Systembolaget fails to identify shortcomings at vineyards in South Africa and Chile

REPORT | 12 December 2013
Workers cutting grapevines at one of Koopmanskloof’s vineyards in South Africa. Photograph: Steve Kretzmann

The sustainability work initiated by Systembolaget is ambitious and important. There are however no clear signs of improvements at the vineyards where the risks for adverse human rights impacts are most severe.

In the report From Grape to Glass – Corporate Social Responsibility in the Wine Supply Chain, Swedwatch investigates the sustainability work of Systembolaget and four Swedish wine importing companies. The state-owned Systembolaget adopted its Code of Conduct in 2012 and places great emphasis on utilising audits in order to monitor if wine producers are following the Code of Conduct. Despite the ambitious efforts by Systembolaget regarding responsibility in the supply chain, the problems concerning low wages, discrimination against unionised workers and harsh working conditions, remain at the vineyards in South Africa, Chile and Argentina.

The report, which is based on interviews conducted with workers at vineyards in Chile and South Africa, shows that the wages are insufficient to cover basic costs for food, accommodation, education and health care. At three out of four work places, workers felt that the employer discriminated against unionised employees. Only at one out of four work places, did the employees experience that they were able to organise freely without resistance from the management. In South Africa, workers testified to being subjected to great health risks by handling pesticides without proper protective equipment.

The investigation also shows that the work of the Swedish wine importers in ensuring adequate working conditions varies greatly. One of the report’s conclusions is that Systembolaget will not be able to address the structural problems regarding low wages and discrimination against trade unions by focusing solely on compliance with the Code of Conduct. Systembolaget is therefore advised to increase and strengthen their contacts with local trade unions, non-governmental organisations and the employees at the vineyards.

Made in collaboration with: Afrikagrupperna, Solidarity Sweden-Latin America