More and more businesses are embracing the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility, and for the Buttery family who own and operate Gemtree Wines in McLaren Vale, it acts as a the guiding principle that drives their business practices. Before getting into the detail of how they do this, it’s worthwhile explaining what Corporate Social Responsibility means (CSR). It’s a concept ‘…generally understood to mean that corporations have a degree of responsibility not only for the economic consequences of their activities, but also for the social and environmental implications. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘triple bottom line’ approach that considers the economic, social and environmental aspects of corporate activity (Human Rights).
According to George Kell, a journalist for The Guardian, a company’s long-term financial success is influenced by its commitment to ‘social responsibility, environmental stewardship and corporate ethics’. He says it’s no longer just an ‘add-on’ service and highlights several trends that suggest CSR is here to stay. They include a shift toward greater transparency, a growing awareness of the impact that business has on society and the environment, the recognition that resources are limited and under ever increasing pressure, the ability to gain access to new markets by behaving in a socially responsible manner, and the growing number of businesses across the world that are actively engaging in corporate sustainability. Kell’s comments highlight the need for PR practitioners to incorporate CSR into the organisation’s overall business objectives and its PR campaigns.
Gemtree Wines is an impressive example of an organisation whose CSR activities span the entire business, from the construction and design of their impressive cellar door right through to the labels on their bottles. Below is a list of some of the many CSR activities they engage in:
- Plantation and recycled timber make up most of the cellar door building – no slabs or concrete footings were used in the building process
- Two large water tanks means that the cellar door doesn’t have to be connected to the mains water
- The landscaped gardens surrounding the cellar door comprise of drought resistant and native plants
- A solar panel system offsets energy use
- The gardens are irrigated from the dams on the property and a water treatment system makes best use of waste water
- All food scraps are put into a worm farm – this generates a high nutrient organic liquid that is then fed to plants
- No herbs or pesticides are used on the vines – Gemtree is an ‘organic certified’ wine grower
- Biodynamic farming practices are used to improve soil fertility
- A biodiverse wetland was established on a 10-hectare parcel of land that has now become a ‘haven for native birds, plants and animals’.
(Gemtree Wines, 2016)
Full details of Gemtree’s sustainability practices can be viewed here.
In addition to their environmentally sustainable practices, the Buttery family also support a variety of groups, charities and partners. The family is also keen to promote other food and wine producers in the region who are committed to sustainable practices. This desire to help the broader community extends to local artists with the winery giving them an opportunity to showcase their work at the cellar door
By engaging in sustainable and socially responsible activities, Gemtree Wines clearly recognise that their role as a business extends beyond the financial bottom-line. The family is not only passionate about the environment and the vineyard ecosystem, but they’re also happy to help others who display a similar commitment within McLaren Vale and the broader Fleurieu region. The Gemtree example allows PR practioners to appreciate how an organisation has wholly embraced the practice of CSR. It is not merely an ‘add-on’ as George Kell (2016) describes. In Gemtree’s case, ‘it symbolises everything that they stand for’ (Gemtree, 2016).
Fleurieu Film Festival, 2016 Gemtree wines on going organic and the McLaren community, 1 January, viewed 22 October, 2015, Link to video