Why this story matters:
As usual, it's too little, too late. The announcement comes after several allegations of sexual harassment from Heineken's promotional employees, also known as "beer girls", were released.
In March this year, Dutch journalist Olivier van Beemen announced the publication of his investigative book Heineken in Africa in which he revealed -- among other controversial allegations -- the dangerous working conditions of the "beer girls" in many African countries. Dutch newspaper NRC published an article on the same topic, printing many of the shocking findings from Van Beemen's book.
While complaints of sexual harassment and pressure to prostitute have been around for 15 years, the company has done very little to stop it. One of the reasons is that many "beer girls" are not directly employed by Heineken, but rather by third party agencies.
"Sex sells" is a well-known marketing strategy. But who would have thought the phenomenon would manifest itself in such degrading and dangerous ways? In the midst of the FIFA World Cup, perhaps it's time to boycott the brand and start shifting the narrative of beer drinking away from a male, heterosexual activity.
Details from the story:
- Heineken Dutch brewer will stop using "beer girls" in Mozambique to sell their product
- Facts from Van Beemen and the NRC article:
- Beer girls have been hired in 10 African countries to stimulate company sales
- Complaints of sexual harassment and prostitution have been around for 15 years
- Lagos, Nigeria: Women are “warned” that they would have to deal with “difficult” customers, they were told to “not react and not say stop” if they are harassed. They earn around 7 euros per day, which is why a lot of them turn to prostitution -- sleeping with their customers -- to make ends meet. There are hundreds of promotional girls in Lagos alone.
- 2007: Heineken was deploying about 15,000 promotional women in over 100 non-Western countries, 70 markets of which are considered unsafe for women
- It is unknown how much this promotional activity actually benefits Heineken.
- These women are not directly employed by Heineken but rather, by third party agencies.
- A spokeswoman for Heineken told Dutch media that: “Our operating company in Mozambique will not carry out any further promotional activity involving brand promoters until they can be assured the agencies they work with are compliant with Heineken policies.”
- The company is “taking steps” to counter harassment in 14 different countries at the moment.
- Heineken interviewed 181 promotional employees from 17 countries; 57 of them are said to have been verbally, physically or sexually harassed. However, Van Beemen says that many of these employees were interviewed at the office with their employer, meaning that the responses were not representative.