Helping to make a difference
As an international business, with a presence in 180 countries worldwide, we play an important role in countries around the world. Many of our companies have built close ties with the communities in which they operate and we have a longstanding approach to investing in these communities through our Corporate Social Investment programmes.
Our charitable contributions policy in our Standards of Business Conduct is supported by the Group’s Strategic Framework for Corporate Social Investment (CSI), which sets out our Group CSI strategy and how we expect our local operating companies to develop, deliver and monitor community investment programmes within two themes: Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Communities; and Empowerment.
Our Group Head of Sustainability has oversight of the Group CSI Strategy while Board-level governance is managed through our Audit Committee, which reviews the strategy and an analysis of activities (including spend and alignment to the Group priorities) at least once a year.
We provide our companies with guidance on selecting, managing and evaluating major CSI activities and ask them to calculate their contributions using the London Benchmarking Group (LBG) model. This includes cash contributions, in-kind donations and employee volunteering in company time.
We’ve invested over £62 million in community and charitable projects over the last four years. In 2020, the Group contributed over £16.6 million in cash and £5.1 million in-kind for charitable contributions and CSI projects. This includes £1.14 million given for charitable purposes by UK Group companies. Of this, £5.27 million in cash and £5.04 million in-kind was spent on community projects aimed at COVID-19 relief.
Our companies deliver these projects in partnership with local communities, NGOs, governments, development agencies, academic institutions, industry associations and peer companies. Working in partnership has always been central to our approach, as many of the biggest sustainability challenges being faced today cannot, nor should not, be addressed in isolation. This approach is also particularly relevant to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) , specifically ‘Goal 17: Partnership for the Goals’.
Our CSI strategy focuses on activities within two themes.
The sustainable agriculture and rural communities theme covers contributions to the social, economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture, farmers’ livelihoods and wider environmental issues. It includes activities such as efforts to improve biodiversity and access to water, afforestation, programmes to prevent child labour and tackle rural poverty, grants for agricultural research and training to help farmers grow non-tobacco crops.
This theme directly aligns with SDG 15: Life on the Land, as well as with the Productivity area of our Group Strategy, and the Sustainable Agriculture and Farmer Livelihoods area of our Group Sustainability Agenda. This recognises that tobacco leaf is the most essential part of our products, so advancing sustainable agriculture practices, supporting farmer livelihoods and protecting the environment, is a pragmatic, commercial approach to ensuring we have an efficient, responsive, productive and secure agricultural supply chain, ensuring the integrity and quality of our products to satisfy our consumers.
While our agricultural supply chain programmes, which you can read about in the Sustainable agriculture and farmer livelihoods section, are an important part of delivering against these business priorities, some of the major issues in agriculture today require a wider community or landscape-level approach, working collaboratively with local partners. Therefore, CSI activities in this area are an essential part of delivering our business strategy.
Our goal with CSI continues to focus on empowering individuals and communities where we operate, primarily by providing scholarships, training and skills development, supporting small businesses and promoting entrepreneurship. This directly aligns with SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, and aligns with our broader corporate goals of building economic growth in key markets as well as broadening the local talent pool so we can attract and employ the best people as we build a long-term sustainable business.