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Nearest Green

Drinks companies take a stand against racism

July 1, 2020
By Alana House

Many of the world’s biggest drinks companies have reinforced their commitment to diversity and their intolerance for racism in recent weeks.

Pernod Ricard has announced its plan to create a crowdsourcing app that gives consumers and those affected by hate speech on social media the power to identify and report content they find objectionable directly to brands and companies.

Brands can then leverage their influence with social media platforms to help ensure the content is reviewed and removed, if warranted. The app will be an additional resource for individuals, brands and social media platforms to use in the fight to stop hate speech online.

“The world is waking up to the reality that we all have a role to play in stopping the spread of hate speech, racism and misinformation on social media platforms,” said Pernod Ricard USA CEO Ann Mukherjee.

“There is a long way to go. Movements like #StopHateForProfit are demonstrating that brands and consumers want them to take more urgent action.

“Companies like ours can and should play a bigger role in problem-solving than just withholding advertising dollars. We can create tools that make it easier for consumers’ voices to be heard when they see hate speech spreading online. And that’s what we are doing.”

Bacardi has noted: “There is no place in this world for racism, injustice, or bigotry of any kind. As the Bacardi family of brands, we are taking immediate action to support the Black community, which has always supported us. Through a donation to the NAACP, we will aid the critical work they do to ensure racial equality.

“We’re also going to approach this both internally and in our communities. We’re reviewing our organization and policies because we are committed to ensure more representation within our walls — from recruitment to leadership to employees to our partnerships.

“We won’t stop there. We are committed to discovering the most impactful ways to contribute to the Black community — including our trade and hospitality partners. This commitment to come together today will allow us to be more united tomorrow.

“The road to racial equality is a difficult one, and we are committed to taking that journey. Because today and every day, #BLACKLIVESMATTER.”

Diageo Ivan Menzes

Diageo CEO Ivan Menzes said: “We have all watched in shock at the brutal killing of George Floyd and the outpouring of protest around the world. This is not just a tragedy, nor is it an isolated incident. It is an outrage. As a leader of a global business and a person of colour, I strongly denounce any kind of racism, injustice or unequal treatment.

“The scourge of racism and injustice is found across the world and at this critical point in time, I say to our black colleagues: we stand together with you, we respect you, we hear you and we care about you. Black lives matter.

“This moment in history needs to be a catalyst. I will not allow us to be complacent about the progress we have made or to sit on the sidelines. We will deliver on our commitment to you and to society, to promote inclusion and diversity, and to take every action and step needed to make that a reality everywhere.”

Diageo has also announced the creation of the Diageo Community Fund. With a commitment of $20 million, the Fund support businesses, consumers and partners integral to the hospitality industry in Black communities across the U.S. This will include a combination of targeted donations supporting advocacy efforts as part of the economic recovery from COVID-19, training for business owners and employees, relief aid and more.

AB InBev said: “The hearts of many are broken once again by the tragedy of racial injustice. The pain, frustration and fear felt across our communities is personal – especially to our Black colleagues, consumers, and customers, in the U.S. and elsewhere. We stand with them in support of racial equality and oppose discrimination of any kind.

“While we don’t have all the answers, silence is not an option. We are listening, learning, and committed to doing what’s necessary and what’s right. Our purpose as a company drives our actions and we will continue to work for bringing people together for a better – and equal – world.”


Jack Daniel (centre, white hat) with Nearest Green’s son, George Green, to his immediate right.

Brown-Forman announced The Jack Daniel Distillery and the Nearest Green Distillery have launched the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative to further diversity within the American whiskey industry.

Nearest Green was the first known African-American master distiller. He worked for Jack Daniel Distillery until it moved to its current location in Lynchburg sometime between 1881-1884.

Both companies are supporting it equally with an initial combined pledge of $5 million to help create the Nearest Green School of Distilling, develop the Leadership Acceleration Program (LAP) for apprenticeships and establish the Business Incubation Program (BIP), focused on providing expertise and resources to African Americans entering the spirits industry as entrepreneurs.

“Generally, when companies talk about the need to improve diversity, few immediate action steps follow,” said Fawn Weaver, CEO, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey (pictured main).

“Our group is different. We are doers, and we all agreed to work together to improve diversity in our industry, and specifically, a way to get African Americans into top positions within our industry. Nearest Green taught Jack Daniel how to make Tennessee whiskey and we’re incredibly proud our companies are joining forces to further their legacies of excellence, and to make distilling and the whiskey industry we love more diverse.”

“Given our deep commitment to diversity and inclusion, I am thrilled we are coming together in this way today,” said Lawson Whiting, President and Chief Executive Officer, Brown-Forman Corporation, the parent company of Jack Daniel’s. “This collaboration allows the extraordinary friendship of Nearest and Jack, and the hope they embodied during racially divided times in our country’s history, to help us advance the next generation of African American leaders in our industry.”

Beam Suntory said: “Beam Suntory condemns racial injustice and racism in all forms, and we stand with our Black employees, partners, customers, communities and all who are frustrated that progress isn’t coming fast enough.

“As many of us reflect on how we can be part of long-term solutions to the long-standing problem of racism in our society and to achieve social justice for all, we believe that our company is made stronger and better by the diversity of our people, the strength of our convictions, and our respect for one another. We will deepen engagement with our Global Diversity & Inclusion Teams and Employee Impact Groups to help fuel our inclusive culture and affect positive change.

“Together, guided by our values, we are determining how we can best help advance social justice for Black communities as we continue to do business the right way, the Beam Suntory way. As a tangible next step, we’re committed to financially supporting the important work of the leading social justice organisations. We look forward to sharing more about further actions in the coming days and weeks.”

Constellation Brands VP, Chief Communications & CSR Officer Mike McGrew (above) said: “I believe we all have a responsibility to share our thoughts and our values more broadly. From companies to individuals, we all must continue to fuel this conversation, to have our collective voices heard, to passionately advocate for change, and most importantly to turn our words into meaningful action.

“Silence is not an option, and speaking up must only be the beginning.

“While our Constellation family is still very early in this process, we’re encouraged by actions witnessed this past week. We’ve seen members of our AASCEND team have courageous conversations with our senior leaders… and we’ve seen senior leaders and allies share vulnerabilities and steadfastly commit to being part of the solution.

“Education is key to progress and AASCEND is working with our senior leadership team to develop plans to stimulate dialogue and perspective sharing.

“But while understanding is an important first step, it alone is not enough. It must be followed by sustained action and behavior change. AASCEND is also working to outline specific actions we can take both at Constellation and within our respective communities to make a positive difference. We look forward to sharing more information in the coming days and we ask you to join us in these efforts.”

The Drinks Association has established the Embrace Difference Council to
facilitate awareness, challenge perceptions and build practices that attract, develop and retain diverse industry talent.