About one and a half years ago, I received an email from B-Corp community during my position at Suvla Winery in Istanbul. They invited me to join a brunch at Dem Café. Honestly, I had never heard about the community before but I loved the café’s breakfast, so I decided to attend.
That day, I met lovely people there and here is what I learned about B Corps:
B Corporation is a global non-profit organization actively working in US, Europe, South America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In order to be certified, the companies need to score well on an online assessment of ‘social and environmental performance.’ It requires high level of transparency, legal accountability and the ability to solve social and environmental problems. As they mention at their website:
‘Collectively, B Corps lead a growing global movement of people using business as a force for goodTM. Through the power of their collective voice, one day all companies will compete to be best for the worldTM, and society will enjoy a more shared and durable prosperity for all.’
I very much enjoyed the meeting, the spirit of the young community and their superb communication skills. Recently, I contacted one of the first B Corp wineries in Oregon: Sokol Blosser Winery for an interview and just few days later, I’ve read on the news that Fetzer Vineyards from California has also announced that they are a new B Corp. I felt very glad to see the increasing number of wineries interested in sustainable production with transparent policies.
The Ceo and Co-President, Alison Sokol Blosser kindly answered my questions. Before going into her detailed answers, I would like to give brief information about the winery. Sokol Blosser is based in Oregon, Dundee Hills, producing high quality Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and some Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Riesling. The winemaker is Alex Sokol Blosser himself. Their main goal is to produce wines to represent their own terroir with sustainable methods. They are also the first winery to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification. Here is a short interview about Sokol Blosser Winery and their adventure in becoming a part of B Corp:
Could you briefly tell us about the story behind Sokol Blosser?
My parents, Susan and Bill, came to Oregon and planted their first vines in 1971, 45 years ago, before there was an Oregon wine industry. They had this crazy idea to grow grapes and create beautiful wines when very few others were doing so in Oregon. Today, my brother Alex and I run the ship as co-presidents, with Alex as winemaker and myself as CEO. Our winery is located on a certified organic 85-acre vineyard in Oregon’s Dundee Hills sub appellation in the Willamette Valley. With a focus on sustainability and being the best stewards of the land, B Corp-certified Sokol Blosser Winery is committed to capturing the terroir of the region as expressed through the brilliance of our estate fruit. With a primary focus on pinot noir and pinot gris, we also produce chardonnay, riesling, and small quantities of single block pinot noirs. We also make a white blend, red blend, pinot noir and sparkling wine under our evolution brand name. Our wines are distributed in every state in the US and in about 18 countries.
I can see that your wines are sold almost everywhere in US and in many international markets such as Denmark, China, Japan, and even in a wine-producing region like La Rioja, Spain. What is the key to this success?
We truly feel our wines are a fabulous expression of Oregon’s terroir, and as such have prioritized sharing our wines in limited quantities in international markets. We do this not only to spread the Sokol Blosser story, but to help elevate Oregon’s wine industry and unique wine style as a whole. We succeed by maintaining strong relationships with our partners in each country, and divide and conquer as a family and team to keep these relationships strong ongoing.
What are the challenges of being an organic winery in Oregon?
Unlike many other world wine regions where weather is generally consistent and predictable, we see wide weather variations from vintage to vintage here in Oregon. Wettest winter on record one year, hottest summer on record the next. Considering this, the fickleness of the pinot noir grape in general and our commitment to growing grapes organically, we need to be extremely proactive with our vineyard farming practices, flexible with our yield management, and both traditional and creative with our winemaking techniques. However we feel this means the grapes truly get to speak for themselves, as they sometimes seem to have a mind of their own! But that is why we love them.
How did you first hear about B Corp movement?
We were originally approached back in 2011 by Stephanie Ryan about becoming B Corp certified. As a long-time vocal proponent of sustainability practices and third-party certifications in the winegrowing community, I think we were a natural one to go through the B Corp process. However at the time we were in the midst of our biggest capital project ever – building a new tasting room which opened in the summer of 2013 – and we didn’t have the capacity to take on something else. We started working on our assessment in 2014 with the assistance of a local MBA student. Then in 2015 we were able to devote more time and energy to B Corp and complete our assessment to get certified.
Could you tell us about the process of how you became a Certified B Corp?
As I mentioned above, it took us several years to jump into the process due to other pressing projects. However like every other B Corp, we went through the rigorous evaluation process. A core group of us met regularly to complete sections of the assessment. Often we would have to go research the answer and gather data before we could complete a section. I learned a lot about our company and our practices in the process. This says a lot since I’ve been involved with the business from a very young age! I was impressed with the questions and thought that went into creating the certification process.
How does being a B Corp affect your overall business?
I love the framework that B Corp offers us to evaluate our business and ultimately become even more sustainable in all aspects of what we do. It offers clear ways to measure progress, which I appreciate and can easily use. It also offers a platform with which to have a dialogue with customers, suppliers and other businesses that puts sustainability into a context that everyone can understand. Being B Corp certified ultimately reaffirms all that we do, and connects us with a network of like-minded individuals and businesses.
And 10 words to define Sokol Blosser?
Sokol Blosser is a legacy Oregon winery passionate about sustainably hand-crafting elegant Pinot Noir.