As Accolade Wines launches its Stakeholder Partnership Charter, Caroline Thompson-Hill, the company’s managing director for Europe, explains why this is a crucial move for the wider trade

I joined the wine trade when I was 22, back in 2005. It’s safe to say it wasn’t the most progressive industry back then. I, along with many others, put up with a lot of inappropriate behaviour – that seemed to be the only way to get on. I remember feeling uncomfortable frequently, and it has left me with a lasting feeling of not really belonging, despite having spent my entire career working in this field.

I did think that things had moved on with the times though, and while there is always more work to do, we were making plenty of progress.

A few things that have happened at recent events have made me realise that I was naïve to think that, and that standards have not changed nearly enough. Today, in 2023, people are still experiencing unacceptable behaviour that is discriminatory. And most heartbreakingly, many victims believe that tolerating it is their only option.

So in some ways it feels like things have not changed very much since 2005. But one difference is that I now have the platform to act, and can hopefully help accelerate the desperately needed progress.

I am a leader at one of the largest wine companies in the world, and we believe we have a responsibility to lead the way in terms of modernising the industry and hopefully serving as an example for others.

It is for these reasons that our team at Accolade Wines has recently launched our Stakeholder Partnership Charter, or to put it simply, our Respect Charter.

This lays out our commitment to providing environments where customers, partners and our teams feel safe, included, and where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. It also gives our people the confidence to know they are supported, and that they do not have to endure inappropriate behaviour at any industry events or in any stakeholder interaction.

The Charter sets out what our partners, customers and stakeholders can expect from us, and in return, what we expect from them. It includes our commitment to:

  • Being clear on expectations around professional behaviour and conduct
  • Taking a zero-tolerance approach to direct or indirect discriminatory behaviours, bullying, harassment or contravention of law
  • Not enabling environments or a culture where behaviour falls short of our expectations
  • Working together to encourage the responsible consumption of alcohol at organised events
  • Creating an environment where everyone is empowered to highlight failings in conduct, and have a clear process for the reporting of issues.

An important part of the Charter is that is has a clear escalation procedure, so any issues are communicated and dealt with. I want our team at Accolade, and all our stakeholders, to know that the days of having to tolerate inappropriate behaviour are over.

When I mentioned this initiative at a panel discussion recently at London Wine Fair with Queena Wong, there was genuine energy for us to share this more widely as it was discussed how the wine industry is behind in such things, with behaviour accepted in 2023 that just shouldn’t be.

So in terms of what we want to achieve – it’s simple really: an environment and industry where everyone feels safe, included and is treated with dignity and respect.

I hope this is something that others in the industry choose to support or even better, copy and paste.