Diageo Partners with Dia Simms and Erin Harris to Build Diverse Economic Initiative

Diageo, a global leader in beverage alcohol, announced it has teamed up with industry veterans, Dia Simms and Erin Harris, to build an inclusive and diverse economic initiative focused on cultivating the next generation of diverse founders, executive leaders and entrepreneurs in a sustainable and scalable way. The transformative partnership, called Pronghorn, will create a dedicated standalone business with a sole focus on expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion within the beverage alcohol industry, driving meaningful and long-lasting change with impact across the total industry ecosystem. Ms. Simms was inspired to name the partnership Pronghorn after the remarkable land animal, indigenous and unique to North America, that can maintain the fastest speeds over the longest distances on land.

“It’s important that the Black community is represented on both sides of the bar, from brand creation to boardrooms and everywhere in between,” Dia Simms, Pronghorn co-founder.

“Diversifying the industry accelerates innovation and competitiveness, and our strategic approach to recruit, retain and advance the Black community and communities of color within the industry alongside Diageo North America couldn’t be more necessary and timely,” stated Pronghorn co-founder, Erin Harris. “We understand first-hand the importance of being motivated and the critical need for ownership and participation at every level of the category.”

The Black community represents 12 percent of consumers across the U.S. beverage alcohol category, but is nonetheless inequitably represented within the industry from employment and ownership perspectives. Diageo North America is addressing these inequities head-on by joining the initiative as a founding partner, with a significant anchor investment, in the launch of Pronghorn. In its initial phase, it will focus on addressing the lack of equitable representation among the Black community in the spirits industry by stimulating entrepreneurship, recruitment and retention. Through this partnership, Pronghorn will identify and nurture new brands and nourish emerging businesses through capital investment, thereby generating hundreds of new founders and thousands of participants, and disrupting from within an industry that creates $353 billion in economic value 2.

Diageo diversity Dia Simms Erin Harris
From Left to Right: Erin Harris, Pronghorn Co-founder, Dia Simms, Pronghorn Co-Founder, & Debra Crew, President, Diageo North America (Photo: Lukasz Suski)

“It’s important that the Black community is represented on both sides of the bar, from brand creation to boardrooms and everywhere in between,” said Dia Simms, Pronghorn co-founder. “We’re proud to partner with Diageo to make sure that the Black community has a seat at the table. And anywhere there isn’t enough room at the table we’ll build a bigger table.”

“We’re honored to work alongside industry veterans and visionaries as they work to create a blueprint to effectively diversify an entire industry,” said Debra Crew, President, Diageo North America. “We recognize that the Black community within the category has been underrepresented and there are few sources of funding available. Our aim is to swiftly fuel change in the right direction with the qualified and motivated guidance of the creators of Pronghorn.”

This latest effort aligns to Diageo’s recent announcement of Society 2030: Spirit of Progress, a global 10-year action plan to help create a more inclusive and sustainable world. As part of this plan, Diageo has committed to increase representation of global leaders from diverse backgrounds to 45 percent, achieve at least 50 percent representation of women in leadership roles, and ensure our community programs will be designed to enhance diversity and inclusion of previously excluded groups by 2030, among other goals.

In North America, Diageo is elevating communities of color, particularly in the areas of education and hospitality. For example, as part of the $20 million Diageo Community Fund, the company funded permanent endowments at 25 Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the U.S.; was a founding contributor of the ‘Raising the New York State Bar’ Restaurant Recovery Fund to help businesses adjust to COVID-19 requirements; and financially supported COVID-19 recovery efforts for Chicago neighborhoods by helping to create more public spaces.

1 Estimates are based on the economic impact of the supplier tier within the beverage alcohol industry: https://www.wswa.org/data-and-impact/economic-database
2 According to the Economic Impact of American Wine & Spirits Distributors: https://www.wswa.org/data-and-impact/economic-database