The important topics of diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) are increasingly coming to the forefront as companies continue to examine their workplace cultures and start to make improvements. Those in leadership positions are recognizing the value of DEI and finding ways to change hiring practices, offer educational training opportunities regarding the topic, create a more welcoming environment, and much more. In recent years, some beverage alcohol brands have started to follow suit, but the industry as a whole is still lacking when it comes to DEI. Read on to learn about who’s setting a good example and how to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in your beverage alcohol business.
What is DEI?
Diversity refers to the fact that there are different types of people represented in the workplace. Differences can include race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, age, (dis) ability, socioeconomic status and/or political perspective. Diversity provides different perspectives, which can be invaluable in many ways.
Equity works to ensure that everyone has access to the opportunities and resources they need to succeed. This is especially important when it comes to groups that have been historically marginalized and institutionally disadvantaged.
Inclusion tries to create a workplace where everyone is welcomed and feels valued and respected and is given the opportunity to succeed.
Current State of DEI in the Alcohol Industry
In March of 2022, The Women of the Vine and Spirits organization partnered with Deloitte and released a study that examined the current state of DEI in the industry and they found that there is “significant room for improvement.” In fact, only 10% of women surveyed reported that there has been “significant positive change in the alcohol industry’s attitude towards female employees over the past five years.”
Previous studies have lumped the beverage industry together with the broader hospitality industry. This broader overview failed to provide a narrowed focus on individual industries. While the beverage industry may be related to hospitality, each industry has its own unique challenges that should be studied individually. Fortunately, the study from Deloitte and The Women of the Vine and Spirits collaboration, focuses specifically on the alcohol trade and provides some key insights into the state of the industry and where it needs to head regarding DEI.
Another survey titled “Women Raising the Bar” found that less than 20% of women reported that their company has successfully created a better work environment. Meanwhile, 43% responded that their company has been “somewhat successful” with DEI.
Clearly, it is time to start prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion in the beverage alcohol industry.
How Do You Demonstrate DEI in the Drinks Industry?
Improving DEI may feel like a challenge as it is often perceived as an abstract concept, but here are some concrete steps that can be taken to create better DEI in the drinks industry.
1. Invest in Underrepresented Communities
Certain companies are investing in programs that work to support underrepresented groups both inside and outside the beverage industry. For example, Diageo took part in the Congressional Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Partnership Challenge, which is working to cultivate future Black leaders.
Davis and the Black Bourbon Society have also been working with alcohol brands to help them understand why the experiences of people of color are an asset to companies. In the summer of 2022, BBS worked with Jim Beam to host an “Open Door Tour” that visited five different cities to support black-owned restaurants and bars that were struggling with the effects of the pandemic. The events drew in 1,200 attendees over six weeks, and raised more than $78,000 that was given to local organizations.
2. Recognize the Presence of Unconscious Bias
This requires leaders to walk employees through the impact of unconscious bias on individuals and highlight various actions that work to reinforce these biases. Once employees have some basic education regarding unconscious bias, the next step is to encourage them to examine, analyze, and question what sort of biases and assumptions guide their own thinking.
3. Be a Proponent of Equity in Pay
It is up to managers and company leaders to create an even playing field, make sure each employee has equal access to opportunities, and compensate everyone equally. Analyzing data can be the key to identifying who is being underpaid and taking action to correct the mistake. Not only can data reveal pay gaps, it can also provide insight into underlying issues that are driving behavioral patterns in departments.
4. Design and Implement a Training Program
Diversity training should be at the heart of DEI strategies and efforts. This type of training will help employees deal with conflict, understand different communication styles, discover personal identity beliefs, and much more. Diversity training goes beyond examining biases and it tends to be more effective when participation is voluntary and not mandatory.
It is also important that diversity training caters to each specific company and their culture while also aligning with their goals for improving DEI. Internal resources are a great place to start, but it is also a good idea to bring in outside consultants to help develop customized training.
5. Incorporate Technology into Diversity Training
Diversity training can make some people feel defensive, but according to Joelle Emerson in the Harvard Business Review, incorporating technology into the educational experience can help to diffuse the situation and help people be more receptive and introspective. As Emerson notes, “Training can be designed to reduce defensiveness by explaining that we don’t have unconscious biases because we’re bad people – we have them because we are people.”
6. Periodically Shake-Up Your Teams
Creating diverse teams means more perspectives, which can be a key to creativity and innovation. Homogenous teams should add someone from a different age, gender, cultural background, etc. The more we learn about the impact of diversity on creativity, the clearer it becomes that having multiple perspectives fuels innovative thinking and introduces new problem-solving techniques and ways to connect thoughts and ideas.
7. Celebrate Holidays of all Cultures
Acknowledging different cultural holidays is a simple way to create awareness around diversity and cultivate inclusivity. This can be something as small as ending meetings or calls by asking how team members will be celebrating the holiday. The company intranet can also be used to spread awareness of different holidays. At the same time, leadership should reinforce these efforts by being more flexible and understanding of the needs of different employees around this time. They have less availability and/or require more flexibility with scheduling and meetings.
8. Make Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) Accessible
Employee resource groups are a great way to build connections among employees. The key is to make it easy for employees to take advantage of these groups. Since these groups are employee led, leaders can help facilitate the groups by providing toolkits or guidelines to help get them started. It is also good for leadership to ask participants to share the projects and initiatives that the ERG is working on. When these groups have the support of senior leadership, the ERGs are more likely to successfully increase awareness and visibility while also driving innovation in a way that aligns with larger business goals.
9. Encourage Ongoing Feedback
The best way to truly understand what may be going on underneath the surface at any company is to encourage feedback. Collecting information through surveys and other approaches will enable leaders to make more informed decisions and work to eliminate patterns of discrimination and biases. Anonymous feedback from employees can help companies immediately address critical issues and develop a long-term strategy for improving DEI.
10. Examine Company Policies
It may be the case that certain policies and approaches to managing interpersonal relationships can actually be creating more space for discrimination and perpetuating the same problems. In fact, poor interpersonal relationships is one the main motivations behind employees leaving companies. By critically examining existing policies, leadership can turn negative processes into more positive ones that foster DEI throughout the workplace.
11. Track Progress Over Time
Many of the issues that stand in the way of better DEI are deeply entrenched. Improvements aren’t going to happen overnight. Addressing and correcting institutional problems will take time, especially when you consider that hiring and onboarding new people can be a large part of the process. That makes it important for companies to identify certain benchmarks that will allow them to see whether they are actually meeting goals. This can be an important tool in understanding which tools are working and which need to be re-evaluated.
Why are Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Important?
In order to achieve lasting and meaningful changes, the brands within the alcohol industry need to take the initiative to improve DEI. Not only is it the right thing to do, it also has a direct impact on a company’s bottom-line. There is a direct correlation between a more diverse team and a stronger, more financially sound company.
It is also important for companies to think about what they want the future to look like and what steps they can take to make that vision a reality. Companies have the power to begin by reshaping their own company culture to reflect the standards they want to see on a larger scale.
Ultimately, companies have to adapt and evolve or be left behind. The next generation of alcohol beverage consumers is always emerging. Fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion is essential to connecting with new customers and continuing to adapt at pace.
More Examples of DEI in the Beverage Alcohol Industry
In 2021, Pronghorn, with Diageo as the main investor, was launched to directly address DEI issues. Pronghorn began with research that revealed that Black Americans make up 12% of alcohol consumers across all categories of beverages, yet they account for just 7.8% of the industry’s workforce, and a mere 2% of executive leadership. Pronghorn is trying to close this gap by asking everyone along the supply chain, from suppliers, distributors, and retailers, to fill 1,800 positions with people of color over the next 10 years.
This request seeks to go beyond allowing companies to simply market their diversity programs to consumers and actually follow through with initiatives. There is a big difference between hiring a DEI expert for appearances and actually employing new practices.
To reinforce their efforts, Pronghorn formed a partnership with The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) with the intent of having major spirits brands increase their hiring from within the Black community. These latest efforts are being spurred by research from Pronghorn that shows there are 11 essential areas where new alcohol brands need the most help. They took this information and made a commitment to bolstering minority-led brands through mentorship and investments with the more specific goal of investing in 57 Black-owned brands over the next 10 years.
Urban Grape, which is a leading retailer in wine retail sales in Boston along with being a top-10 member of top 2022 retailers, has also been making notable strides in the DEI sector. In 2020, the business launched the Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color at Boston University. This accolade is meant to encourage and support people within the Indeginous, Black, and People of Color communities to explore careers in the wine industry and make these careers more accessible.
DEI in the Beverage Industry Wrapped Up
With businesses in every industry being faced with the task of advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, it is no question that the beverage alcohol industry needs to catch up. Embracing the challenge and demonstrating leadership in DEI will be good for not only the brands individually, but the industry as a whole. Companies within the beverage alcohol industry can lead the way and set the example for others by investing the time and resources needed to improve DEI.
What is the current atmosphere in the alcohol industry when it comes to diversity, inclusion, and equity?
A study led by The Women of the Vine and Spirits and Deloitte found that there is significant room for improvement.
What is diversity, equity and inclusion?
Diversity means that there are differences among people in groups that enhance the workplace. Having different perspectives based on gender, race, religion, etc., fuels creative thinking and innovation. Inclusion refers to the fact that everyone is welcome regardless of differences and equity means that everyone has access to the same resources and opportunities.
How do you demonstrate diversity, equity and inclusion in the drinks industry?
Leadership should promote pay equity, provide training opportunities, create awareness around unconscious biases, acknowledge all holidays, mix up teams, encourage ongoing feedback, examine existing policies, and create a system for tracking progress.
Why is diversity equity and inclusion important?
Organizations that prioritize DEI are able to foster creativity, adapt to evolving market conditions, and strengthen their bottom line.
What are some examples of DEI in the beverage alcohol industry?
Pronghorn is an organization that is helping minority owned and led brands by offering business advice and investing in the companies. They have a 10 year plan for investing in 57 Black-owned businesses in the industry.