Fairhills Wine Ad a Big Issue

16 Jul

A few days ago an ad sponsored by Fairhills caused some controversy in the UK media. The ad was placed on the tabards of vendors of The Big Issue, a publication sold by homeless people to offer them the chance at a legitimate income. Some vendors protested wearing the vests because they felt the association with a wine company could potentially further stigmatize them as “abusers”. So, just how smart a move was accepting the support of a wine brand for the Big Issue, and isn’t Fairhills running the risk of negatively coloring all the good work it is trying to do?

Bernard Fontannaz, CEO of Origin, part-owner of the Fairhills brand with the community of Fairhills, responds:

I read with interest the article of BBC 4/Bristol regarding the FAIRHILLS’s sponsorship of the BIG ISSUE jackets and I am pleased that, at least, the debate on alcohol related abuse has begun. The article is, paradoxically, in line with what we are trying to achieve with FAIHILLS which is, to be a wine company which takes responsibility for alcohol abuse, to do more than put a health warning on our back label.

We have been doing this in our fairtrade project in Rawsonville in the Cape, for years with success and we are now formalizing it with the opening of our FAIRHILLS Alcohol Treatment Center.

That is all good to do it here in South Africa, where the needs are big, but we wanted to contribute in countries where we sell our wines. As we all know the Cape does not have the monopoly on alcohol related abuse.

In order to do so we thought that by sponsoring the Big Issue sellers, and in doing so helping them in their task to sell more and make a decent living, we will contribute to help people who fall out of the track sometimes due to alcohol abuse.

I do believe that we are acting responsibly and in fact, are trying to be consequent with our involvement in the alcohol industry. We are a stakeholder in it and we need to assume responsibility for the good and the bad.

With that money, we could have bought an ad in a glossy magazine to promote our product providing some good exposure and contribute to the bottom line of the publisher, but what difference will it have made to Pat or to Shane Hayton? Not much I guess…

With their new tabards any BIG ISSUE seller will have a lot more visibility and recognition which will help their sales and speed up their reinsertion in society.

The prove is in the pudding as BIG ISSUE is recording some peak sales since the introduction of the tabards!

By helping willing people to get re-inserted in society we are true to our conviction of a responsible business with a social dimension.

I would welcome the reporter of BBC4 to contact me as it seems he or she did not manage to contact us so far.

In the meantime we will keep up the good work and be consequent.


*Read the response of The Big Issue founder, John Bird.


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