Who are our stakeholders?
Our stakeholders include anyone who is impacted by, or can impact upon, our business operations. They include investors, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), regulators, suppliers, the scientific and public health communities, consumers, employees, local communities, customers (retailers and distributors) and CSR opinion leaders. We use stakeholder mapping to focus our dialogue and aim to engage with relevant stakeholders in each area of our sustainability agenda.
Concern has been expressed about our lack of engagement with stakeholders who are most critical of the tobacco industry. This is an area we have tried to address by inviting such stakeholders to our formal dialogue sessions but their willingness to participate remains a challenge. We remain open to meeting for constructive discussion with our critics.
We use the AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard (AA1000SES) to help guide our sustainability engagement. The Standard outlines five stages for the engagement process.
Any formal stakeholder dialogue carried out by British American Tobacco Group companies must take into account the AA1000SES. Guidance is provided to our companies about how to implement the standard including how to establish strategic objectives for dialogue, how to develop internal capacity and how to create an environment that is conducive to challenging discussions.
We allow for flexibility in the planning and execution of dialogue by our companies to make sure they meet local needs. They are free to select their own topics of dialogue and to invite the stakeholders they feel to be most appropriate.
However, there are some elements that for us are ‘non-negotiable’. These include requirements for:
- Independent assurance and facilitation of the dialogue sessions;
- An up-to-date stakeholder map to identify participants; and
- A report to be issued to participants on the dialogue outcomes.
Engagement for us is not a ‘one-off’. In many instances, we have chosen to formalise our partnerships with stakeholders. Examples of this include our Biodiversity Partnership, the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) Foundation, our global Memorandum of Cooperation with the logistics company DHL, our framework agreement with Cranfield University School of Management and our External Scientific Panel. You can read more about these in the relevant sections of this Report.
How else do we engage with stakeholders?
While we have a number of formal ways of engaging with our stakeholders, such as our facilitated dialogue and our employee opinion surveys, we also engage with a wide variety of stakeholders as part of our day-to-day business activity, from the relationships our trade marketing representatives have with retailers, to engaging with regulators and the agronomy support we provide to farmers.
Engagement with stakeholders takes place across the organisation and guides the continual improvement of our policies, procedures and ways of working. It provides numerous benefits, ranging from better relationships with our retailers, to the ability to contribute to the regulatory development process and helping to improve farmers’ crop yields.
Throughout this Report, you will see that many decisions we have made have been influenced by stakeholders, as a result of insights gained from either formal or informal dialogue.