I’m proud to say that British American Tobacco Russia is seen as one of the pioneers of stakeholder engagement and reporting in our country. We began our programme back in 2001 and I don’t think many companies here can say they’ve had a stakeholder dialogue programme in place for that long.
The dialogue process has given us a better understanding of the key issues for our local stakeholders – their opinions help inform what we have to do. We need to meet stakeholders’ expectations to help ensure the sustainability of our business, so engaging with them has helped us make better decisions.
Of course, some stakeholders are sceptical of our approach just because we are a tobacco company, so they refuse to engage with us. But those stakeholders that do meet with us are often surprised by how open we are – even when we’re being criticised or facing viewpoints different from our own. It’s this kind of challenge that really keeps us on our toes. OK, we may not agree with everything they say, but we always respond and we try to be clear about our reasoning.
I think that this long history of listening to our stakeholders places us in a unique position: we have a lot of experience and insights to share with others, which I hope can make a real contribution to sustainable development in Russia.Johan Vandermeulen, General Manager, British American Tobacco Russia