Have a Cold Bud Light, Not a Woke One
By Anson Frericks
The brewer has fallen in line with other companies engaged in “stakeholder capitalism,” which prioritizes broad social issues over shareholder value.
It wasn’t always this way. I worked at Anheuser-Busch for 11 years, rising to U.S. president of sales and distribution before leaving in 2022. The firm was focused on increasing shareholder value and did so in part by offering a high-quality and, at the time, decidedly apolitical product: Bud Light.
In 2018, BlackRock’s Larry Fink encouraged CEOs to “serve a social purpose” beyond “financial performance.” This new trend pushed many companies, including Anheuser-Busch, away from delivering value to shareholders and toward “stakeholder capitalism,” in which companies serve all stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, employees and communities. To implement this shift, companies like BlackRock tout ESG—environmental, social, and governance—reporting.
Anheuser-Busch fell in line with the ESG fad, despite evidence showing it harms shareholder value. In 2020 it launched a Global Diversity and Inclusion Council. In 2021 it trained about 9,800 workers in “bias breaking” and over 2,000 in “psychological safety.” It subjected all senior executive to individualized “D&I”—diversity and inclusion—dashboards, tracking the demographic composition of their teams.
This corporate embrace of stakeholder capitalism is carried out by people like Alissa Heinerscheid, Bud Light’s vice president of marketing. Shortly before the Mulvaney partnership, Ms. Heinerscheid claimed Bud Light needed to be more “inclusive” and said its “fratty image” was “out of touch.”