It’s time for the wine industry to take responsibility
The environment is a hot topic. Increased greenhouse gas emissions, rising global temperatures and water levels, drought conditions, wildfires, erratic weather events and melting glaciers are no longer concerns for environmental activists only.
The global climate crisis is a ubiquitous subject in the run up to political elections; environmental concerns permeate the corporate world. But let us not be naïve: corporations are not altruistic. Corporations will only act if taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint will translate to greater profits, particularly if they risk losing customers through lack of action.
The wine industry is no different. The environment has been a major topic at almost every industry conference and gathering of the past couple of years. Subjects have included how the climate change is affecting the wine industry and how industry players can reduce their carbon footprint.
University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman impactfully wrote in the New York Times in 1970 that “there is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits.” (Quote taken from Friedman’s book Capitalism and Freedom.) The predominant measure of success for businesses is the maximization of shareholder value, i.e., profit. But to effect positive change substantively, perhaps we need to redefine the way corporate success is measured.
Is it not time for social responsibility in the wine industry to evolve beyond Friedman’s doctrine? Some obvious considerations for wineries are improving farming practices, and their reducing carbon footprint, water usage, wine bottle weight and the impact of global shipping.
Responsibilities should also extend to how a winery treats its employees, its practices with respect to diversity, inclusion and transparency, its impacts on the local community and its contributions to its customers’ wellbeing. Sustainability must be viewed with a broad lens.
The responsibility for change does not just lie with corporations. In fact, the catalyst for change lies with you. Only when consumers speak en masse and support businesses that exhibit an evolved concept of success will we start to see real change.