A big thanks to Stellar Winery for contributing this blog post. We’re pleased that Whole Foods Market Team Member Volunteers were able to visit Stellar Winery in this year’s program in South Africa. Whole Planet Foundation is funding microlending programs in South Africa where Whole Foods Market sources wine through Stellar Winery.
Stellar Winery, South Africa’s largest producer of organic wines, cultivates organically-grown grapes for the South African and export markets. Our grapes come from farms in the Lower Olifants River Valley, part of the Namaqualand area of the Western Cape. This is an area famous for its spring flowers and is also the only semi-arid Biosphere hotspot in the world.
Situated in the Namaqualand hamlet of Trawal, we are a privately owned winery. Our employees have a 26% shareholding in the cellar.
Well-known for our innovative approach, Stellar Winery has achieved a number of “firsts” in the wine industry. We are the first organic winemaking operation in the world to gain FLO Fair Trade certification and the first cellar in Africa to produce commercially viable no-sulphur-added wines. In June 2011, Stellar joined the Fair for Life program of Swiss-based IMO (Institute for Marketecology).
Stellar has subsequently become the largest producer of certified organic and fair trade wines in the world and we are the number one organic wine brand in the UK. In the U.S., our certified organic and fair trade wines are sold under the Stellar Organics and Live-a-Little labels.
Stellar’s fair trade certification has delivered positive, measurable changes in working and living conditions for our employees through the global sales of fairly-traded wine. The surrounding Trawal community has also benefited from fair trade through the company’s support of local institutions such as the pre-school, primary school and football club.
The Stellar Empowerment Trust & Stellar Foundation
Stellar Winery employees benefit directly from sales of fairly-traded wine and grapes. The Stellar Empowerment Trust is the organization that controls the premium funds. The Trust serves as a forum for workers to identify their needs and manages the income derived from fair trade sales. This is done through the democratically elected Joint Body, the executive arm of the Trust. The Trust is the owner of the 26% shareholding in the winery and the workers are the Trust’s beneficiaries.
Previously, the Trust initiated and managed projects designed to improve the quality of workers’ lives and benefit surrounding communities. With the establishment of the more complex Multi-Estate, it was decided to establish a non-profit organization, the Stellar Foundation, to manage the projects and serve as the entity in which all social responsibility activities of the Stellar group of companies takes place.
Fair trade projects at Stellar are initiated by means of a collective process among the Trust beneficiaries. Once a project has been decided upon, our management team helps to organize the project plan and funding. So far, we have completed numerous projects (see below for complete list) and have many more on the horizon!
We were incredibly honored and extremely grateful to have worked with Whole Foods Market Team Member Volunteers in July to rebuild and vastly improve the Koekenaap creche (pre-school) and paint the playground equipment for the Eikevlei creche (pre-school). We hope this is the beginning of a long relationship of volunteer programs with Whole Foods Market and the first of many more successful projects with them!
- Fencing for workers’ houses to provide privacy and enable home gardening.
- The ABET (Adult Basic Education and Training) and IT training facility is well-established and courses have commenced under the supervision of an accredited instructor. A number of workers have already completed courses in numeracy and communication and are preparing to move to the next level.
- A community organic vegetable garden.
- A Viognier vineyard planted next to the Trawal Primary School serves as an organic educational farming project and the proceeds from the sale of grapes and wine are shared by the school and the Stellar Employees’ Trust.
- The purchase of a 26% shareholding in the cellar.
- A sports field for sporting activities including soccer and netball, change rooms and a spectator stand.
- Canteen and rest area at the cellar.
- The purchase of a bus for transporting seasonal workers to and from the farms and cellar and for use on sporting and social occasions.
- Rebuilding and improving the Koekenaap creche (pre-school)
- Freshly painted playground equipment for the Eikevlei creche (pre-school)