Katie Jackson, VP Sustainability and External Affairs, Jackson Family Wines

Katie Jackson, VP Sustainability and External Affairs, Jackson Family Wines

When my family founded Jackson Family Wines in 1982, the intent was to build a wine business that would last for hundreds of years. This multigenerational approach means making responsible business decisions for the long-term health and well being of the lands it farms, the people it employs, and the communities where it does business. The company recently created its first Jackson Family Responsibility Report to take this approach further by setting ambitious five-year goals around such issues as water and energy use, waste diversion, greenhouse gas emissions, and social equity.

When speaking about sustainability with customers or trade partners, I’m reminded that people tend to forget sustainability addresses not just environmental impacts but also social responsibility. As a family business, we want our employees to thrive and recognize the purpose and passion they bring to our long-term vision.

To put this into action, my family made the decision two years ago to increase the minimum base wage paid to full time, non-commissioned employees to $15 per hour. We also launched the JFW Cares Foundation, an endowment to fund scholarships for our employees’ children and to help employees in times of need (including medical emergencies and unforeseen financial demands). We believe that no member of our work family should be without a safety net.

Additionally, a company-wide volunteer program offers paid time off to employees so they can give back to their communities. Just this year, 890 employees participated in the “Rooted for Good” volunteer month, contributing a total 4,775 hours to 18 organizations, meaning the participation rate grew to 60 percent.

We’ve also worked on strengthening company culture by providing training opportunities for professional advancement. In 2014 and 2015, the company offered more than 11,000 hours of employee training through 147 learning opportunities. In 2016, that grew to more than 14,000 hours of employee training and professional development.

In 2011, while filming an episode of the TV program Undercover Boss, company CEO Rick Tigner was handed an English-Spanish dictionary by a vineyard manager, because that was how she communicated with her team. Realizing language was a barrier to communications, he challenged the HR team to develop Jackson Family Wines’ dynamic language program. We feel it truly sets us apart in the wine community today.

Unlike traditional ESL classes, the language program offers five class levels to best fit each individual’s needs. Spanish-to-English and English-to-Spanish classes are offered during work hours—one day per week for 10 weeks. So far, hundreds of employees have taken advantage of the program; supporting their desire to be bilingual means they can not only grow in their careers but also improve their quality of life outside of work.

In addition to teaching English, the company trains all supervisors using their native language, so they can be more comfortable as leaders and can better retain information. To ensure everyone feels included at internal company gatherings, real-time Spanish translation is provided so everyone can be an active participant.

Access to language resources has helped to make Jackson Family Wines an employer of choice. More than that, it’s been inspiring to see those who once struggled with English project confidence and display excitement to learn beyond the language class setting. When I see employees eagerly engaging in one of our professional development courses, I know we’re making great strides toward positive change.


Katie Jackson is vice president of sustainability and external affairs for Jackson Family Wines