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Leading the Charge on Sustainability Efforts

Why Oregon’s Sokol Blosser Winery decided to go all-in with its social and environmental initiatives

Sokol Blosser
Photo courtesy of Sokol Blosser.

Since it was founded in 1977, Oregon’s Sokol Blosser has been a leader in sustainability efforts across the state—and the country, really.  But in 2014 the winery upped the ante when it decided to go down the path of B Corp Certification, one of the first dozen or so wineries in the world to do so. The certification, given by the non-profit B Labs, based in Wayne, Pennsylvania, involves a meticulous assessment that evaluates businesses across all industries on “social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability” and recognizes the top performers in the field. In 2018, when the winery went through recertification, it scored 30 points higher than it did the first time around, earning it the title of Changemaker. We talked with CEO Alison Sokol Blosser about the demands of B Corp and why the certification made sense for her winery—and how the achievement has set the bar even higher for wineries across the board.  —Megan Krigbaum

SevenFifty Daily: Tell us about why you decided to go down the path of B Corp Certification?

Alison Sokol Blosser: We’ve pursued all different kinds of sustainability certifications over the years, but this one was really appealing because it was such a holistic look. In the past we’d been LEED certified, but that was very specific and isolated to new construction. We pursued organic farming, which was very isolated to farming practices. With this we thought, “Well, we’re really sustainable across our whole operation, and this certification really fits who we are and how we do it.” Honestly, we thought it would be pretty easy. But it was a real eye-opener because [while] there were so many things we were doing, either we weren’t tracking them or we didn’t have defined goals. When we first got B Corp certified, we were just barely over the minimum level and we thought, “Wow, there’s so much more that we can do.” It added the rigor that we needed to be much more methodical about what we’re doing. We have our Green Team that meets every couple of months, and we identified certain areas where we were just not documenting or tracking well enough, and we started with all those things.

What’s the problem you were trying to address by getting involved in this?

We’ve always said we were sustainable, but there wasn’t a definition around it. And we always thought of ourselves as doing good and being really good to our employees and good to our community, but there’s never really been a definition of it. This gives us a really clear way to have a third party say, “Yeah, you are good to your community. You are good to your employees and to the environment.” And not only is B Corp saying “You’re doing good here,” but it’s showing us where we could be doing better.

What’s been your biggest lesson learned in this so far?

To ask more questions and dive deeper. I remember one of the questions on the assessment was about how you treat hazardous waste. And I thought, “Well, of course we don’t put hazardous waste in the garbage! Who puts hazardous waste in the garbage? That’s so basic.” But then B Labs actually gives [a checklist of items, including] batteries and lightbulbs. And I was like, “I don’t think I can say that 100 percent of our lightbulbs and 100 percent of our batteries don’t end up in the garbage.” So right from the beginning, we did a big campaign and made it easy for everybody who works for us to bring batteries and lightbulbs from home to be recycled. It’s really [about]asking those deeper questions and not just staying at the surface, to make sure that we truly are walking the walk.



What’s been your biggest achievement thus far?

It’s been really great to see our whole team rally around these sustainability initiatives. The initiatives have been so important to my mom and really important to [my brother] Alex and me, but I was always nervous that it would be us forcing this, but it doesn’t feel forced. Everyone is just as supportive and interested in wanting to help. There’s also a great sense of pride that not everyone’s a B Corp, but we are. And we’re constantly improving and sharing what we’re learning so that others can learn and do it as well. It’s really great to see that throughout the whole company, it’s become something that people are very proud of and want to help keep moving the bar forward.

Who are your mentors or other people in the field who have inspired you?

My mom and my oldest brother, Nik, have been great mentors and really pushed us because they’re so passionate about sustainability and so knowledgeable as well. Within the wine industry, A to Z Wineworks/Rex Hill was the first Oregon winery that got B Corp Certification, and so they’ve been really great role models and very open about sharing their successes and challenges [and how they’ve addressed those].

What’s your favorite thing to drink?

Sparkling brut rosé.

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Which three Instagram accounts do you follow most closely?

Writer Cheryl Strayed (@cherylstrayed)—I love her perspective on the world, and her writing is, of course, beautiful. Barbara Gross (@bsgross1) from Cooper Mountain Vineyards, because she has such beautiful pictures of the vineyard and winemaking. And Bryanna Schneider Holden (@bashwashere), our export sales manager at Sokol Blosser, because she travels all over the world and manages to artfully share really special bottles of wine and the amazing meals she experiences. I love living vicariously through her!

Read more about Alison Sokol Blosser: How Sokol Blosser Designed a Purpose-Driven Business

Megan Krigbaum is a wine and drinks writer and a contributor to numerous publications. She’s editor at large for SevenFifty Daily and a contributing editor for PUNCH. And she’s the editor of the recently released “Essential Cocktail Book” from Ten Speed Press. Before going freelance, she was a wine editor at Food & Wine magazine for ten years.

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