BAT rebrands CSR to ‘CSI’

No, CSI does not stand for ‘crime scene investigation’- in this case, it is ‘corporate social investment’. BAT knows its corporate image is taking a beating by calling its handouts as ‘CSR’ (corporate social responsibility) since ‘tobacco’ and ‘responsibility’ can never go together, and the WHO FCTC calls for a ban on all tobacco industry related CSR activities. Hence BAT has rebranded its CSR activities as ‘CSI programmes’ in Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam. 

Governments of developing economies welcome investments, hence through this reframing tactic, BAT can dupe these governments to view these programmes differently from the usual CSR handouts, which must be banned. 

Several governments in the ASEAN region, such as Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, have already banned the publicity of TI related CSR activities. The Philippines has taken even stricter measures through the Joint-Memorandum Circular 2010 prohibiting government officials from accepting or endorsing any CSR activities by the tobacco industry. Thailand has prohibited all government agencies from accepting any grants or hand-outs from the tobacco industry since May 2013, while Vietnam has restrictions on CSR activities.

Last year, SEATCA released a report exposing how the tobacco industry’s CSR fails all 7 principles of ISO 26000 which provides the global standards on CSR, making it impossible for it to be considered socially responsible.

Considering there are about 500,000 tobacco related deaths in the ASEAN region every year, and many hundreds of thousands of gravely sick people, perhaps there should be a ‘crime scene investigation’ after all.