british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2011 - Stakeholder engagement

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Sustainability Report 2011

Our stakeholders include investors, NGOs, regulators, suppliers, the scientific and public health communities, consumers, employees, local communities, customers (retailers and distributors) and sustainability opinion leaders. In short, anyone who is impacted by, or can impact upon, our business operations is a stakeholder of British American Tobacco.

Stakeholder engagementThere are various benefits to engaging with our stakeholders. It helps us to understand their concerns and therefore to respond to them appropriately. It gives us valuable feedback on our policies, procedures and ways of working, so that we can continually improve them. It provides us with opportunities to put our views across, helping our stakeholders understand our positions. It supports our partners, such as through our engagement with retailers to help them meet legal requirements on how they display tobacco products and not selling to the underage. And it is a way of sharing expertise, for example between our Group Research & Development team and the wider scientific community.

The ways in which we engage with our stakeholders include formal stakeholder dialogue sessions, long-term partnerships and customer surveys, along with day-to-day dealings such as the agronomy support we provide to our contracted farmers.

We have been criticised for not engaging 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.

Many individual stakeholder relationships are discussed in the relevant sections of this Report. In this section we discuss some of our more formal methods of engagement.

Stakeholder dialogue sessions

In 2001, we launched our approach to formal stakeholder dialogue sessions and our companies have been following it ever since. It is based on the AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard (AA1000SES). This outlines five stages for the engagement process.

Key principles:
  • Think strategically
  • Analyse and plan
  • Strengthen engagement capacity
  • Design the process and engage
  • Act, review, report

We allow for flexibility in the planning and execution of dialogue sessions by our companies to make sure they meet local needs. For example, they select their own topics of dialogue and invite the stakeholder groups they consider the most relevant.

However, some criteria are mandatory. For example:

  • Dialogue sessions must be independently facilitated;
  • When details of the dialogue are published externally, they must be assured by a third party;
  • Participants must be chosen using an up-to-date stakeholder map; and
  • A report must be issued to all participants on the dialogue outcomes.

In recent years, the focus of our dialogue sessions has altered: from listening to stakeholders’ concerns to collaborating with our stakeholders on the development of our sustainability plans. This has meant involving a wider range of our own senior managers in the dialogue process to enhance commitment and understanding within the business and to ensure the outcomes of the dialogue are relevant to the business. We have also 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. This helps to ensure that we are considering every relevant issue.

To read more about what we have learned from dialogue over the past decade, go to Opens in new window.

Dialogue sessions in 2011

In 2011 and early 2012, we held four formal dialogue sessions at a Group level. Two – on carbon pricing and on renewable and low-carbon energy – completed our series relating to climate change. The first dialogue in this series was held in 2010 and focused on water availability and management. The other two Group sessions held in 2011 and early 2012 both focused on sustainable agriculture.

The carbon pricing dialogue session involved experts from NGOs, universities, regulators and other large companies. Our aim was to identify the risks and opportunities that arise from current and future carbon pricing mechanisms and carbon regulation. A summary of the outputs from the session can be downloaded below.

PDF: Stakeholder Dialogue Report: Making greenhouse gas emissions pay - Stakeholder Dialogue Report: Making greenhouse gas emissions pay (646 kb) Opens in new window

For the session on renewable and low-carbon energy, we invited a group of academics, NGOs, specialist consultancies and other large companies. The session helped build our understanding and informed our strategies for future energy use and long-term security of our energy supplies. The report of the key insights from this session can be downloaded below.

PDF: Stakeholder Dialogue Report: Renewable and low-carbon energy - Stakeholder Dialogue Report: Renewable and low-carbon energy (367 kb) Opens in new window

You can also read a viewpoint from the independent facilitator on the overarching insights from the full climate change dialogue series.

The first of our dialogue sessions on sustainable agriculture was held in the UK with the Food and Environment Research Agency. Along with UK policy makers, NGOs and other key influencers, we discussed the policy and regulation needed to effectively address the social, environmental and economic challenges of agriculture. A summary of the outputs from the session can be downloaded below.

PDF: Stakeholder Dialogue Report: Sustainable agriculture - Stakeholder Dialogue Report: Sustainable agriculture (377 kb) Opens in new window

The second session was held in Bangladesh, a key tobacco growing country. It was attended by stakeholders from the UK and across Asia. The objective was to get feedback on our approach to sustainable agriculture in practice. Participants were taken on a field visit to see our agronomy support services in action. We then discussed how we could build on local partnerships and knowledge to further improve our approach.

Several of our companies also conducted formal dialogue sessions to advance their local sustainability plans on topics including the illegal tobacco trade; environment, health and safety; youth smoking prevention; and corporate social investment. Read a summary of all dialogue held around the Group.


I applaud British American Tobacco for its decision to use this series of dialogues to really examine how climate change will impact its business

Paul Burke, Independent Dialogue Facilitator, Senior Partner, Acona Partners LLP

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