The tobacco industry has not met the expectations of its stakeholders in the past.
However, we are working hard to align our business strategy with the expectations
of society. Our sustainability agenda comprises five goals across our key impact areas. We will:
- Strive to bring commercially viable, consumer acceptable reduced-risk products to market;
- Take a lead in upholding high standards of corporate conduct within our marketplace;
- Actively address the impact of our business on the natural environment;
- Work for positive social, environmental and economic impacts in our supply chain; and
- Work to ensure we have the right people and culture to meet our goals.
Here we describe some of the ways we are trying to meet our sustainability goals.
Working towards reducing the risks of our products
Despite the known health risks and increasing regulation, many people still choose to smoke. The World Health Organisation estimates that, as the global population increases, there could be as many as two billion smokers worldwide by 2050.
We believe that regulators and the public health community should involve the tobacco industry and recognise the contribution we can make towards developing potential solutions to these health issues. For example, we are already working to develop reduced toxicant cigarettes and are committed to developing new categories such as low-toxicant smokeless tobacco and regulatory approved nicotine products. This is challenging though, as not only is the science complex but, to be successful, these products need to meet consumers’ expectations and provide an acceptable alternative to existing tobacco products. We also need a regulatory framework to support their development and sale.
Despite these challenges, we are already making good progress in developing the science and engaging with regulators and public health professionals. We are committed to continuing our work with others so that we can move forward without delay.
Supporting regulation based on sound evidence
We are not against tobacco control regulation. We support regulation based on robust evidence that can help to reduce the impact of tobacco use on public health, embraces an open-minded approach to harm reduction and takes into account the preferences of consumers. Some regulatory proposals, such as plain packaging, are not based on clear evidence that they will meet their stated objectives. In some cases, they are also likely to have unintended consequences, such as increasing the levels of counterfeit and smuggled tobacco products and damaging the livelihoods of tobacco farmers and legitimate retailers.
We are keen to contribute evidence to the policy debate about regulation. In 2011, we commissioned two independent third party reports: one was produced by Deloitte and examines the intended and unintended impact of tobacco packaging regulation; the other, by Development Delivery International, focuses on the social, environmental and economic impacts of tobacco growing.
Marketing our products responsibly
Like any business, we want to grow our market share in a responsible way. For example, our International Marketing Standards state that our marketing should not be aimed at the underage and not be misleading about the health risks of tobacco products. Nor do we conduct marketing activities aimed at increasing the number of people who smoke or how much they smoke. Instead, we aim to grow our market share by encouraging existing adult smokers to choose our products over our competitors.
Promoting sustainable agriculture
Agriculture often comes with complex, interrelated social, environmental and economic challenges. Tobacco growing is no exception and individual companies or farmers cannot tackle these challenges alone. We support a multi-stakeholder approach to sustainable agriculture that will help to protect our tobacco leaf supply chain as well as create successful farming communities.
We have direct relationships with over 140,000 tobacco farmers in 19 countries to whom we provide agronomy support. This support includes providing quality seed as well as guidance on crop management, soil and water protection and environmental best practice. The guidance is not limited to tobacco farming, it covers all areas of agriculture.
Valuing our people
Of course, we cannot be successful in any of these areas unless we have great people working for us. So we are focusing on creating competitive advantage from our people and building a stretching and supportive culture that attracts, engages and retains diverse and talented people.
Working with others
To have a successful business that meets the expectations of society we need the support of the scientific and public health communities, as well as regulators and local stakeholders. So we engage with our stakeholders to build consensus on the best ways forward. This takes many forms and involves listening as well as talking. For example, we hold stakeholder dialogue sessions in which we jointly develop our sustainability plans. We have set up a Supply Chain Sustainability Stakeholder Panel to guide and challenge us on these issues. And our External Scientific Panel gives us important input to help inform our research programme.
A sustainable future
We hope that this Report gives our stakeholders a transparent account of how we are working towards better meeting their expectations and how we are working to build a sustainable business for the future. We are, as always, open to talking with our stakeholders, in particular to those who can help us tackle some of our key challenges. We’re also keen to hear what you think of this Report, our goals and our progress. You can email us at email@example.com or you can complete our feedback survey.