One of the pillars of the Chilean wine industry’s 2020 Strategic Plan is sustainability: to turn Chile into the largest producer of premium, diverse, and sustainable wines in the New World. The Consorcio I+D Vinos de Chile (R&D Consortium Wines of Chile), the technical arm of the wine industry, designed a comprehensive Sustainability Program – a set of initiatives for wineries to implement, realizing that sustainability represents the convergence of activity which is environmentally friendly, socially equitable, and economically viable. The Sustainability Code is the centerpiece of this project. It is voluntary in nature with requirements in three complementary areas: green (vineyard), red (winery) and orange (social). The Code sets standards for the entire value chain of wine making:
- Green Area – vineyard: Includes land owned by the company and land owned by long-term suppliers (contracts of two years or more).
- Red Area – wine making process: Includes the winery, bottling plant, and other facilities related to wine production.
- Orange Area – social: Applies to the company including its land, offices, and facilities.
Recognizing that the production of wine involves many steps beyond simply how the grapes are grown in the vineyards, the Chilean Code investigates business operations at all phases and in all locations of the company – vineyards, wineries, bottling plants and other facilities, and corporate offices. Many codes do not mention social responsibility or they make it a much smaller priority, while focusing primarily on environmental impacts of wine producing. The Chilean code goes much further in the area of social responsibility, including a commitment of responsibility to the consumer, ethical practices with suppliers, and a section addressing quality of work life and human rights. This tool could be the most comprehensive and complete of any of the codes evaluated here, based on the breadth of coverage and extent of value chain actors to be included.
In terms of influencing how wineries conduct their business, the code requires:
- planning, implementing, operating and maintaining a management system focused on a sustainable wine production,
- minimizing potential environmental impacts caused in the wine production chain,
- guiding working relationships inside the company within an ethical framework, and
- improving communication with their clients, suppliers, and interested parties in the wine production chain and with the communities surrounding their production units.
The Sustainability Code of Chile certifies the performance of the winery, not the wine itself. It aims to change the culture of the management – more so than a line of product.
The implementation of the code began in January 2011, starting with only the Green Area. In January 2012, 11 wineries were certified to the green area. Certification of all three areas as a whole was underway by January 2013. By the end of 2015, 57 wineries were certified; 57 wineries which represent 70% of Chile’s bottled wine exports.
The Code has identified the associated practices of each the three areas; standards and corresponding checklists have been developed for each sector, which include checkpoints and forms of verification for each requirement. Some of these checkpoints are considered critical and compliance is mandatory. Certification lasts for two years.
After obtaining the certification the wine company can apply for the seal “Certified Sustainable Wine of Chile” on bottles, in all advertising, on its websites, and posters of its vineyards and production facilities.
By fulfilling the Code’s requirements, the companies that enter the certification system can show their management capacity to reduce potential environmental and social risks caused by the activities involved in wine production. What is finally “certified” is the company’s management and not the end product.
Chile wants its code to assure customers that it is sustainable, but Vinos de Chile also wants to continue innovating in this area. Sustainability is a key aspect of how Chilean wines will be marketed.