Guest blogger Tom Lynch, Founder of Worthwhile Wine Company , shares why he believes that buying Fair Trade Certified wine is so important to farmers and workers in the South African wine industry.
On August 22nd of this year, Human Rights Watch  (HRW) released a report  titled “Ripe with Abuse: Human Rights Conditions in South Africa’s Fruit and Wine Industries” via a press release  titled “South Africa: Farmworkers’ Dangerous, Dismal Lives.” The headline alone was enough to make some people boycott wine from South Africa.
However, as usual, there is more to this story than the headline, and much more that consumers need to know if they are to be conscientious consumers that can make a positive difference in the world. The reality is that, after 300+ years of slavery and Apartheid, the massive efforts to address inequality in South Africa have not erased that history in just 17 years – abuse of workers (on farms and elsewhere) still does occur (as it does, unfortunately, in many countries).
However, on the majority of vineyards, there is no abuse. And on some, there is also empowerment, training, progressive hiring and promoting, and most important, actual land ownership. So, if consumers were to just follow the headlines of the HRW report, decide the entire industry is “ripe with abuse,” and boycott South African wines, those consumers would actually do great harm to many of the people they hope to help.
But we’re all very busy, and constantly bombarded by messages. It is often much easier to just boycott an entire country’s products when, as in this instance, abusive companies were not identified, and the entire industry is painted with a broad brush. Which is exactly what brings me to one of the things I think is most valuable about Fair Trade Certified™ products .
As an importer of sustainably made wines from South Africa, I know there are many wineries that are making incredible investments in housing, working conditions, education, promotion, and even equity-sharing with their workers. We look for that in every winery we import from. But as consumers, you can’t do that sort of research in order to be certain. Luckily, you don’t have to. Seeing the Fair Trade Certified™ label quickly and easily gives you confidence that you can really make an impact in a place like South Africa by supporting wineries that are showing the way to a progressive future.
Most studies show consumers want to buy products made with care for the earth and people - but knowing how to do that must be easy and credible if consumers are to act. As a consumer, searching for and buying Fair Trade Certified products is about as easy and credible as it gets. South African wine is a perfect example of this.
So, don’t pass by the South African wines you see because you’re afraid you might support a company abusing workers. In fact, if you want to really make a positive impact, make the extra effort to go to the South Africa wine section and find a winery that is empowering their workers. Finding a Fair Trade Certified wine  is the easiest way to do that.
Tom Lynch is founder of Worthwhile Wine Company  in Atlanta Georgia. Worthwhile Wine Company is a wine importer with the most awarded portfolio of sustainably made wines in the US. Their mission is to provide conscientious consumers with reliably great wine that are sustainably made. Great wines. Better lives.
Visit Fair Trade USA  to discover Fair Trade wines from South Africa and use the Fair Trade Finder application for Facebook , iPhone  and Android  to find, tag and share your favorite wine!