Leadership is Not Just for Big Firms, Smaller Ones Can Stand Up, Be Heard
I was impressed with Jackson Family Wines CEO Rick Tigner’s talk May 1 on many levels. He showed a deep understanding of the state of the business and especially international relationships shaping the industry with potential for impacting our region’s wine industry and the economy of Sonoma County.
For me, the most profound aspect of his presentation came when he observed that the U.S. wine industry is at a disadvantage, compared with other wine-producing nations, by having to pay large import fees when marketing American-produced wines around the globe – at a time when far lower duties are applied to foreign wines entering the U.S.
He showed courage by voicing a strong position calling for a reciprocal tax on imported wine to level the competitive playing field and ensure fair trade. Such a proposal did not come from Gallo, the wine industry giant that recently acquired Constellation Brands. It came from the CEO and president of a local family-owned wine business right here in our backyard.
It was gratifying to see Tigner utilize our monthly forum as a venue to take this stance and announce the company’s view on a critical issue. This bold approach did not go unnoticed by local, national and trade media that picked up the story. This could be the start of a grass-roots public affairs effort to motivate elected officials in California and D.C. to take legislative action.
Beyond demonstrating sound, ongoing leadership in the independent wine sector, evidenced by acquiring sustainability certificates for its wineries and vineyards, this firm has also taken the lead on many additional fronts. The list includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions, saving energy through the use of renewable sources, cutting water use, recycling and eliminating waste, providing employee housing, paying living wages and benefits as well as through land conservation stewardship, employee volunteerism and community support.
Tiger also focused on the need for immigration reform and ways to adjust operations to plan for a future characterized by higher temperatures by altering practices that contribute to climate change and global warming.
In each of these categories JFW assessed the situation, set goals to address each issue and is taking necessary steps to remedy its impact and footprint. The company has not only met but exceeded several of its deadlines and those mandated by regulators to achieve desired results.
Like all Alliance members, Jackson Family Wines is a valued partner. JFW is also supporter at the sustaining level and a key SCAPAC contributor at a time when our county, state and national leaders need to reassess where we are going and make necessary course corrections next year. Each SCA member has an opportunity to show similar leadership in its business, non-profit, labor organization or public elected official category.
Leadership, defined as providing guidance, direction, management and other qualities, takes many forms. Thought leadership is an important part of this process. This is just one of the roles the Alliance plays through its monthly guest speaker program as well as through behind the scenes contacts and discussions with city and county public and elected officials.
I encourage you all to become engaged in efforts to improve the quality of life of Sonoma County by becoming an influential advocate for positive change. We can, and are, making a difference.
Eric Goldschlag, President