Beyond the price of beer and equity

When I was drafting this post, I wasn’t thinking of how much beer is consumed around the Super Bowl, nor did I realize the bright light the NFL would shine on the topic of equity. And yet, here we are. The story is about going beyond the top-line of the price of beer and of equity. Making space for equity is also the topic in February for both the Mainstreaming on Main Street® (MoMS) Connecters Table and Servant-Leader roundtable. Learn how to be a part of the conversation below.

Comments and sharing are always welcome.

In this post:


Story: Going beyond the top-line

I have been drinking nonalcoholic (NA) beers for almost 18 years. Since then, the market has changed and so have the offerings. My current beer of choice is Riverwest Stein NA, after drinking Heineken Zero for a while. Heineken is a company based in Amsterdam, with operations around the world. Riverwest Stein NA is brewed by Lakefront Brewery, located within walking distance of my home.

I recently compared the prices of the two brands. I had known that the Riverwest Stein was more expensive than Heineken, but I had not known by how much. It turned out that a six-pack of Riverwest cost $8.99, compared to $7.99 for the Heineken. That’s a difference of $1.00 or 12.5%. For an old guy who remembers when a gallon of gas cost $0.21, that seems a dramatic difference. In reality: 1) I can afford to pay an extra $1.00 for my preferred brand of beer, and 2) there is more to my choice of beer than the price.

The top-line difference between the two beers seems significant but that is not necessarily true. In economics textbooks most problems are premised with the statement, “Assume perfect information.” All I know is that the price of Riverwest is more than the Heineken. The costs of producing the beer and putting it on the grocery shelf are not known. You can see Heineken Zero advertised at many of the Formula One races broadcast around the world. Lakefront Brewery has a more homespun approach to marketing. I suspect the advertising budget of Heineken Zero is comparable to the total value of Lakefront Brewery. The lower price of Heineken Zero may yield a higher profit margin than Lakefront Brewery is able to achieve. If this were the case, Lakefront Brewery puts a higher percent of my purchase into putting the product on the grocery shelf. Since I care where my money goes when it leaves my hand, this is important to me.

One of the down sides of having an MBA and engaging with diverse people, is an innate discomfort with simply looking at the top-line differences between two choices. Where I grew up there was a sense that the simplest way of looking at things was the best way. I characterize this perspective as, “All’s what you have to do is…” If the question is what is the cheapest beer I’m willing to drink, Heineken might be my choice. If the question is, “What is the best use of my money when buying beer?” I’ll take the Riverwest Stein, thank you. Full disclosure: I think Riverwest Stein NA is a good tasting beer and I’m happy to pay the extra $0.17/can to drink it.

The seeds for this piece were grounded in the December 2021 Servant-Leader Roundtable. Our conversation centered on building community in the midst of inequity. The conversation focused on the challenge of community rather than a definition of equity. As the roundtable progressed, I found myself drawn to the relationship between community and equity. I recognized my concept of equity is interdependent with community. By the time the roundtable closed I had the seeds of my own understanding of equity and its relationship to community.

Diving deeper brought me to more meaningful definitions. Most of the statements I found approached equity through an institutional lens. A useful definition of equity comes by way of the Stanford Social Innovation Review: “Equity is fairness and justice achieved through systematically assessing disparities in opportunities, outcomes, and representation and redressing [those] disparities through targeted actions.” Urban Strategies Council (Kania, et. al., 2021).

This definition includes an explanation of what equity is (fairness and justice) and it addresses a path to the achievement of equity. I like it but wanted to go beyond the top-line definition.

In my experience developing and facilitating topics of race, relationships, and inclusion; the most effective programs have planted seeds and focused on understanding the small steps that have a big impact in the long-term. This definition was informative but did not lend itself to the cultivation of seeds that sprout the growth of equity. My thoughts went back to my choice of beers. Yes, sooner or later it always comes back to beer.

My role as a Barrier Knocker Downer calls on me to go beyond the top-line to get to the heart of issues. In this case, to where the action takes place. For me, a working definition of equity is: Equity is the ability to engage as an equal participant with those holding authority and power in addressing barriers to resources and outcomes . (Lococo, 2022).

Both statements are definitions, not solutions. Both statements plant seeds: one for policy guidance and one for engagement. Neither are prescriptive in how, when, and where those seeds are likely to sprout and grow.

Join the conversation

I facilitate two gatherings each month for change makers. The topic for February, 2022 is “Making space for equity.” The Mainstreaming on Main Street® (MoMS) Connecters Table will take place on Thursday, February 17 from 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm (CST). The Servant-Leader roundtable will take place on Thursday, February 24 from 8:00 am to 9:15 am (CST). The roundtables are first-person conversations driven by the wisdom of the people in the room.

For more information:

  • TheMainstreaming on Main Street® (MoMS) Connecters Table is a community of practice by/and for persons with disabilities (PWD) who engage in professional/skilled settings. The MoMS Connectors Table is a forum for PWD to explore topics related to the dance of being a professional and having a disability.
  • The Servant-Leader roundtable taking place on the fourth Thursday of the month is an opportunity for diverse people to gather to explore the intersection of Servant Leadership and systemic disenfranchisement. These roundtables are founded in the Servant Leadership principles articulated by Robert K. Greenleaf.

To join the MoMS Connecters Table, contact me directly. To receive notices and links to the Servant-Leader roundtables, click here to join the mailing list.



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