Working conditions at South African vineyards investigated by media

A group of journalists reported shortcomings in working conditions at South African vineyards, including one of Altia's wine suppliers. The case helped us identify areas, where we need to improve our practices.

During the second half of 2016, a group of journalists investigated working conditions at vineyards in South Africa for a documentary that was aired in October in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. The investigations also covered one of Altia’s wine suppliers in South Africa. According to the documentary there were serious shortcomings for example when it comes to housing conditions and the level of and deductions made from wages.

We take the allegations seriously and started discussions with the relevant supplier as soon as we received information about possible violations of the principles in the BSCI Code of Conduct from Systembolaget, the retail monopoly in Sweden. As a supplier to the Nordic retail monopolies, we comply with and require our suppliers to comply with the BSCI Code of Conduct.

In October, our representative visited the relevant producer, as well as other Altia’s suppliers in South Africa, making clear our expectations when it comes to responsibility. We also cooperate with other wine importers in Sweden to help the relevant South African producers in creating an action plan for solving those issues, which the BSCI audits conducted before and after the documentary proved to be true. The audits were commissioned by Systembolaget.

Meanwhile, our supplier has already taken corrective actions including improving the housing conditions and creating procedures for the workers to be able to report issues relating to house maintenance.

Useful learnings for the future

Many of the audits done in the past at our wine suppliers have showed shortcomings that were relatively easy to correct, for example relating to monitoring of working hours, implementation of the principles in the supply chain, the use of personal protective equipment and first aid readiness. The findings in South Africa marked the first time when more significant deviations from the BSCI’s principles were found, and as such it was a valuable learning case for us.

As a result, we have identified the need to make our practices and tools for evaluating our suppliers’ responsibility more comprehensive and consistent, whenever we start working with a new wine supplier or when our people visit existing suppliers. This work will commence in 2017.