New Belgium and Bell’s Brewery hire DEI director

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Courtney Simmons. Courtesy Bell's Brewery

New Belgium Brewing and Bell’s Brewery appointed a director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the recently combined company.

Fort Collins, Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing and Comstock-based Bell’s Brewery — both subsidiaries of Sydney, Australia-based Lion after Larry Bell sold Bell’s to Lion last fall — said Wednesday, June 1, they chose Courtney Simmons (she/her/hers) as the newly combined company’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

In her new role, Simmons will serve a company whose workforce spans 1,300 employees across four states.

Prior to joining New Belgium and Bell’s, she served as DEI manager at the company formerly known as Herman Miller in Zeeland (now MillerKnoll), where she worked to embed DEI practices throughout the employee lifecycle, including talent pipelines, learning experiences and courageous conversations.

She serves as chair for the Equality Michigan Action Network, which advocates and lobbies to ensure LGBTQ+ individuals can live their best lives in Michigan; volunteers with Make-A-Wish Michigan as a wish-granting volunteer helping kids with life-threatening illnesses; and serves on the diversity and inclusion committee for Varnum law firm.

“DEI presents an enormous opportunity for the craft beer industry to evolve and expand in a positive direction, and New Belgium has made some important investments in this work. But it’s no secret that we, like so many breweries, have a long way to go,” said New Belgium CEO Steve Fechheimer. “As a central part of our human-powered business model, we will continue putting our co-worker and community well-being at the center of everything we do to ensure our business reflects all people, cultures and identities.”

Carrie Yunker, executive vice president at Bell’s Brewery and an 18-plus-year employee of Bell’s, described Simmons as a “phenomenal leader” and a “much-needed truth-teller.”

“She’s really well-positioned to help push us to address hard realities about where we are falling short in championing equity and building diversity as a company, within our industry and beyond,” Yunker said.

New Belgium and Bell’s have been working toward equity and inclusion in the brewing industry over the past few years.

Co-founded by a social worker in 1991, New Belgium spent the past three decades developing a people-centered business model based on the idea that co-workers drive the business forward, and in return, the business puts co-worker and community well-being at the center of everything. The brewery is a certified B Corporation; hired a diversity and inclusion specialist in 2019; is an active member of the Human Rights Campaign Business Coalition for the Equality Act; advocates against discriminatory public policy; and received a perfect score of 100% on HRC’s corporate equality index Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality in 2021. New Belgium also has a range of internal affinity groups and adopted a scalable philanthropy model that prioritizes investment in marginalized communities.

Bell’s has been the presenting sponsor of Kalamazoo Pride since 2013, and its team members have been seeking to amplify underrepresented voices in the industry since the first iteration of their co-worker brew series in 2019. The twice-annual series celebrates the individual experiences and identities of LGBTQ+, veteran and Black and Latinx employees.

Together with New Belgium, the combined company said it is prioritizing the work of DEI by expanding human-powered business practices across the entire business.

In her new role, Simmons will work to bring underrepresented voices forward to influence the leadership team’s thinking and how decisions are made. Initial plans include focusing on key areas of the business — including trainings to embed a culture of inclusion, recruiting, retention and advancement, employee benefits and services, brand marketing and community outreach.

Simmons also will join the Human Powered Business Steer Co. with the executive team and help center equity and inclusion governance within the company.

Reporting to Katie Wallace, chief environmental, social and governance officer, Simmons will work to add resources to make it easier for all team members to engage in making Bell’s and New Belgium’s spaces inclusive and equitable while supporting broader diversity in the industry and beyond.

“At the end of the day, if we’re not engaging all our co-workers and ensuring that our workforce reflects all the people, cultures and identities among potential customers in our global marketplace, well then, we’re not reaching all the people we can, selling all the beer we can, making all the profits we can or having the greatest positive impact we can,” Simmons said. “I’m inspired by our potential to kick ass at this effort.”

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