One of the BrewDog founders has accepted responsibility for mistakes which led a number of former employees to sign a letter denouncing “toxic” attitudes at the firm, admitting these were "100% my fault". 

James Watt, who is also the chief executive of the Ellon-based beer company, issued an apology via the Equity For Punks (EFP) BrewDog forum, acknowledging the detrimental impact that some practices had on employees.

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It comes after 61 former staff members and 45 anonymous signatories, under the name Punks with Purpose, published a letter last week claiming workers experienced a “residual feeling of fear” during their time at Brewdog.

Mr Watt wrote: “This week has been tough for everyone at Brewdog. I know the events from the last few days have caused a lot of pain for all our team members and our community and I can only apologise for that. 

HeraldScotland:

“I am ultimately responsible for the culture of our business. The letter that ex-colleagues wrote to us is 100% my fault,” he added. 

“To all of the signatories and to all of our team and community who were affected by the letter, I am sorry.”

The businessman said he owed it to employees to be “candid” about mistakes. 

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He added: “In the hard and fast environment of high growth, I have all too often neglected many important people elements of our business. 

“Additionally, some PR mistakes that I have made in our past have also had a detrimental impact on culture. 

He also recognised decisions to ensure the survival of the company during the pandemic have taken a “considerable human toll”. 

“I can promise you all that I will not make these mistakes again,” he said.

“I can’t possibly have all the answers at the moment but my commitment to out team is that I am going to throw my heart and soul into working with them to fix these issues. 

“We can and will get better as an employer and here are the first steps we are taking on that journey.” 

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Mr Watt then listed a number of measures to identify and tackle problems at the firm, including an independent review carried out by an external agency before the end of the year to ensure “positive and inclusive change at all levels”.

Management will also conduct an anonymous staff survey as well as a salary review, while introducing an employee representative group to ensure that employees have a voice and a direct link to decision-makers in the business.

“Although this situation hurts a lot I am determined to ensure that we use it as a catalyst to become a better business,” said Mr Watt.

Punks with Purpose, who tweeted the apology, welcomed the statement but remained sceptical of the sincerity of the apology.

They wrote: “We would like to share the following statement made by James this morning on the EFP forum, which we sincerely hope to be genuine, and not further spin and PR.”

“While we hope this statement can bring some measure of closure to former staff, we have seen hollow apologies in the past. Claims lessons will be learned. Mistakes used as the basis for self-promoting LinkedIn posts.

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“We are not going away,” they added. “Regardless of the above statement, and despite the efforts of EFP shareholders to undermine our letter and its impact, we will now be watching BrewDog and expecting to see immediate and significant change.

The group also announced an update to their website with the ambition to “use our new platform to raise awareness of toxic workplace practice, and direct those suffering from it to useful resources.”

Unite Hospitality, who represents hospitality workers across the country, tweeted: “This is an important admittance of fault from @BrewDogJames with some progressive commitments to change @BrewDog but an employee representative group could never be as democratic or independent as a union of workers with collective bargaining rights.” 

HeraldScotland:

Former staff members had also accused the craft beer company of “vanity project” campaigns – using the example of the firm’s recent climate drive while allegedly making use of a private jet.

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BrewDog often attracts media attention for its major campaigns - such as the beer inspired by Dominic Cummings’s lockdown trip to Durham, called Barnard Castle Eye Test – and offered their venues as Covid-19 vaccination hubs.