Making a difference through building Community is a founding principle of Oldenburg Vineyards. The question is, what does this mean?
I like to think that Community is a three-way proposition. Internally, what can the business do to create a positive impact? Externally, what can we do to make an impact on our local community? Finally, our client relationships develop Community, which in turn helps us achieve the first two levels of Community.
Internally. Within the business. At the centre lies staff training and ongoing education. Our ambition is to create a positive growth environment. Real empowerment comes from giving our staff the room to grow, progress and ultimately fuel their own growth. We achieve this growth by offering help with training and education, and by finding ways to provide continuous on-the-job training.
Housing. Over the last 20 years, we have worked with our long-term employees to solve their chronic housing problems. In June of this year, we completed the program of moving all farm staff from accommodation on the farm, to housing in the local community of Kylemore. By giving them the title of their houses, we have created long-term security for a dozen households – and the protection of an asset with long-term value, an asset they have never had previously. We believe this makes a real difference.
Externally, we work with a local school in Kylemore called AITSA! The school is dedicated to improving the education standard so often found lacking in state schools. They are having great success, but they need private funding. We have provided this funding on various levels: we have sponsored the building of two classrooms, provided funding for operating expenses through sales of our <CL° wines, and we pay the school fees and transport for some staff and former staff’s children.
We believe that building internal and external community are necessary commitments to play our part in getting South Africa moving in the right direction. To fund this expense, we have dedicated > 1% of our sales to these efforts, on an ongoing basis. This level of funding is a high bar in terms of commitment and where our client relationships can play a role.
One wine thought we consistently hear, is that South African wines offer considerable value for the excellent quality they offer. We want to change this soundbite to: South African wines are of excellent quality – full stop.
How do we make this change happen?
By forming a solid community with our clients through our wine clubs, we can work more closely with them and the local community to solve this perception problem. There is no quick fix. Instead, over time, we will continue to explain that great wines come at a cost, and that only when people pay accordingly for top quality, can the people in the vineyards reap the fair benefits of their hard work.
Furthermore, by asking those who love and buy our wines to be prepared to pay that little extra, we can continue to adequately and sustainably fund the programs we have already established. In truth, we are not waiting to act. Instead, we realized that taking the first steps to make a difference and to help improve people’s lives is something that cannot wait. So we have taken those first steps, knowing that – in time – our efforts (with the help of others) – will bring us closer to solving this structural, long-term problem, one step at a time.