The project, announced last year by Mipaaf, struggled with Covid. But thanks to emergency action, it found its place within the "Relaunch Decree." Blasi assures a “Certification within the next harvest campaign.” Meanwhile, Equalitas has opened a permanent wine-labour round table.

The Relaunch Decree establishes a sustainability certification

It is said that the most important changes come from the greatest crisis. An axiom that seems to fit well with the theme of wine sustainability. “Thanks” to the Relaunch Decree, in fact, the long-awaited single standard of wine has become a reality. Published in the Official Gazette organ on July 27, 2020, law n.77 has in fact established the certification system for sustainability of the wine supply chain. In fact, the text, in the first paragraph, reads: “In order to improve the sustainability of the various stages of the production process in the wine sector, the certification system for the sustainability of the wine supply chain is established, as well as the set of production rules and good practices defined with a specific production disciplinary.”

Having a law, however, is not enough: now the ministerial decree must be created, as recalled by the Head of the Department for European and International Policies and Rural Development of Mipaaf, Giuseppe Blasi who spoke at the “Luci sul Lavoro” Festival in Montepulciano, at the round table promoted by Equalitas.

Italy is the first country with a single standard

“A year ago we closed with a technical agreement on the methodology,” he said. “Then Covid pulled us into a vortex and the project was shelved, but never abandoned. So much so that thanks to the will and sensitivity of Minister Bellanova, we were able to include that work within the same emergency interventions (in particular within the Relaunch decree; Ed.), immediately aligned with the main strategic objectives contained in the most recent documents of programming adopted by the European Commission, in particular Green Deal, Farm to Fork and Biodiversity. We now have a rule that clearly defines the contours of the work we have cut out for us. In the coming days we will reconvene the working group that led to the technical report. We want to start before year’s end to be active as early as the next campaign, with simplified and streamlined accession procedures.”

In this way, as Blasi announced last year in an interview with the weekly issue of Tre Bicchieri (https://www.gamberorosso.it/settimanale/settimanale-7-novembre-2019/), Italy would become the first country to adopt a single regulation on wine sustainability (with voluntary certification), as the result of a synthesis between the current public protocols, such as Viva and Sqnpi, with private ones, such as Equalitas (in the fourth paragraph: “introducing the principles of sustainability, as a synthesis of the best certification systems existing domestically”). And, always according to the decree, it can also be extended to other farming sectors. This would be the continuation of a journey begun with the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy of 1992, which introduced the first incentives to farming companies that wished to improve their environmental sustainability in their respective production systems, adhering on a voluntary basis to the initial low-impact production regulations or the commitments envisaged by organic farming.

“In this phase,” Blasi continues, “it’s important to link European incentives to this objective: a mass of resources that the country has never had available before. Among the requests from the Recovery Fund is a request for digitalization added to the measurement of the benefits of sustainability. The road is therefore that of moving towards that process defined by the European Union for the green-digital transition. Let’s not forget that, in the next 18 months, whoever decides on the use of resources,” Blasi comments “will decide the future of the new generations.”

What’s the need for sustainability certification?

“The wine world,” according to the President of Equalitas and Federdoc, Riccardo Ricci Curbastro “is the receptor of the desire for change. Nothing in wine is ever at a standstill: it’s produced in the wake of tradition but with great attention to everything that is new on the market. And once again there’s great attention from consumers paid towards the future of the planet.” Therefore, communicating to those same consumers of the revolution that is taking place––both from an environmental point of view, but also from a social and economic standpoint––becomes the next step towards the future.

“At the base of everything” adds Vice President of Equalitas, Michele Manelli, “there is the vision of businesses that are not satisfied with showing themselves in compliance with labour laws along the entire production chain, but want to rather demonstrate to everyone and first of all to consumers, thanks to the instrument of the certified collective brand, how can we combine productivity growth and at the same time the quality of work in a broader sense. Ideally we can say that by consuming this ideal bottle of wine we intend to produce, we can contribute to an ever improved society.”

An investment that pays off

The long journey covered so far is brought up by the President of Gambero Rosso, Paolo Cuccia: “Already in 1982 the United Nations had touched on the issue of sustainability, adopting the World Nature Charter. Then, in 2016, our system made the so-called non-financial balance mandatory, i.e. relating to sustainability. When Gambero Rosso decided to embrace the Equalitas project, the big fear was that certification could turn into another tax for the world of wine, already too subject to bureaucracy. In actual fact, certification immediately proved to be a new opportunity, instead. Two aspects prove this: one, today the most advanced markets recognise a premium price for sustainable wines and this constitutes a return for those who invest in sustainability; two, important subjects for wine exports, such as the monopolies of Northern Europe and Canada, will welcome and choose only sustainable wines. These are two aspects that make us understand how this path is now inevitable. This is the way: there are no alternatives.”

And speaking of the single Mipaaf protocol, the President of Gambero Rosso takes a further step forward, “In the project,” he says, “the Ministry of Education should also be involved. In fact, Covid has marked the end of an era and the beginning of another. In the new age, however, learning must be different and must be permanent. Italy has conquered the primacy of production, but in order to also reach the high ranks of value in strategic markets, it needs to grow culturally also in terms of sustainability. This is why we are convinced of the fundamental role of constant learning.”

Equalitas and Luci sul Lavoro together for the permanent round table Wine-Labour

Meanwhile, Equalitas has signed an agreement with the Luci sul Lavoro event, organized by the European Institute of Documentation and Social Studies and the Municipality of Montepulciano. The first objective is to set up a permanent round table on the theme of Wine-Labour that acts as an active observatory on fundamental issues, such as welfare and the so-called giving back (literally “restitution”), in order to continue to transfer along the supply chains, and therefore virtually on the finished product, the best work practices. “Sustainability,” adds Ricci Curbastro, “doesn’t only mean producing organically, but also being attentive to economic and social aspects. For this reason, the collaboration with Luci sul Lavoro and the idea of proposing the creation of a permanent round table on the Wine – Labour theme was perfected. The negotiations will monitor, develop and promote active labour policies aimed at the organisational improvement of the supply chain and its sustainable development. A sort of active observatory, which could benefit from the information collected in the field with the sustainability audits relating to the various schemes, starting with Equalitas and Mipaaf’s nascent single standard.”

The three pillars of the Equalitas sustainability

Born in 2015 from the collaboration between Federdoc, Unione Italiana Vini, the CSQA-Valoritalia group, 3A Vino and Gambero Rosso, Equalitas represents a reference model for the wine sector in promoting sustainability according to the three social, environmental and economic pillars (discussed at the presentation during Vinitaly). There are already 17 certified wineries from the North to the South of Italy, in addition to a further 24 companies in the contracted supply chain, or in the process of obtaining certification. The last to join were the Tuscan Ricasoli and the Caviro group. But it’s also worth remembering examples of entire territories, such as PRO.S.E.C.CO. Doc, the program of the Consortium by the same name, that’s preparatory in establishing a sustainable management system for the Denomination, as also done by the Tuscan Consortium of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Doc.

by Loredana Sottile

As appeared on the September 24th, 2020 issue of Tre Bicchieri

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