Wine producing as benchmark for sustainability?

Learning responsible leadership from Californian wineries


Managing a company these days should be more than just giving out orders and expecting profit at the end of the month. As Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains in his book “Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the making of Meaning”, those who pursue to build good business are creating an enjoyable work environment for their organization’s workers, through which a business’ (or any organization’s) “balanced scorecard” improves, thereby contributing to healthier and more sustainable societies at large. Californian wine making can be a perfect example of good business through their sustainability practices that these days are almost worldwide applied.

Business is now our most crucial institution, so it has an obligation to the quality of life not just of its employees, but also of society. Good Business reveals how business leaders, managers, and even employees can find “Flow” and contribute not only to their own happiness, but also to improved organizational performance as well as to a just and evolving society.

The importance of Californian wine making dates back to the late 18th century when Spanish missionaries planted their first vineyards to produce wine for masses and also for daily life. Today there are about 4,400 vineries – even though the Prohibition law between 1919 and 1933 ruined about 90% of the industry – ranging from small, family owned „boutiques” to large corporations. The reason that makes the coexistence of these many vineries possible is hidden in the geological diversity of the region, that varies from Mediterranean to continental and also influenced by pacific climate. Climate, soil, sun and water combined with knowledge, dedication and attention to details give the uniqueness and quality of these wines.

In the early 1990s winemakers and growers around the town of Lodi realized that in order to be able to grow healthy and high quality grapes that produce delicious wines in the upcoming future, they must implement practices that preserve the environment (Environmentally Sound), contribute to the society (Socially Equitable) and are economically feasible to implement and maintain (Economically Feasible). The combination of these three practices is called sustainable practices.


The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) as a nonprofit organization created in 2003 is a pioneer in promoting sustainable practices in the California wine community. Those vineries that are already implemented the Sustainable Winegrowing Program are taking action in conserving the water and energy, protecting air and water quality, enhancing relations with employees and communities, and preserving local ecosystems and wildlife habitat:

  • Limited resources – Effective use of water that is an increasingly limited resource due to frequent drought in California is enormously important. Managing the effective usage of water has the greatest impact on wine quality. Energy efficiency is directly linked to the pumping of water.
  • Awareness – Health of soil, water and air are the key elements of grape quality, that’s why it is a priority for growers to use sustainable practices to maintain a nourishing ecosystem. These practices includes the reduction of pesticides by continuous awareness and monitoring of the field and also the preserve of biodiversity and wildlife.
  • Community – Most California vintners and growers live nearby their vineyards and wineries meaning that their dedication for sustainability is more inevitable. Striving to provide a healthy environment by the preservation of natural landscapes, increasing the economic vitality by employment, volunteering opportunities and tourism are key elements of their engagement for the community and neighbors.

It is no coincidence that the story of the serious game FLIGBY takes place in a fine Californian vineyard, the Turul Winery – the scenery is a perfect background for taking such decisions that helps coworkers to get into flow and/or protect the environment, in other words: to acquire the practice of good business that includes sustainability.