2 September 2016
The tobacco industry gives big publicity to its CSR activities, but it is a big fuss about very little. Very little indeed, if you see TI’s CSR handouts in the context of how much the industry actually earns in profits.
In 2015, the top four transnational tobacco companies (PMI, BAT, JTI, IT) collectively earned more than USD 20 Billion in profits (Table 1). The companies spend pittance on CSR activities in comparison to their profits and their CEOs’ pay.
In 2015, PMI handed out USD 8.6 million to CSR projects in six countries in the ASEAN region. However this pales in comparison to PMI CEO’s pay which is about double that amount, at USD 16.3 million. Similarly, the CEO’s of the other tobacco companies are also paid obscene amounts of money. Obscene, because the money comes from selling a highly addictive product.
What the CEOs are paid
Illustration courtesy: Cynthia Callard
TI has access to governments through CSR activities
SEATCA’s latest report on CSR activities shows the TI continues to have access to high ranking government officials in the region by giving CSR handouts. These handouts gain the industry ‘acceptability’ from vulnerable sectors, and endorsement and photo opportunities with high ranking officials. Having access to high ranking officials is really what the industry is after, as this can open doors to influence policy on tobacco control.
The industry targets sectors such as education, (through building of schools and offering scholarships to children), disaster management programmes (helping victims of Haiyan and floods), and grants to developmental groups who work with the poor. It puts the beneficiaries in a vulnerable position.
The WHO FCTC Articles 5.3 and 13 empower governments to ban tobacco industry related CSR activities.
- CSR activities by the tobacco industry should be prohibited by law. The tobacco industry should be strictly prohibited from conducting any CSR activities that concern children or the education system, both public and private.
- Government officials and departments should rejects grants from and partnerships with the tobacco industry.
See SEATCA’s latest report on CSR here