Identifying our sustainability priorities

The issues covered in our Group Sustainability Agenda are identified through a detailed materiality assessment as those which matter most to our stakeholders and our business.

We’ve been conducting materiality assessments since 2007, which we review on an annual basis and refresh through an in-depth process every three years. This enables us to evolve our strategy and report on it effectively.

We carry out a full materiality assessment every three years –  most recently in 2017 – which identifies the sustainability issues most relevant to our business and stakeholders. We annually refresh this list through assessments and engagement to manage the opportunities and challenges arising.

Each year we engage with a wide range of stakeholders at global and local levels and participate in multi-stakeholder collaborations to help develop joint solutions to common challenges. These help us ensure that our sustainability agenda continues to address the most important issues. As the materiality of an issue increases, we report on it accordingly.

In 2017, we worked with Carnstone Partners, a highly respected sustainability consultancy, to conduct a new in-depth assessment, based on the following three-stage process:

Stage 1: Identifying a ‘long list’ of issues

A wide variety of stakeholder inputs were used to identify an initial long-list of issues. These included issues raised in our stakeholder engagement activities, at both a Group and local market level, with shareholders, investors, suppliers, farmers, local communities, employees, governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other key stakeholders.

In addition, we commissioned Kantar Media to conduct a global media review, and identified the key issues covered by industry and FMCG peer companies; relevant national and international regulation; international standards and frameworks, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals; external reports and allegations regarding BAT or the tobacco industry; and risk monitoring and outlook reports, such as those of the World Economic Forum.

The external insights were complemented by internal BAT inputs, including Group and functional strategies; Group Risk Register; Main Board and regional meetings and committees; and Group policies, principles and standards.

Stage 2: Prioritising and refining

The issues were grouped under common themes and prioritised by mapping them onto our materiality matrix (see below). This mapping used a defined scoring methodology, developed by Carnstone, to assess the level of importance to our stakeholders and the current or potential impact on the BAT Group.

Carnstone then carried out a series of interviews with BAT senior management, including our Group Legal and External Affairs Director, to gain feedback and refine the issues further.

Stage 3: Validation

Our independent Stakeholder Panel of key opinion leaders reviewed the list of issues identified and details of each stage of the assessment, including the stakeholder inputs, scoring methodology and feedback from internal interviews. They then had the opportunity, via an independently facilitated meeting, to ask detailed questions and provide feedback.

Overall, the Panel supported the process followed and confirmed that the most material issues identified were aligned with their expectations.

Final results

The issues which have the highest level of importance to our stakeholders, and the greatest impact on the BAT Group, form our Sustainability Agenda under the three strategic areas of: Harm Reduction, Sustainable Agriculture and Farmer Livelihoods, and Corporate Behaviour. These are underpinned by our ongoing focus on issues relating to the environmental impacts of our operations, and building a diverse and engaging culture for our people.

We also continue to focus on important internal business priorities, as well as to monitor emerging issues of high importance to our stakeholders.

Emerging issues
we continue
to monitor
Important internal
Issues of
greatest impact

Material issues

covered in our sustainability reporting

Harm Reduction
  • Health impacts of our products
  • Consumer information on product health risks, including the reduced-risk potential of potentially reduced-risk products (PRRPs)
  • Consumer accessibility to potentially reduced-risk products
  • Ethics/credibility of industry scientific research
Sustainable Agriculture and Farmer Livelihoods
  • Farmer livelihoods, rural poverty and food security
  • Child labour and forced labour
  • Health and safety, and labour rights
  • Ageing farmer populations
  • Environmental and climate change impacts, including deforestation, soil degradation and water scarcity
Corporate Behaviour
  • Regulatory environment and policy influence
  • Anti-bribery and corruption
  • Human rights impacts
  • Marketing practices and preventing underage access for all product categories
  • Illegal tobacco trade
  • Corporate tax
Environment and People
  • Environmental management and operational eco-efficiency, focused on carbon emissions, energy, water and waste
  • Climate change
  • Occupational health and safety
  • Workforce diversity
  • Employee engagement

Additional material issues

covered in our Annual Report and on this website

  • Corporate tax strategy
  • Employee attraction and retention
  • Equal opportunities
  • Executive remuneration
  • Risk management and principal Group risk factors

Additionally, the policies, principles and standards that underpin our approach to managing material issues covered in our sustainability reporting are also available on