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Why Some Wineries Are Becoming ‘Certified B Corp’ — And What That Means

In the press: Sokol Blosser featured on NPR

Source: NPR

Many college students studying abroad focus more on soaking in the culture — and the local drinking scene — than on their future careers. But for Charles Brain and Walker Brown, their time as exchange students in South Africa in 2014 sparked something more.

They returned to the Western Cape two years later with the goal of developing a wine brand and bringing the cuvées they loved back to the U.S. However, they didn’t want to simply start a winery in South Africa; they aimed to empower growers and laborers and, ultimately, create a unique platform that would benefit their partners in a socially responsible manner.

Under their label, Lubanzi Wines — which launched a mere three years ago — they set up protocols to ensure the well-being of their workers. As a testament to their commitment, in January, Lubanzi became one of just 25 wineries worldwide — and one of only 2,788 businesses — to become a Certified B Corporation.

While organic or biodynamic certifications are big buzzwords in winemaking today, B Corp calls for full transparency in the way a company conducts business — and not just in the vineyard. B Corp companies strive to be stewards of social change. As conversations around mindful winemaking continue to evolve, more wineries are aspiring to receive this certification.

Andy Fyfe, senior manager for business development for B Lab, the organization that certifies and supports B Corporations, responded in an email: “I would actually agree with his opinion that B Lab is not intended to be, nor should be the expert or the ultimate ‘needle mover’ for farm workers rights. [However], every Certified B Corporation must meet a legal requirement. They are required to change their legal charter to hold them accountable and consider the impact of their business decisions on all stakeholders (including farm workers) and not just solely consider the interests of their shareholders (investors).”

Brain, the Lubanzi Wines co-founder, sees B Corp as being a voice for the wine industry. “There are a lot of wineries out there that are doing great things in terms of how they operate and how their wines are made but are getting lost when they’re trying to talk to everyday people,” he says. “I think B Corp really offers a way for people like us — and people like A to Z Wineworks and like Sokol Blosser — to actually get through and connect with customers in a way that they understand.”

Shana Clarke is a freelance wine, sake and cocktail journalist who regularly contributes to Wine EnthusiastHuffPost and Hemisphere, and is the wine editor for inside.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @ShanaSpeaksWine and see more of her work on www.shanaspeakswine.com.

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