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Alex Alvarez Has Undergone a Personal Transformation

Alex Alvarez Has Undergone a Personal Transformation

Alex Alvarez will admit: two years ago, if you asked him what he’d been reflecting about most, he wouldn’t have put mental health and self-care at the top of his list.

The pandemic changed that, and today the senior vice president and chief production and sustainability officer at Brown–Forman says he’s given a lot of thought to the challenges employees have faced in the last couple years. Moving forward, he would like to see his organization and communities continue to focus on the importance of mental health, which he cites as both a human and business issue.

“When you consider everything transpiring in the world, all the volatility and uncertainty affecting us daily, it’s a big load on everyone, all while trying to lead with energy and optimism,” Alvarez says. “I know that I have felt this burden personally as have others in the company. Our emotional and physical health are areas that we have been talking about as a senior leadership team and deliberately opening awareness and support within the organization.”

He notes that the past eighteen months of his career have required resiliency, drive, agility, and care, as Brown–Forman kept over 2,500 production colleagues across the world safe and highly engaged throughout the pandemic. This was no easy feat in the age of social distancing, but everyone exhibited strong teamwork.

“Throughout the pandemic, we leveraged science-based, practical, and creative approaches to place the health and wellbeing of our employees— the ‘essential workers’ of Brown–Forman—at the forefront, all while keeping our operations running smoothly and the production of our spirits and wines going strong,” Alvarez explains.

“All of our Brown–Forman values came into play in making our decisions, but perhaps none more so than teamwork and trust. Simply put, we had each other’s backs with whatever came at us.”

The company also found an opportunity to combat the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). “We converted an entire distillery at Jack Daniel’s to make alcohol for hand sanitizer to do our part in responding to the crisis,” Alvarez says. “More recently, we have been navigating the supply chain shortages and disruptions along with many other companies. At the same time, we’ve successfully adjusted to some changes in our business such as the rapid growth of can-based ready-to-drink products.”

Additionally, Brown–Forman made great strides with its DEI goals and elevated its global sustainability strategy, Alvarez says. “The events happening in society, whether it be the calls for greater justice and equity or the pressing threat of climate change, emboldened us in these areas where we were already focusing. Our more ambitious dialogue, learning, commitments, and goals have created positive momentum and enthusiasm within Brown–Forman.”

COVID-19 changed the way we work, and Alvarez notes the “real blurring of lines” between life and work. He rightfully points out that some things will not change, such as the need for onsite staff in production facilities, but he’s especially grateful to this group for dealing with challenges so well. And while he’s not immune to the benefits of working from home, citing greater interaction with his family as a huge plus, he admits that yes, he’s eager to return to more in-person gatherings.

“I draw energy and ideas from those around me,” he says. “And our business by its very nature is full of socializing and hospitality. While I feel like the ability to connect with colleagues around the world on video calls and the more inclusive participation this brings is a benefit I’d like to see continue, I also can’t wait for the day when more of us can be together in person.”

In terms of the future of his industry, Alvarez anticipates an ongoing emphasis on the health, wellbeing, and safety of employees and workplaces, as well as an active engagement in ensuring supply chain issues are not an impediment to business. “Given the current issues with the supply chain, we are going to continue to shore up our supply chain system and diversify our supply base, removing risk where it makes sense,” he says.

He also sees a continued focus on sustainability. “We depend upon natural resources and need to be better stewards of them, for the good of our company, our communities, and our environment,” Alvarez says. “The expectations, incentives, and rewards for doing this well will only continue to rise. Progress requires all of us.”