british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2011 - Stakeholders’ challenging questions

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Sustainability Report 2011

Here we answer some of the more challenging questions our stakeholders ask.

If you have a question you would like to see answered in a future Report or have any feedback on our approach to sustainability, please email us at or complete our feedback survey. We will donate £10 to the Global Trees Campaign  Opens in new window for each of the first 200 responses to the survey.

You can also find our responses to previous stakeholder questions in our last Sustainability Report Opens in new window

Q Can scientific research paid for by tobacco companies really be impartial?

A We realise that it’s a contentious issue – the tobacco industry funding research. But we believe that we have a responsibility to contribute to the science of tobacco harm reduction. We are completely transparent about the research we fund and we expect scientists who receive grants from us to interpret and publish the findings of their work without being influenced by the fact we funded the research.

The science involved in understanding the harm caused by tobacco use and developing reduced-risk products is extremely complex. So we share our research findings with the external scientific community and collaborate with others to improve the breadth and quality of our research. We have worked with many independent scientists around the world, for example, in the USA, Italy, Germany, Brazil and Russia.

Q How can you say you support regulation when it must damage your business?

A Not all regulation does damage our business. For example, we lobby for local laws to meet the same level as our International Marketing Standards as this creates a more level playing field with our competitors. With the black market in tobacco being one of our biggest competitors, any regulation to address this is in our interests and we support the World health Organisation’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) draft Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. We would also like to see regulation that supports the development and sale of reduced-risk products.

New types of regulation we are seeing proposed today, such as ingredients bans and plain packaging, are not based on robust evidence that they are likely to reduce smoking rates. It is often not clear that the regulation will achieve its public health objectives and may result in unintended consequences, such as increasing the illegal tobacco trade or damaging the livelihoods of farmers and retailers. It is this type of regulation that we do not support.

We are focusing on engaging with stakeholders to share our expertise and provide objective evidence to inform future regulation. And where regulation is proposed that may have unintended negative consequences, we propose alternative approaches that we believe will help avoid these consequences.

Q Doesn’t tobacco growing lead to a loss of biodiversity?

A Loss of biodiversity is driven by many factors including deforestation, inappropriate use of agrochemicals, soil degradation and water pollution.

The type of crop grown is less important than how the farm is managed: poorly managed agriculture results in biodiversity loss. For many years, we have taken action to minimise the effects of our tobacco growing operations on biodiversity, which you can read about in the environment and supply chain sections.

We support an approach to sustainable agriculture, involving multi-stakeholder partnerships, which includes achieving the right balance between biodiversity conservation and agricultural productivity. Our work with our contracted farmers also addresses the environmental impacts of other crops, not just tobacco.

In 2011, we commissioned independent research by Development Delivery International (DDI) into the impacts of tobacco growing, which comprised a literature review of over 300 published sources on the subject and field research into the circumstances of tobacco and non-tobacco farmers in three contrasting tobacco growing countries. In the report, DDI stated that: "The review of the evidence comparing environmental risks of tobacco cultivation with other international agricultural commodities suggests that as far as environmental risk is concerned, tobacco growing would seem to pose no greater threat than any other commodity, especially when compared to crops like cotton and sugar cane, which have high requirements for agrochemicals and where land management practices can have significant negative impacts on ecosystems."

You can read more about this research in the supply chain section.

Q Where fertile land is used to grow tobacco rather than food, doesn't tobacco cultivation contribute directly to hunger and malnutrition?

A A lot of factors contribute to the issue of food security and it remains a major challenge for the world population. Stopping tobacco farming will not solve hunger. We estimate that less than 0.1 per cent of the world’s agricultural land is used for tobacco farming and for part of the year that land is used to grow non-tobacco crops, including food.

Sustainable agriculture is a priority in addressing this issue. But this issue requires collaboration and support from national governments and the international community.

Tobacco is the crop of choice for many farmers and we believe that farmers are best placed to decide the mix of crops they grow. We encourage our contracted farmers to grow other types of crops in addition to tobacco, both in the same fields at other times of the year and in other parts of their farms.

We engage with our contracted farmers to improve their farming knowledge and practice. This helps not only with their tobacco cultivation, but also with their cultivation of other crops, making them more self-sufficient.

The results of field research, carried out by Development Delivery International in 2011, into the circumstances of tobacco and non-tobacco farmers in three contrasting tobacco growing countries showed that tobacco cultivation is seen to be an important and reliable income source that enhances food security and has contributed to increasing farmers’ welfare.

You can read more about this research in the supply chain section.

Q Is it really feasible for you to continue to recruit talented employees in the future given that you sell cigarettes?

A We will continue to focus on bringing talented people into the business, but we recognise this may be more of a challenge for us in the future. Working in the tobacco industry may not be for everyone. For many though, the attractions of a rewarding career with a major international business that values their contribution and supports their professional development will be key factors in their decision to join British American Tobacco.

We believe that by continuing to be transparent about the important issues facing our industry, potential employees will respond to that commitment and seek out long and rewarding careers with our business.

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