The Wine Sustainability Quotient- WSQ rates environmental sustainability and social responsibility in the wine industry.
As wine consumption increases in the United States, and among millennials worldwide, there is now a great opportunity to promote environmental and social responsibility in wine production and distribution. Wine production is a global agricultural industry. Straddling the categories of commodities and luxury goods, it is often overlooked by consumers and retailers in the discussion of sustainable practices. However, this is changing. With local regulatory bodies and a global market, there is a lack of clarity as to which wine choice is the most sustainable — for both retailers and consumers.
While there is widespread understanding of organic and fair-trade certifications of food and consumer goods, neither of those certifications is all encompassing. Organic does not mean socially responsible; Fair Trade does not mean environmentally sustainable. Neither means the certified winery uses best practice for a minimal carbon footprint and both certifications are burdened with a negative consumer expectation for quality, at least among mainstream US consumers.
As the understanding of the risks, industrial practices and negative impact of wine production are surfacing in wine growing communities, in the media and slowly also among consumers, the need increases for a new system of measuring and communicating the overall sustainability of a wine. Consumers wish to make educated choices with minimal time spent getting informed. Retailers need help integrating various sustainability certifications into their wine procurement protocols.
The Wine Sustainability Quotient – WSQ Rating System creates better methods for communicating the sustainable practices of the wine industry to their customers – retailers and end consumers — who want assurance that the industry is effectively protecting the environment and engaging in fair working practices. WSQ has established a new, simple global assessment and grading system for sustainable wine. This system validates and gives a sustainability score to wines that participate in sustainable programs run by regional industry bodies, all of which have different criteria and certification seals. The purpose of this new system is to ensure authenticity, foster compliance with the highest standards of environmental and social responsibility, promote harmonization globally and educate consumers and retailers on sustainability as it relates to the wines being offered for sale.
The end goal of WSQ is for the score to drive consumer choice. The score would be available at the point of sale for a quick purchase decision and more detailed background information about what goes into the score will be accessible through an app and online resources. Establishing a sustainability rating system for wine promotes two interrelated ideals — human rights and environmental sustainability in the wine industry. This rating system is not designed to replace existing sustainability certification programs. Rather this system is intended to hold those programs to the highest standards while expressing to consumers where the wines they select fit on a continuum of sustainability performance.
At present, neither retailers nor consumers have a broad understanding of what makes for a sustainably produced wine or how to identify it. Better educated consumers will lead to increased purchases of sustainably produced wines and will in turn create market forces that facilitate the wider adoption of sustainable practices by the global wine industry – in the vineyard and winery as well as by distributors and retailers.
This website features product ratings of the wines based on environmental and social sustainability standards. The WSQ Rating of a wine is based on voluntary standards for wines relating to their environmental and social sustainability characteristics, and evaluates wines to determine whether they conform to those environmental and social sustainability standards. Thus program also provides information about the development of environmental and social sustainability standards for wines based on the following issues and criteria:
The areas that determine a product’s WSQ rating are:
- Pest management, including prohibited and restricted pesticides
- Farm worker welfare
- Community and social responsibility
- Pollinator protection
- Water conservation
- Protection of biodiversity
- Soil health and Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
- Ecosystems; Biodiversity
- Waste reduction and recycling and packaging
- Air, energy, and climate
- GMO transparency
- 3rd Party Verification
- Certification of every level of the Supply Chain
- Packaging; bottle weight; closures
WSQ PLATINUM — GOLD — SILVER –BRONZE
The scores are translated into a hierarchy of levels within the system which determine the rating designation – WSQ bronze, silver, gold, and platinum – with the top level including the most rigorous standards and compliance such as verification by independent third party inspection and adherence to highest ethical standards for worker conditions. This rating for wines evaluated will be described on this website and can be communicated at the point of sale, initially by a few select retailers who will display the rating on in-store materials and “shelf talkers.” Over time, with broader consumer recognition and industry adoption, wineries will opt to display the rating on the bottle as well, to make it accessible at all points of sale.