distell, with two from the company’s new Place in the Sun range and four from Tukulu; six from Durbanville Hills and its Durbanville Hills and Rhino Fields range as well as two from Spier. Some of the  producers involved are also Fairtrade-accredited.

WIETA will have its own stand at the trade exhibition that runs from September 25 to 27 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The WIETA code is premised on the base code of the International Labour Conventions’ Ethical Trading Initiative and also incorporates South African labour legislation. It precludes the use of child labour, asserts that employment should be freely chosen and that all employees should have the right to a healthy and safe working environment. Amongst the conditions it sets are that workers should have the right to freedom of association, a living wage and to be protected from unfair discrimination. Worker housing and tenure security rights should also be respected. The ethical seal is granted to individual wines, as opposed to the wineries themselves. The reason for this approach, according to WOSA CEO Su Birch, who has been one of the prime movers behind the seal, is that producers can use a variety of vineyard sources for their grapes. “As compliance has to be fully traceable across the entire production chain, every wine submitted has to be individually audited.” To be entitled to carry the ethical seal from one vintage to the next, brand owners also have to enter into an annually renewable, legally binding agreement with WIETA.

Lauding the producers of the first wines to carry the seal, Birch said: “They are the trailblazers who are setting an important precedent for the industry in its efforts to fast-track the implementation of fair labour practices on wine farms and in cellars.” She confirmed that WIETA was currently involved in an extensive producer training programme, as well as ongoing auditing to assist the major brands in achieving the necessary accreditation for their 2013 vintage wines.

The ethical seal is modelled on South Africa’s sustainability seal developed to promote awareness of the production integrity followed at every stage of the supply chain from vineyard to bottle. WIETA CEO Linda Lipparoni said to carry the seal, brand owners had to identify all their suppliers. At least 60% of these suppliers had to be WIETA-accredited, with the other 40% audited and able to demonstrate that they were preparing themselves for accreditation within a year.

The seal has the backing of foreign retailers, the Food & Allied Workers’ Union (FAWU), Sikhula Sonke, Women on Farms, as well as established industry organisations such as the SA Liquor Brandowners’ Association (SALBA), Wine Cellars SA and producer organisation VinPro. Birch said the industry was promoting the seal, along with Fairtrade and Fair for Life accreditation, to highlight the priority South African producers were giving to implementing fair working conditions for wine farm and cellar workers. She said the industry hoped to see all producers accredited for reasonable labour practices by 2015.

 

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