Apart from being known for producing top quality wines with structure, finesse and a high level of drinkability, Backsberg is also well-known for our commitment to sustainable practices.
In 2006 Backsberg was certified carbon neutral. At the time, we were the only farm in South Africa to be certified as such and one of only three wineries globally. This status was achieved after years of research and application of methods to reduce and offset the farm’s emissions. To mention just a few, these have included switching to energy efficient lighting, downscaling to smaller tractors and vehicles, bottling in lightweight glass bottles and planting thousands of trees. Furthermore, we are currently in the midst of a five-year biofuel project, with the hope of becoming an entirely off-the-grid operation.
Carbon neutrality, however, is only one part of our sustainability stance as we seek to care as much for our people as we do for the environment. “For us, sustainability means operating under what we call an umbrella of care: care for the environment, for our product and for the people who work for us. South Africa unfortunately has a troubled socio-political past and this is something my family has always acknowledged. During the Apartheid years, my father ran a night school, which was illegal under the prevailing regime,” explains Simon Back – 4th Generation Owner and Company CEO. This was some time ago, but Backsberg did not lose speed after democracy dawned in 1994; since then, we have funded over 100 years of tertiary education for underprivileged students, some of them the children of our farm workers. In addition, we have assisted many of our farm workers in obtaining the deeds to their homes, effectively freeing them from dependence on the winery.
Backsberg is also a certified WWF Conservation Champion and has implemented environmental initiatives including setting aside a portion of our land to protect the endangered fynbos biome, an insect predator programme to reduce the need for chemical sprays and a queen bee project to protect the local bee population and promote pollination. While all Backsberg wines are not certified organic, the company shares much of the philosophy and methodology of this movement. “Although staying on the frontier of sustainable practices can be challenging, it is a challenge we gladly accept and we remain committed to doing what we believe is right”, ensures Back.
Not only in light of the current drought in the Western Cape but as general practice, we take careful measures to decrease our water consumption on the farm. Apart from using borehole water, we use drip irrigation and varispeed pumps to ensure minimal evaporation and better control of water usage. A mulching program has also been put in place to reduce weeds and evaporation, thus nurturing cooler soils and more microbial life.
Going forward, we are committed to finding ways to improve our sustainable practices and put the environment first, all while maintaining our high standard.
“Ultimately, our goal at Backsberg is to produce wines which are first and foremost delicious, while leaving our land, people and community better off than before. We hope, too, that our commitment to sustainability can inspire others to do the same.”