South Africa pioneers ethical seal

3rd May, 2012 by Gabriel Stone

South Africa has launched an industry-wide seal which guarantees its wines have been produced in line with fair labour practices.

WIETA Ethical Seal

Outlined and audited by the country’s Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association (WIETA), the first of these full traceable seals are expected to be awarded later this year.

The initiative is intended to complement South Africa’s existing sustainability seal, established in 2010, with the hope that these two programmes will eventually be combined.

“We’ve been constantly feeling over the last three years or so that our producers don’t get enough recognition for what they do,” Su Birch, CEO of Wines of South Africa, told the drinks business. “We want to be recognised as ethical producers in one of the most beautiful parts of the world,” she explained.

In order to encourage sufficient industry uptake of the new ethical seal, its launch will be accompanied by a fast track programme to implement fair labour practices in wine farms and cellars.

Divided into three phases, the first step of the programme sees the simultaneous training of workers, owners and management in labour law and the WIETA code of fair trading principles, which acknowledges the International Labour Conventions’ Ethical Trading Initiative and also incorporates South African labour legislation. All training manuals will be supplied free of charge by WIETA.

Following this initial training phase, producers will be required to complete assessment forms to determine their level of compliance. WIETA will then provide further support where necessary to help address any gaps.

The final stage of the programme requires producers to pass a full WIETA audit, which includes on-site inspections.

In order to qualify for the ethical seal, brand owners must enter an annually renewable legally binding agreement with WIETA and, in order to ensure full traceability, must identify all their suppliers. At least 60% of these suppliers need to be WIETA accredited, with the remaining 40% able to demonstrate that they are preparing themselves for accreditation.

Commenting on this initiative, Linda Lipparoni, CEO of WIETA, said: “By introducing the seal we want to acknowledge and accredit wineries and farms that follow ethical practices, and protect them from potential negative publicity resulting from those who flout the law.

“After almost 20 years of democracy and exposure of the country’s wine producers to international best-practice, we have reached a level of maturity where no abuses of human rights should be countenanced,” Lipparoni continued, stressing: “The industry has no place for the few who, by perpetuating unfair labour practices, are tarnishing the majority who recognise that the ethical treatment of workers is both a moral and legal obligation.”

This emphatic commitment to ethical winemaking practices supports the industry’s vehement rejection of a “biased” investigation last year by Human Rights Watch into human rights abuses in South African vineyards.

Although managed and accredited by WIETA, this initiative has won support from the Food & Allied Worker’s Union (FAWU), Sikhula Sonke, Women on Farms and established industry organisations such as the SA Liquor Brandowners’ Association (SALBA), Wine Cellars SA and producer organisation, Vinpro.

One Response to “South Africa pioneers ethical seal”

  1. Peggysue says:

    If farmers are left to complete self assessments truthfully, is there an honest need for Wieta? After the HRW report and the lack in some cases still of non compliance to minimum labour legislation, is this watered down approach not a bigger risk to workers. Giving a false sense of complacency and yet workers lives still doesnt improve.

    Wieta has forgotten its founding principles and traded in political will for being a pawn for producers. Sad state of affairs. I suggest someone vets this process and keeps this organisation accountable and actually goes and verifies independantly that accredited farms are still compliant as this sausage factory approach is hardly sustainable.

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