When making an investment, you are making a purchase. You are acquiring a piece of a business. You are exerting your power to make a difference. Your decision to invest or not to invest is a form of voting with your dollars. If a business enables or turns a blind eye to an activity, such as gender-based violence, then you can choose not to invest and withhold your money.
I had an opportunity to attend a presentation by Joy Anderson with the Criterion Institute (http://www.criterioninstitute.org) on Finance as a Tool to Address Gender-Base Violence. I am a fan of Joy’s and appreciate her work that advocates the use of investing as a tool for improving the world.
As an investor in craft brewing businesses, your investment has the ability to make a difference. This ability has greatest impact at the time you make your investment decision. There are other times when you can influence a business in which you have already made an investment, but those are a topic for another day.
I had a number of take aways from Joy’s presentation:
- Gender-based violence is more than rape and assault
- Gender-based violence impacts the performance of the business
- A business should create a ‘safe’ zone that extends beyond the physical premises
- Failure to collect information leaves the business without the ability to manage this problem
Gender-based violence goes beyond physical abuse and includes anything that causes a person to have fear or to feel like a piece of property. Any harm or threat of harm that can get in your head will act to reduce the quality of employment. The continuing disclosures by #MeToo victims are high level demonstrations of violence, but gender-based violence can include wait staff getting pinched on the ass while serving drinks.
Gender-based violence will cause a person to perform below their capabilities. If a person is worried or unhappy or mad about their supervisor demanding sex or grabbing a feel or showing more respect for their barrel brewing system, their mind won’t be on their work and certainly won’t be on giving their best effort. If a business has a reputation for permitting gender-based violence, the business will not attract and employ the best people who can choose to work somewhere else where they feel safe.
Gender-based violence may occur anywhere between where a person leaves their home and their work station. A craft brewing business that saves money by operating out of a warehouse in an industrial district should assure that parking in the lot or walking from the bus station does not expose an employee to an attack. If the business requires an employee to work off hours, does a safe environment extend from door to door?
Gender-based violence cannot be managed if there is no data. The rubric of “You can’t manage what you don’t measure’ also applies to gender-based violence. If there is no internal reporting process that does not force an employee to go through the supervisor that is the problem, then the employee has no recourse to due process like a courtroom without a judge. Where the supervisor may be the boss or largest shareholder, the reporting process should include you as the investor.
When evaluating an opportunity to invest in a craft brewing industry, ask some questions that will allow you to determine if the issue of gender-based violence is being managed. Ask questions about business polices, about practices and about communications. Simply asking the questions will have an impact. However, the greater impact will be accomplished by making your requirements for managing gender-based violence a condition of your investment. No management. No money!
Your impact can extend beyond the craft brewing business to any supplier or reseller. A craft brewing business can make a choice in suppliers of grains, hops, yeasts, barrels, canning equipment and service providers as well in their business customers of distributors and retailers based upon their policies, practices and communications regarding gender-based violence. This is another question you can ask in your ‘due diligence’ review.
It’s hard for a craft brewing business to raise money. If you disagree with how the business conducts itself, you can make it harder.
Karl Dakin, Executive Director
Brewing Investors Guild