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Case Studies Brown-Forman

Delivering Industry-First Stakeholder Engagement


Brown-Forman, the company behind well-known brands such as Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, Herradura, and Southern Comfort, has been a leader in the spirits industry for generations. Today, over 140 years after its founding, with the support of committed senior management and a dedicated corporate responsibility team, the company has also become a leader on the corporate responsibility agenda.

Over the past ten years, SustainAbility’s work with Brown-Forman has included the development of the company’s sustainability strategy, brand integration, social investment projects, and the design and execution of several significant stakeholder engagements. While this case study focuses on dialogues held several years ago, our stakeholder engagement work with the company continues to evolve and develop in real time.

Industry-leading stakeholder engagement

Brown-Forman works with a diverse array of stakeholders and collaboration with those stakeholders is critical to advancing the company’s alcohol responsibility program, in particular.

The company has a history of working alongside industry on alcohol responsibility; however, it has been increasingly looking for opportunities to work more directly with retailers, distributors and other stakeholders – all of whom are critical to address complex alcohol-related problems. Through the SustainAbility-led dialogues, we were able to help them explore how all actors might work together for greater collective impact. When the dialogues began in 2011 they were the first of their kind in the industry.

Initiating meaningful conversations

SustainAbility developed a set of unique stakeholder engagements that were designed to initiate a meaningful conversation about the company’s role, stakeholders’ expectations and future innovations related to responsible alcohol consumption.

“SustainAbility has been a valued guide and sparring partner as Brown-Forman strives to embed corporate responsibility into everything we do – not an easy task for a 140-year old company with a broad portfolio of brands.”

Rob Frederick, VP, Director of Corporate Responsibility

We convened high-level executives from Brown-Forman, key distributors and retailers, restaurant groups, leading academics, and NGOs such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

We then facilitated discussions around alcohol misuse (or abuse) and its consequences, what Brown-Forman should and could do about it, and encouraged stakeholders to think about what they might do together to promote responsible alcohol consumption.

Generating new ideas

The discussions created new ideas around responsible retailing and overcoming barriers to collaboration and helped Brown-Forman discover new ways to incorporate alcohol responsibility into marketing and sales. Several integrated programs and partnerships developed as a direct result of the engagement, including a collaboration between Brown-Forman, its retailers and the non-profit BeMyDD (designated driver) as well as deeper commitment to the important work of Responsible Retailing Forum and Responsible Hospitality Institute.


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