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. Certified vineyard and wineries are committed to this ‘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.
Winegrowers realize that how wine is made impacts things beyond the fence line, so they independently verify and certify practices that protect our community, our workers, and our environment.
- Social Responsibility – Certified farmers and winemakers offer competitive wages, medical insurance, training, and education because each worker is a valuable resource
- Water Conservation – Certified farmers and winemakers regularly monitor soils, plants, and weather, irrigating vines only when needed and we measure water used in the winery to prevent waste
- Clean Water – Certified farmers and winemakers keep water clean by growing grasses to reduce erosion and filter storm runoff and filter winery water for reuse
- Safe Pest Management– Certified farmers and winemakers introduce beneficial insects, attract raptors, and plant enriching cover crops to keep vineyards healthy
- Energy Efficiency – Certified farmers and winemakers use alternative fuels and energy sources like solar and wind, minimize tractor use reduce our carbon footprint, and use insulation to increase energy efficiency
- Habitat – Certified farmers and winemakers create wildlife corridors to give animals access to traditional watering holes and food, helping to maintain biodiversity
- Business – Certified farmers and winemakers have sound business practices with a long term view to treat our employees and community with care for generations
- Third Party Audit – Certified farmers and winemakers adhere to strict Standards through third-party documentation and onsite inspections
- Improvement – SIP Certified annually updates our farming and wine processing 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 include both Requirements and 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 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.
SIP Certified applies to individual vineyards, wineries, and year specific wines and does not certify organizations.
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 41,100 certified acres throughout California and Michigan representing 200 organizations.
- There are 2.6M 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 Sustainability
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. A year later, technical stakeholders began developing the Standards (farming rules) and the vineyard program piloted in 2008. Because sustainable winemaking does not stop in the vineyard, a program for wineries was piloted in 2016.
It took four years to develop the Standards and over 50 environmental, regulatory, and academic representatives independently reviewed our work.
Award Winning Program
From its start as the award winning Positive Points System to today, SIP Certified is proud to stand with other environmental leaders working to preserve our natural and human resources. Here are some recent awards for the certified sustainable winegrowing program.
2017 Green Initiative of the Year Commendation
2017 Environmental Leader Project Awards
2016 Association of Environmental Professionals Certificate of Achievement
2015 Department of Pesticide Regulation Integrated Pest Management Innovator Award
2015 International Green Industry Hall of Fame
2015 John Muir Association Non Profit Conservation Award
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 Certified:
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 test well pump performance at least every five years). CCSW is a process based program (ex. Pump efficiency was considered as one element of vineyard irrigation management.)
- 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 more high risk pesticides — Cholinesterase inhibitors; toxic air contaminants; known ground water contaminates; both California and federally restricted materials.
- SIP Certified wines have been available since the 2008 vintage — 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.