Grassroots Change In BC Wine Industry

Grassroots Change in BC Wine Industry


Sustainable Winegrowing British Columbia (SWBC) is the key sustainability program of BC Wine Grape Council. SWBC is launching a new certification program in 2020, to assist growers and winemakers with enhancing soil health and wine quality, and meet increasing customer demand for wines made with verified conscientious, sustainable practices. The program is founded on a people, planet, profit (triple bottom line) approach.

Since 2011, SWBC has provided sustainability self-assessments to the Okanagan wine industry, hosting workshops to share knowledge with industry professionals about sustainability practices. In 2018, the Ministry of Agriculture along with BC Wine Grape Council allocated funding to transition the online self-assessment program into a verified sustainability certification program.

At its foundation the program is based on world class, outcome-based sustainability standards. The standards clearly outline the outcomes we aim to achieve, all of which have key criteria and some of which have key associated indicators. Creating baseline data and tracking improvements helps to avoid marketplace skepticism about “greenwashing.” SWBC supports growers and winemakers in British Columbia to become true sustainability leaders by backing their sustainability claims with data. This data will also assist program participants with making adjustments, adapting and taking action based on real dynamic information.

The Standards are organized by goal areas. In the vineyard, outcomes and criteria are defined for:

  • Watershed Management and Conservation
  • Soil Nutrition Management
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Irrigation Optimization
  • Social Equity - Workforce, Neighbours and Community

For wineries, outcomes and criteria are defined for:

  • Water Efficiency and Conservation 
  • Energy Efficiency and Management 
  • Responsible Waste Management
  • Climate Action
  • Social Equity- Workforce, Neighbours and Community

For each goal area, there are both essential and continuous improvement criteria. All essential criteria must be met for certification, participants commit to continuous improvement. 

For example, in the Sustainable Wineries Standard, under the ‘Energy Efficiency and Management’ goal, one outcome states "Energy use is monitored to analyze consumption and identify efficiency and savings opportunities." An essential criteria to meet this outcome is "Wineries calculate and establish an energy consumption baseline. The baseline includes information about both electricity and fuel consumption (heating oil, diesel, and gas for vehicles) for all functional areas or operations."

With the 2019 sustainability standards in hand, SWBC is launching the Sustainability Certification Program in April, 2020. The new sustainability certification based on the rigourous 2019 standards, focusses on implementation, education and community-building within the wine industry. The previous online sustainability self-assessment will be retired.  

Many dedicated people contributed to the development of SWBC’s updates sustainability standards: the volunteer SWBC Sustainability Committee Members, Anna Brittain of ViewCraft Consulting, and Tom Divney and Catalina Mora of the Sustainable Agricultural Network. This project would not be possible without the support and funding from the BC Wine Grape Council and the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture.

If you would like to learn more as SWBC rolls out our sustainability certification program in 2020, please sign up for our email newsletter below.


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