Anyone who is impacted by, or can impact upon, our business operations is a stakeholder of British American Tobacco. They include investors, NGOs, regulators, suppliers, the scientific and public health communities, consumers, employees, local communities, customers (retailers and distributors) and sustainability opinion leaders.
The ways in which we engage with these groups include formal stakeholder dialogue sessions, long-term partnerships and customer surveys, along with day-to-day dealings such as the relationships our trade marketing representatives have with retailers or the agronomy support we provide to farmers.
Engagement with stakeholders guides the continual improvement of our policies, procedures and ways of working. It provides numerous benefits for both us and our stakeholders, ranging from better relationships with our retailers to improved crop yields for our tobacco farmers.
Many individual relationships are discussed in the relevant sections of this Report. In this section we discuss some of our more formal methods of engagement.
Concern has been expressed about our lack of engagement with those 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 our critics and engaging in constructive discussion.
Stakeholder dialogue sessions
Our companies have been conducting independently assured and facilitated dialogue since 2001 and our approach is based on the AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard (AA1000SES). This outlines five stages for the engagement process.
Any formal stakeholder dialogue carried out by British American Tobacco Group companies must take into account AA1000SES. 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 stakeholder groups they feel to be most appropriate.
However, there are some elements that for us are ‘non-negotiable’. These include requirements for:
- Independent facilitation of the dialogue sessions;
- Independent assurance when details of the dialogue are being published externally;
- An up-to-date stakeholder map to identify participants; and
- A report to be issued to participants on the dialogue outcomes.
In recent years, we have been exploring how we can adapt our approach to move from listening to stakeholders’ concerns to using dialogue sessions to develop our sustainability plans jointly with our stakeholders. To achieve this we have:
- Shifted our focus from gathering expectations or feedback on existing proposals to generating new plans and ideas;
- Engaged with a wider range of stakeholders, including those who are most critical of us and those who will be directly impacted by the outcomes of the dialogue, to ensure we are considering everything we should; and
- Involved a wider range of our own senior managers in the dialogue process to enhance commitment and understanding within the business and to ensure outcomes of dialogue are relevant to the business.
You can see how these elements have shaped our recent dialogue sessions on sustainability reporting, water availability and management, supply chain sustainability and employee wellbeing in the relevant sections of this Report. To read more about what we have learned from dialogue over the past decade, go to www.bat.com/dialogue .
We want to hear your comments and feedback. Please tell us what you think about how we’re adapting our approach to stakeholder dialogue, by emailing us at email@example.com.
Dialogue sessions in 2010
In 2010, the Group held formal dialogue sessions on sustainability reporting, water availability and management, supply chain sustainability and employee wellbeing.
For the sustainability reporting session, we invited a group of investors, accounting firms and other opinion leaders to discuss the case for integrating sustainability and financial reporting. You can read more about this in sustainability and our business and in a summary published on www.bat.com .
The focus of our dialogue on water availability and management was to build a better understanding of the challenges posed by pressures on water resources. We also discussed the tools and techniques required to address these issues. You can read more about this in the environment section and in a summary published on www.bat.com .
To enhance the delivery of our supply chain sustainability strategy, we met with key suppliers to identify common risks and opportunities, share best practice and establish opportunities for collaboration. You can read more about this in the supply chain section.
For the employee wellbeing dialogue, we met with employees, human resources professionals and academics to explore the apparent contradiction between the needs of business in today’s economic climate and the changing expectations employees have of their employers. You can read more about this in the people and culture section.
In addition, several Group companies also conducted formal dialogue sessions to advance their local sustainability plans on topics including tobacco harm reduction, anti-illicit trade and environmental impacts. A summary of all dialogues held in 2009 and 2010 can be found in Dialogue around the Group.