02.18.20

What Equality Means and Why It Matters for Constellation Brands


By Robert Hanson – EVP and President, Wine & Spirits Division

Early in my career, I understood that I could not bring my best game to bear unless I could bring my whole self to work every day.

However, that experience and understanding is far from unique to me as an out and gay man. It holds true for all of us – regardless of your race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or anything else.

Equality, to me, is when you can show up – period. It’s when the perspective you bring as both a professional and individual is not only respected but valued.

Since learning the proud news that Constellation recently received a top score of 100 points on the 2020 Corporate Equality Index for LGBTQ equality, I’ve spent some time reflecting on that word – equality. Not just what it means, but why it matters – for Constellation, our industry, and business at large. In this letter, I want to take a moment to express why myself and this organization are passionately committed to taking a leadership position in diversity and inclusion and continuing to drive change.

We understand much work lies ahead but embrace that journey and realize our goals will not be achieved unless we treat diversity and inclusion as a business imperative. That understanding is one of the things that attracted me to this company. It’s the fact that we have a Chief Diversity Officer, we have a director of Diversity & Inclusion, we track in rigorous ways the progress we’re making on addressing underrepresented groups across our employee population, and we’re engaging in real dialog across the enterprise through all of our Business Resource Groups.

To continue to outpace our industry, we must view ourselves as servants to our consumers. The only way we can continue to connect with them authentically is by having empathy for them, which is dependent on having an employee base that is truly representative of all the diverse consumers we serve. Without it, you’re left with a group of people who think they understand what the marketplace is looking for, but don’t necessarily have the perspectives and experiences to be making those judgment calls. Infusing our organization with that empathy will not only lead to results we can be proud of financially, but also proud of how those results were delivered.

This also means we must constantly evaluate how we’re showing up in the marketplace. For example, if you look at the composition of the consumer base in the U.S. today, the power of spend is increasingly multicultural and controlled by female heads of families. If, in turn, you look at the most underserved consumer targets in beverage alcohol, it just so happens to be multicultural and female consumers.

SVEDKA’s “Bring Your Own Spirit” campaign and some of the recent Kim Crawford positioning are examples of how I see us bringing forward and actioning our commitment to equality in the marketplace.

For SVEDKA, the fabric of the brand is to celebrate your personal individuality and your own spirit – whatever that may be. It’s brought to market in a way that’s ageless, multicultural in orientation, and addresses gender fluidity in a way that feels real and accessible.

As for Kim Crawford, many brands target women in stereotypical ways, while Kim Crawford’s consumer can be slim or curvy, be bold or introverted – it doesn’t matter. Whatever her appearance or disposition, she’s a woman of strength, character and substance.

Modelo and Corona communicate to the general market consumer and to Mexican-American and Hispanic consumers through a position of true empathy. There’s an essence to those brands that’s uniquely Mexican in their heritage, but it’s brought to the general market in a way that holds true and is authentic to what those brands stand for.

My point is this: We can’t speak to these consumers if we don’t have those consumers working in our buildings.

Yes, insights can be found quantitatively. But I believe you get the best ideas and results through fact-based intuition. Businesses that don’t understand and embrace this tend to stall.

More can and should be done. Personally, I believe that business should not only be a source of economic opportunity and value creation, but a force for positive change in this world. Business can be as influential as any force or organization when you consider that business is inherently global and touches consumers of all different associations.

We must understand, consider, and embrace the weight of that power as we work to build brands that people love, by building a company that’s truly reflective of the people who love them.