End TI Corporate Giving: A Review of CSR in South East Asia

Tobacco companies continue to conduct fake CSR activities as a tactic to undermine the ban on tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorship. To circumvent the ban, in most cases they use their own foundations to fund, conduct and advertise these activities.

ASEAN Region Snapshot:

  • PMI spent USD8.4million in 2009 in the ASEAN region, which peaked to USD12.5 million in 2013 and reduced to USD 8.1million in 2014.
  • PMI gives to high profile community or developmental organisations, but to fewer of them now.
  • PMI continues to fund disaster relief efforts in many countries – this remains a vulnerable area. 
  • BAT does not reveal its total spending in a systematic and regular basis. Based on public records, between 2013 – 205 it spent about USD1.1million in five ASEAN countries.
  • JTI does not reveal its total spending in a systematic and regular basis. Based on public records, between 2013 – 2017 it allocated about USD2.5million
  • In June 2015 the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) issued an Internal Guidance Brief that prohibits their members from accepting donations from the tobacco industry.
  • Thailand is set to become the first country in the ASEAN region to ban these fake CSR activities [law still being debated]

No surprise that Indonesia is the focus of these fake CSR activities and receives huge amounts since the companies need political mileage to maintain the tobacco friendly environment. PMI injects, on average more than USD6 million a year in CSR activities, the bulk (USD5million) going into education related activities. Philip Morris advertises its total spending on charity on its website.

Unfortunately international sports bodies such as the World Badminton Federation and FIFA are willing to close an eye when the tobacco companies blatantly flout the law banning the advertising of tobacco sponsorship in Indonesia.

In the Philippines currently the tobacco industry’s fake CSR activities are conducted by just two companies – Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC) and Mighty Corp. In 2009, PMFTC handed out about USD1.2million which peaked to USD4.9 million in 2013. It is spending the bulk on education related activities – to remain close to children.

Almost on a daily basis, Mighty Corp. advertises its fake CSR activities on school buildings, poor communities and church renovations in the main national newspapers. Clever framing and reporting allows the tobacco company to circumvent the law banning direct tobacco advertising.

This SEATCA report on CSR provides the latest information on TI spending on CSR activities, organisations in the ASEAN region that the top 4 tobacco companies have targeted to conduct their so-called charities. It illustrates how the tobacco industry shifts its promotions to CSR when direct tobacco advertising is banned. CSR must be addressed as part of de-normalising the tobacco industry. Countries should expedite the ban on these activities as recommended in the FCTC Articles 5.3 and 13 Guidelines. http://seatca.org/dmdocuments/CSR_End%20Corporate%20Giving_Aug%202015_F.pdf