29 April 2014 12:48

WIETA Memberships Doubles in a Year

The Wine & Agricultural Trade Association (WIETA) has more than doubled its membership over the past year, as local producers continue to seek accreditation for fair labour practices on their farms and in their cellars. WIETA is a voluntary, non-profit organisation. It promotes ethical trade in the wine industry value chain with its code of good practice. Stakeholders include producers, retailers, trade unions, government and NGOs.

Linda Lipparoni

WIETA CEO Linda Lipparoni said the organisation's membership had risen to 911 producers for the year to March 31, 2014, up from 450, 12 months' previously. She attributed the rise to the growth in consumer demand for goods from producers who followed ethical labour practices. "Globally, more shoppers want to support producers who treat their workers fairly. This in turn has impacted on retailers who are increasingly calling for their suppliers to demonstrate their credentials in this regard."

Sweden, for example has made WIETA accreditation a condition for some tenders submitted by South African producers to its state-run retailer, Systembolaget. Last year, when Systembolaget's chairperson, Dr Cecilia Seidegård, and its CE, Magdalena Gerger, came to South Africa they told producers they considered it a priority to promote a supply chain that was fair and honest towards people and the environment.

According to Wines of South Africa (WOSA) CEO, Siobhan Thompson, South Africa is Sweden's biggest source of New World wines and its second biggest supplier overall. The country is one of the industry's top five export destinations. Lipparoni said the country's major producers such as Distell, DGB and KWV, who accounted for most of South Africa's wine export volumes, were all WIETA members. They were also working with their own suppliers to achieve compliance and attain membership.

Siobhan Thompson

"These industry leaders are setting a very positive precedent, " said Thompson. "The more producers achieve accreditation, the stronger South Africa's reputation as an ethical wine-producing nation."

Lipparoni said Stellenbosch was best represented amongst all wine-producing regions with the highest number of WIETA members, followed by the Swartland, then Robertson, Paarl, the Breedekloof, Worcester and the Overberg.

With the growing number of leading international retailers subscribing to the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP), WIETA was also taking steps to benchmark its code and audit methodology against this organisation, she added.

The GSCP, which has members across the UK, Europe, the US and even Japan, is a business-driven programme established in 2006 for the ongoing improvement of working and environmental conditions in global supply chains.

"We are enhancing WIETA's credibility by linking with a global programme supported by the likes of Walmart, Tesco, M&S and Coop. It demonstrates that our criteria stand up to global best practice. We believe it will also help South African producers wanting to trade with these retailers."