british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2011 - Viewpoint from an employee in Canada

 
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Sustainability Report 2011
It is about being proactive and preparing for the future. I don’t like to think in terms of restrictions. It’s too negative. Sylvain Foisy, Senior Brand Manager, du MAURIER, Imperial Tobacco Canada

When a new acquaintance finds out that I am a senior manager for Canada’s biggest tobacco brand, du MAURIER, the look on their face is usually a combination of confusion and disbelief. There is a great deal of misinformation and scepticism about the tobacco industry out there. But once I talk a little about my job, my company and how we take our responsibilities extremely seriously, they usually begin to see Imperial Tobacco Canada in a different light.

It doesn’t faze me. I am very proud of how I contribute to Imperial Tobacco Canada’s sustainability and I am acutely aware of my responsibilities. And when you know the alternative – a contraband market that doesn’t comply with Government regulations – there’s no shame in working for the legitimate tobacco industry.

Tobacco brand marketeers have a huge challenge in Canada. How do you build a brand when consumers cannot even see the packs in stores? How do you differentitate your product from those of your competitors if 75 per cent of the pack could be covered by a health warning? How do you define your brand when the regulations of what you can and cannot do are so strict? How do you compete against an illegal tobacco market that doesn’t comply with any tobacco regulations?

And how do you do it all responsibly?

The responsibility part for me is a no-brainer. Promoting, marketing and selling tobacco products to children are all illegal, against the core principles of our International Marketing Standards and against what each of us who works here believes to be right. Our marketing activities are directed only at adult tobacco consumers.

But we still sell a legal product to adult consumers who are informed of the health risks. So my job as a marketeer is to meet the needs and preferences of those adult consumers. The job isn’t easy, particularly in a market as restrictive as Canada.

It is about being proactive and preparing for the future. I don’t like to think in terms of restrictions. It’s too negative. For example, the planned increase in the size of graphic health warnings to 75 per cent on Canadian cigarette packs: we have seen this kind of extreme legislation before. It forces us to go back to the root of what’s important to consumers. This is a much more positive approach and, ultimately, more sustainable for the company.

That means looking at our portfolio differently by focusing on creating innovative products and premium brands to differentiate ourselves from the competition. That’s how we’ll grow our market share among existing adult smokers and ensure that we continue to succeed as a business.

Sylvain Foisy, Senior Brand Manager, du MAURIER, Imperial Tobacco Canada

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