My late father in law was an inspirational man and I have learned a lot from him. Internationally regarded as a businessman and industrialist, he was also very passionate about conservation. Conservation of culture, art, our heritage and also Conservation of nature and the environment. Not only was he in his lifetime the chairman of the WWF in South Africa but he was also the driving force behind the Peace Parks concept that facilitates the establishment of trans-frontier conservation areas (peace parks) and develops human resources, thereby supporting sustainable economic development, the conservation of biodiversity and regional peace and stability.
Taking responsibility for the world we live in has always been a priority in our family and although I think most people are concerned about sustainability, I often question whether such concern actually influences lifestyle patterns.
When speaking to Ivan Oertle of Woolworths about their Farming for the Future initiative and the performance of the organic and sustainable category, he says that the category is very important strategically as they see a healthy growing curve. For organic wine specifically, the growth is about 15 percent year on year. “We are developing and extending the organic wine offer every year with more innovation and closing more gaps. Every year there is greater awareness – customer demand is growing.” And if this is true for wine, it should also reflect in other categories.
Sustainability, like organic practices can however easily be regarded as a marketing tool and it is important that companies claiming sustainable and organic practices and products have an ethical consciousness as well. It should never be about selling more or being ‘politically correct’. It should be about being sustainable. And as per the definition of sustainability that means doing things in such a way to ensure that our resources last and we leave a world worth living in for generations to come.
To really work though, sustainability should be a priority for everyone – from big international companies to individuals. It is a moral obligation and a lifestyle choice with an impact much wider than the very important ecology. For Sustainability to work and be sustainable (sic), it must also be economically viable.
In South Africa especially, we are very concerned with development and job creation and coming closer to home, I have seen how an industry can make a difference. The South African wine industry has embraced wine tourism and in doing that, not only supports the bigger tourism industry which brings international visitors to our country and create jobs, but also supports the wine industry that is faced with challenges such as high costs, low profit margins and the economic crises in Europe – a traditional export market for SA wine.
What is also interesting is that SA wineries have actually made their sustainable ethos part of their wine tourism experience – and they have done it in a way that has earned them international acclaim. Visitors to wine farms can enjoy a host of activities that introduce them to sustainable practices in an entertaining and educational way. Think of organic walks through vineyards and gardens , tours through ‘fynbos’ and hikes through natural vegetation. Restaurants are cooking with their own organically grown seasonal produce and frontline personnel are encouraged to share sustainable practices with guests.
With the influx of tourists to the Winelands, the development of rural communities is enabled. People are educated, trained and employed to work in the wine tourism industry. They earn better salaries, learn skills and when everyday living is not a fight for survival anymore, sustainability can become a priority.
Ensuring sustainable economic development can therefore support an awareness of living sustainably with regards to the environment. At the 2005 World Summit on Social Development it was noted that real sustainability requires the reconciliation of environmental, social equity and economic demands – and I can’t agree more.