BY Karen Ross, President of the California
Almost every industry today is told to think outside the
box in order to succeed in an increasingly competitive global
market and ever more diverse and complex political and social
environment. But to do that, we first need to consider a crucial
question: What is inside the box?
Throughout our history, inside the agriculture box
has meant an orientation toward the most efficient production.
Our focus has been on higher volume, lower cost, and ensuring
the availability of inputs, such as water, soil, and crop protection
tools. Our markets have been driven by expanding population and
income growth. There really has not been much emphasis on what
In the film, Field of Dreams, the theme was Build
it and they will come. Inside the box, agriculture has said,
Grow it and they will buy.
But, we cant afford to think that way anymore. Thinking
outside the box, we must shift from being production-driven to
being market-driven. That means we must grow not only what consumers
want, but we must do it in a way that is acceptable to our changing
society. By doing so, we increase the possibility of adding value
to our products and services and expanding support for our industry
from a predominantly urbanized society with strong environmental
Sustainable Winegrowing Practices project
The wine community, through Wine Vision and other collaborative
efforts, has taken a significant first step in thinking
outside the box.
Building on the impressive work in sustainable practices already
undertaken by regional winegrowing organizations, individuals,
and private companies, and inspired by the Wine Vision strategic
goal to be a leader in sustainable practices, the Wine Institute
and the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) initiated
the joint Sustainable Winegrowing Practices (SWP) project in June
Real ToolBox, a sustainable-agriculture and resource-conservation
professional services firm, was retained as project manager to
work closely with a joint Wine Institute/CAWG committee of 50
growers and vintners. The project culminated in October 2002 with
introduction of The Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Workbook,
a voluntary self-assessment guide.
The primary audience for the workbook is California winegrowers
and vintners, but it promises to be a model for sustainability
for wine communities in other states and countries, for other
agricultural crops, and perhaps for other industries. The workbook
content can also be useful to a wider audience including employees,
suppliers, wine buyers, neighbors and local community members,
representatives of the environmental and social equity communities,
policy makers, regulators, media, and consumers.
The principal purpose of the workbook is to provide winegrowers
and vintners with a tool to voluntarily:
Assess the sustainability of practices;
Identify areas of excellence and areas where improvements
can be made; and,
Develop action plans to increase an operations sustainability.
Sources for the model
Two groups, the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission (LWWC) and
the Central Coast Vineyard Team (CCVT), provided the model for
development of this self-assessment tool. CCVT members were pioneers
in developing the first vineyard self-assessment, the Positive
LWWC combined elements of the Positive Point System, new
winegrowing content, and a four-category self-assessment format
developed by Farm*A*Syst to produce the Lodi Winegrowers
Workbook. The LWWC allowed the joint committee to directly
adopt chapters from the Lodi Winegrowers Workbook for the
The overall, long-term mission for the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing
Establishing voluntary high standards of sustainable practices
to be followed and maintained by the entire wine community;
Enhancing winegrower-to-winegrower and vintner-to-vintner
education on the importance of sustainable practices and how self-governing
will enhance the economic viability and future of the wine community;
Demonstrating how working closely with neighbors, communities
and other stakeholders to maintain an open dialogue can address
concerns, enhance mutual respect, and accelerate results.
A vision for sustainability
The vision of the SWP project is long-term sustainability of the
California wine community. To place the concept of sustainability
into the context of winegrowing, the project defines sustainable
winegrowing as growing and winemaking practices that are sensitive
to the environment (Environmentally sound), responsive to the
needs and interests of society-at-large (socially Equitable),
and are economically feasible to implement and maintain (Economically
feasible). The combination of these three principles is often
referred to as the three Es of sustainability
three overarching principles provide a general direction to pursue
sustainability. However, these principles are not easily translated
into everyday operations of winegrowing and winemaking. To bridge
this gap between general principles and daily decision-making,
the workbooks chapters translate the overarching sustainability
principles into specific winegrowing and winemaking practices
This project is guided by the following set of sustainability
Produce the best quality wine and/or grapes possible.
Provide leadership in protecting the environment and conserving
Maintain long-term viability of agricultural lands.
Support the economic and social well-being of farm and
winery employees through training and competitive compensation.
Respect and communicate with neighbors and community members;
respond to their concerns in a considerate manner.
Enhance local communities through job creation, supporting
local business, and actively working on important community issues.
Honor the California wine communitys entrepreneurial
Support research and education and monitor and evaluate
existing practices to expedite continual improvements.
What the workbook is and
It is important to note that this workbook is a voluntary self-assessment
tool. The workbook is not:
a how-to manual for winegrowing and winemaking;
a set of rules that must be followed; or
an external rating system to be used by others to judge
This workbook does provide the opportunity to voluntarily self-assess
the relative sustainability of a vineyard and/or winery operation.
The workbook is not linked to any outside certification
system. However, due to the interest of some wine community members,
it is designed to be easily adapted to international environmental
management system (EMS) standards, such as the ISO 14000 family,
and the international sustainability reporting efforts, such as
the Global Reporting Initiative.
key points for using the workbook
1. Familiarize yourself with the workbook:
First, thumb through it to get a feel for the scope and format.
There are 221 self-assessment questions within 13 chapters: Each
chapter has a set of industry-specific criteria to self-assess
sustainability performance of vineyard and winery operations.
Each criteria has four performance categories. From right to left
in Table II, the categories represent increasing sustainability.
2. Decide what to assess:
Begin by selecting one or more vineyards and/or winery facilities
to assess. If you manage multiple vineyards and/or winery facilities,
it may make sense the first time through the workbook to select
an operation you think would assess the highest and another that
you think would assess lower.
3. Do your self-assessment:
Read each question and decide if it is applicable to your vineyard
and/or winery. Not all questions are applicable to every vineyard
or winemaking facility. After reading each category, decide
which category best describes the operation(s) you are assessing.
The workbook includes a set of self-assessment evaluation sheets
to keep track of your assessment. An example is provided in Table
Many of the self-assessment questions are followed by educational
boxes to provide supplemental information on specific sustainable
practices. Specific resources and Internet links are included
for many questions. Additional resources and references are provided
at the end of the workbook.
4. Develop your action plan:
Once you have completed the self-assessment portion of the workbook,
the next step is developing an action plan for your vineyard and/or
winery operation. Your evaluation sheets will show which areas
of your vineyard and/or winery operations may need some changes
to maximize performance or prevent environmental problems. Pay
special attention to all issues that have a 1 or a 2 rating. These
are areas for potential improvement.
To develop an action plan, you will need to analyze your situation,
then decide what you want to do and when it can be done. You decide
what actions to take over the next five years. Remember, this
is your action plan it must suit you and your operations.
The educational boxes and resource links in the workbook may be
helpful in developing your action plan.
5. Submit your self-assessment evaluation
and provide feedback:
The SWP project is interested in receiving self-assessment evaluations,
which will be kept confidential. The project would also appreciate
receiving feedback about the workbook on the Comments,
Corrections, and Suggestions sheets, included
to be returned to the joint project.
The submission of self-assessment evaluation sheets is voluntary,
and they will be treated with strict confidentiality. The
information will be used by the project for the following purposes:
To establish baseline information on statewide adoption
of sustainable practices by winegrowers and vintners.
To provide feedback to regional winegrower and vintner
associations on areas of excellence and areas that need improvement,
thus helping to target educational programs and other resource
To improve the workbook self-assessment questions to accurately
capture useful information on sustainable practices.
To document beneficial sustainable practices and innovation
that can be rapidly adopted by other vineyards and wineries.
Steve Schafer, CAWG chairman, has been part of a
Central California group of growers who reviewed various chapters
and provided input to the authors. One of the things he likes
best about the workbook is how it is formatted.
It brings everything together in a way thats easy
to follow, and it makes it easier to get your arms around the
idea of sustainability, says Schafer. I can go at
my own pace, or I can participate in a workshop with other growers
to review and discuss the issues addressed. In the tough competitive
environment we face, we need to look for every way we can to differentiate
ourselves and meet consumer expectations. This focus on sustainability
is critical for our survival.
In addition to the Central California group of growers, the following
regional grower and vintner groups reviewed the workbook and provided
input: Sonoma County Grape Growers Association, Santa Cruz Mountains
Winegrowers Association, Lake County Winegrape Commission, Napa
Valley Vintners Association, Napa Valley Grape Growers Association,
Napa Sustainable Winegrowing Group, Calaveras Winegrape Growers,
and the Central Coast Vineyard Team.
Input was also received from many reviewers from the University
of California and California State University campuses, in addition
to the federal EPA, the California Department of Food & Agriculture
and other state agencies, plus environmental and social equity
A 501(c)(3) organization, the California Sustainable Winegrowing
Alliance, has been created by Wine Institute and CAWG to advance
the adoption of sustainable viticulture and viniculture practices
through research and education. The groups board of trustees
will focus on raising funds to print workbooks and sponsor regional
workshops in every part of the state. Their purpose is to introduce
the book to growers and vintners and to fund ongoing education
programs that will advance the principles of sustainability articulated
in the workbook.
Californias rapid population growth (600,000 people per
year currently, with an anticipated annual increase to 850,000
by 2015) has resulted in intense competition for natural resources
the very natural resources that make California wine the
unique product it is.
As one of the largest sectors of the California agricultural industry,
the wine community is taking responsibility for environmental
stewardship and good neighbor policies. The workbook is the first
step in actively promoting sustainable practices that respect
nature, our employees, our neighbors, and communities while
also helping meet the industrys bottom line.
Based on the enthusiastic response not only from California growers
and vintners, but also from the wine industry in other states
and countries, thinking outside the box has positioned
the California wine community to be a leader in sustainable winegrowing,
thus enhancing our historical and cultural value to the state.