L'institut Nord-Sud



Is Wine an Easy Way to Support International Development?

August 9, 2013


The Ottawa Citizen

Life is busy. Work, family, errands, hobbies, social lives – the average person rarely has time to think about the developing world.  Generally, we leave global issues up to world governments but government priorities shift and at times international development isn’t as much of a priority as it should be. What can we do if we care about the poor of the world, but are unable to fly out to South Sudan to build schools? One of the simplest things to do is to buy wine that has a social impact.

Over the years, the private sector has understood the positive correlation between exercising corporate social responsibility and brand building. We’ve seen many companies begin to offer products where a percentage of the profit goes to charity. For instance, Lush Cosmetics sells a pot of hand cream where 100% of the proceeds are donated to small grassroots charities around the world and the Tim Hortons Coffee Partnership supports small scale coffee farmers to build sustainable coffee communities. Overall, the private sector’s engagement with development only begins with charity. Companies are realizing that they must develop new responsible models of business in order to succeed, which means respecting human rights, paying fair wages and being environmentally and socially sustainable.

There’s a notable trend of capitalizing on the busy person’s pragmatism by combining consumerism with charity. But is there a wine that helps people in the developing world? Unlike coffee, there’s not a wealth of information on fair and sustainable wines. The closest endeavor is the crowd funded Wine for the World. Their social impact in a nutshell: they’re building wine-making capacity by downloading experienced American wine-makers’ knowledge to local hires in South Africa and they’ll conduct themselves according to the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association. The sales pitch is, that by buying their wine, which costs around $20 USD a bottle, you’ll support South Africa’s wine industry.

South Africa, a member of the BRICS, a fast-growing group of emerging economies, is more developed than other countries in the developing regions of the world. There are no extremely poor countries producing their own wine because of structural issues which impede wine exports and limit production and job creation. In 2008, the South Africa wine industry contributed to over 2.2 % of South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product. So does South Africa really need our help? Yes. South Africa still faces challenges such as labour strife, extreme poverty and poor infrastructure.

Purchasing wine from South Africa will help the South African economy. As will purchasing wines that are certified by the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association. But is that enough? Which wineries go beyond ethical trade and build local capacity? What percentage of the profit from South African wineries returns to the local community?

If we consider these other measures of social impact, of the wines available in Canada, a do-good drink is the wine from The Durbanville Hills Winery in South Africa. Many of their wines are certified by the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association. Additionally, Durbanville Hills Winery has a Workers’ Trust, where their workers hold a 5% Black Economic Empowerment equity stake in the business, and the Trust has a seat on the Winery’s board.

The Durbanville Hills Winery Trust directly improves the quality of life of South Africans by donating a percentage of the selling price of each bottle of wine to the Trust. The Trust invests in rural schools, sponsors 24 (and counting) students to attend high school, provides funding to the local nursery and gives life skills workshops to the locals that work on their farms.

Their Durbanville Shiraz retails for $11.95 CAD and is available in LCBOs.

Other wines which benefit the people of South Africa are Land of Hope, which funds their employees’ children’s education and Solms Delta, whose employees own 33% of a trust.

International development is everybody’s responsibility. Every human has the right to security, equality and hope. But finding the time to advocate for the developing world can be difficult. Making a choice to buy wine that contributes to countries with emerging economies is a great way to make a positive difference in the world without breaking your routine.

So the next you visit the liquor store, why not choose a wine with social impact? It is a delicious and satisfying way to make a difference in the world.

Mallory Clyne is the Communications Manager at The North-South Institute, the world’s leading international development think tank.