Kelowna winery breaks new ground with Certified B Corporation standing

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Tourism Kelowna

KELOWNA - Ezra Cipes, the CEO of Summerhill Winery, first heard about being a Certified B Corporation two years ago at an eatery in Vancouver.

“I walked into this fast food place on Pender Street, called SMAK Healthy Fast Food, and they had the B-Corp decal on their wall, above the area where the trays and waste goes,” he said.

“They were serving everything in compostable containers, and all the curry and rice bowls were from ingredients from local farms, and the names of those farms were there.”

Seeing it resonated with Cipes.

“It gave me confidence in that little cafe, and that’s when it clicked with me the power of the program and what it means. It got me onto the train of thought to bring that to Summerhill.”

This week, the environmentally focused Kelowna winery got its B Corp designation, which on one hand should inspire the same thoughts in wine consumers as it did in Cipes when he first saw it.

On the other, it’s still making Cipes think about what to do and how to be in the days ahead.

“The designation means we’re a for-profit business that exists with a mission to be a force for good in the community and for the planet as a whole,” he said. 

It may not seem like too much of a departure from the norm for anybody who has followed Summerhill.

Founded by Cipes’s parents in 1988, it has always been known for being an environmentally focused, entrepreneurial business. Cipes’s dad Steven focused on organic certification, providing transparency for the way they farm and make wine. Now, as he steps back, this designation almost pays homage to that vision and offers a clear path ahead.

“This business certification is a really nice way to not only cement his values but also give the company an opportunity to grow from an entrepreneurial business to a company that is really empowered, well managed and where the team members carry the vision, hold the vision and enact the vision,” said Cipes. 

"It’s an opportunity for us to continue to be better and to learn."

And for Cipes, as a business leader, it opened offers a path to create that culture and offer a new level of transparency for the way they run their business, meaning sharing financial discussions and the likes in a new way.

Transparency is a key element of the designation and it's something that consumers and Summerhill staff will value.

"We spend a huge amount of our lives at work. It’s where we give our attention and prioritize our lives so we can earn money. So bringing values, meaning and care into our work lives is very powerful," said Cipes.

There are more than 2,700 Certified B Corporations from more than 130 industries and 60 countries, but Summerhill Pyramid is the first winery in Canada to gain the certification and one of just 26 wineries worldwide.

"We welcome thousands of visitors onto our farm from all over the world. The founding vision to bottle among the very finest wines in the world has been achieved, with trophies from the highest levels of competition in France, England, and around the world to show for it,” said Cipes in a blog post.

“But the greatest legacy is the change that we strive to nourish daily. Our greatest goal is an ongoing one of service to humanity, engendering a culture of gratitude for people and planet with every heavenly sip of our organic wine.”

The certification process uses credible, comprehensive, transparent, and independent standards of social and environmental performance, assessed in five categories: governance, workers, customers, community, and the environment.

You can find Summerhill’s impact report here.

Finding other B Certified Corporations can easily be done with their directory.

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