Social Sustainability in the Wine Industry
wine2wine’s special theme for its 2019 edition is ‘social sustainability’. Sustainability has been a prime concern on the global agenda for some time now. However, like most buzzwords and silver bullets, its popularity risks rendering it devoid of substance. This troubling status quo represents a ‘call to action’ for the wine community to revitalise the sustainability agenda. wine2wine organisers this year would like to encourage visionary leadership within the wine community to truly embrace a more comprehensive definition of sustainability, one which puts social aspects at its core.
One challenge is that ‘sustainability’, in the context of the wine sector, has become synonymous with its ecological aspects alone. The direct economic resonance of climate change to the wine industry has in part contributed to an urgent focus on ecological sustainability. Organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines have gained global traction among producers and consumers alike, and frequently dominate discussions around ‘sustainability’ at wine industry forums. While the energy gathering around ecological sustainability is a cause to celebrate, ‘sustainability’ should encompass a much wider set of concerns.
So, what is meant by ‘social sustainability’ in the context of the wine industry? On the one hand, it is about being aware of the impacts (both positive and negative) that wine business activities have across the wine value chain. Wine companies and professionals should take steps to mitigate social risks and ensure no harm is caused through their business practices. Principles of social sustainability should not be seen as contrary to economic viability but rather as complimentary and mutually reinforcing.
Social sustainability need not be solely relegated to mitigating social risks. Wine professionals can and should do more than just this! Social sustainability is also about cultivating business practices that promote human wellbeing and inclusivity. This involves wine professionals taking action together to make the industry and our wine community more inclusive, diverse, democratic, equitable, and connected. In doing so, the wine industry will be better placed to conserve the rich cultural heritage of wine and to share it with a more diverse global community.