Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified helps farmers and winemakers demonstrate their dedication to preserving and protecting natural and human resources. SIP Certified is a rigorous sustainable vineyard and winery certification with strict, non-negotiable requirements, committed to standards based on science and expert input, independent verification, transparency, and absence of conflict of interest.
The program’s award winning rigor and integrity have earned it the reputation of being the gold standard for sustainable certification. That’s why we can offer you great wines you can trust are made in a way that protects the people and the planet.
A Look at People, Planet, Prosperity
SIP Certified is dedicated to the 3 P’s of Sustainability – People, Planet, Prosperity. We are committed to our ‘3 P’ approach, ensuring that both natural and human resources are protected, all of which means you can enjoy wine that has been grown for the greater good.
We realize that how we farm impacts things beyond our fence line, so we independently verify and certify practices that protect our community, our workers, and our environment.
- Social Responsibility – We offer competitive wages, medical insurance, training, and education because each worker is a valuable resource.
- Water Conservation – We regularly monitor soils, plants, and weather, irrigating vines only when needed.
- Clean Water – We keep water clean by growing grasses to reduce erosion and filter storm runoff.
- Safe Pest Management – We introduce beneficial insects, attract raptors, and plant enriching cover crops to keep vineyards healthy.
- Energy Efficiency – We minimize tractor use to reduce our carbon footprint, and use alternative fuels and energy sources like solar and wind.
- Habitat – We create wildlife corridors to give animals access to traditional watering holes and food, helping to maintain biodiversity.
- Third Party Audit – We verify adherence to SIP’s strict Standards through third party documentation and onsite inspections.
- Improvement – We annually update and regularly peer review the farming Standards as Best Management Practices evolve with new science, technology and research.
How the Program Works
The Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified program certifies that vineyards and wineries meet a strict threshold for environmental and human resource protection. The program relies on independent verification and inspection, is free from conflict of interest, and is 100% transparent with regards to the standards and rules.
Applicants can choose to certify their vineyard or winery or both by implementing the rules covered in the Standards. The Standards are based on a 1,000 point scale, 500 for Requirements, 500 for Management Enhancements. In order to be eligible for certification, applicants must meet all Requirements plus a minimum of 50% of the applicable Management Enhancement points.
Practices are verified annually by a third-party inspector and blinded inspection reports are reviewed by the Certification Advisory Committee to determine eligibility. Wines and foods (like grape skin flour and grapeseed oil) can carry the SIP Certified seal on their packaging when they are made with at least 85% SIP Certified fruit as verified by an inspection. Participants with both certified vineyards and wineries can use the SIP Certified Vineyard & Winery seal.
The certification Standards are a “living document” – as science, technology, and research developments become available the Standards evolve. A Technical Advisory Committee reviews one to three Standards chapters annually and oversees external peer review of entire program every five years.
Since 2008, SIP Certified has infused grape growing and wine making with a sense of responsibility.
- SIP Certified began with 3,700 certified acres in three counties in 2008.
- Today, there are over 40,000 certified acres throughout California representing 200 organizations.
- There are 2.3M cases of wine representing 30 brands bearing the SIP Certified seal being sold around the world.
- SIP Certified is proud to have a 90% retention rate. Organizations that become SIP Certified stay in the program.
20 Years of Work in Sustainable Farming
SIP Certified evolved from the innovative and award winning programs of the Vineyard Team, a local non-profit dedicated to sustainability since 1994.
In 1996, the Vineyard Team (developers of SIP Certified) pioneered the innovative and award winning Positive Points System (PPS) – the first self-assessment for vineyards utilizing a whole farm, integrated approach to vineyard management. Since its inception, over 1,000 evaluations representing 60,000 acres were collected. The PPS helped educate and guide hundreds of growers towards adopting practices that protect both human and natural resources.
This framework was used by notable organizations to develop self-assessments for other agricultural industries and received national recognition from government and environmental groups.
In 2002, industry leaders discussed the possible shift from self-assessment to third-party certification that would be meaningful, measurable, and verifiable. In 2003, technical stakeholders began developing the Standards.
It took four years to develop the Standards and over 50 environmental, regulatory, and academic representatives independently reviewed our work.
How is SIP Certified Different than Organic?
SIP Certified goes beyond the USDA Organic process because organic only addresses prohibiting synthetic pesticides and fertilizers without considering other resource concerns. While you’ll find organic wines that are also SIP Certified, the SIP Certified process addresses additional farming methods, looking at sustainable practices on every level, from farm labor to agriculture – from energy conservation to water quality. It is an additional way for consumers to know they’re buying sustainable wines that give back to the land and community on every level:
- Considers the whole farm – verifying the farmer’s commitment to environmental stewardship, equitable treatment of employees, and business sustainability
- Contains practice and performance based requirements – every Requirement and Management Enhancement is demonstrable and auditable
- Prohibits the use of high risk pesticides – (toxic air contaminates, cholinesterase inhibitors, groundwater contaminants, California and federally restricted materials)
The chart below illustrates the additional sustainability measures included in the SIP Certification:
How is SIP Certified Different than CCSW?
Both Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified and the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) programs are important supporters of the sustainability movement and encourage responsible winegrowing.
The following are some of the distinguishing elements of the SIP Certified program:
- SIP Certified is a practice & performance based program — Every requirement and management enhancement has to do with practices and is measurable, therefore auditable (ex. You must have a winter cover crop). CCSW is a process based program (ex. Do you have a plan to prevent erosion during winter?)
- SIP Certified is a distinguishing program with a minimum threshold for eligibility — Not all growers can qualify. CCSW is an inclusionary program designed to buoy the California wine industry toward more sustainable practices.
- SIP Certified prohibits the use of high risk pesticides
- The SIP Certified seal can be used on a bottle — A bottle of wine can bear the SIP Certified Seal, given it has undergone a chain of custody audit confirming it is made with at least 85% SIP Certified fruit