When you think about corporate social responsibility – i.e., good corporate citizenship – the cigar industry probably isn't the first that comes to mind. The cigar business is small and only appeals to a handful of customers. Though I've been a cigar smoker for close to 15 years and was a consumer business strategist for a major consulting firm, I'd never thought about the possibility of corporate social responsibility in the cigar world – it jest never occurred to me.
While I was walking the Drew Estate factory in Esteli, Nicaragua, though, I began to hear the cues that signal an effort to be a valuable member of the community. The company – which produces the Acid and Java cigar lines, along with newer products such as the T9 and T52 – pays twice the region's prevailing wage for its positions. There are healthcare facilities on the premises. Wood for cigar boxes comes only from approved sources with environmentally friendly practices, and the company makes it a point to hire people with disabilities.
Jonathan Drew, one of the company's owners, spoke with me at length about Drew Estate's commitment to the surrounding community, which involves several measures intended to benefit not just the factory's employees but the people of Esteli.
While the holiday celebrations that involve the entire neighborhood, healthcare for employees and pregnancy leave are prominent aspects of Drew's informal philosophy of corporate social responsibility, I was struck by two rather unusual aspects: food and art.
Gallery: Drew Estate Cigar Factory