Employment award to TI ignores tobacco deaths

7 December 2018:

British American Tobacco (BAT) is beating its drum again, for obtaining “Top employer” award in the Asia Pacific region from the Top Employers Institute (TEI) Asia Pacific. Imagine being awarded for deliberately and purposefully providing the best environment for employees to manufacturer and increase sales of a product that will cause more disease and millions of deaths worldwide.

It says something about the awarding institute, especially when the award is handed out repeatedly, not just to BAT, but also to Philip Morris International and Japan Tobacco International.

The TEI, which does not declare its source of funding, is headquartered in Amsterdam and has offices across Europe, Latin America, USA and China. Clearly it is unaware that the UN Global Compact has de-listed all tobacco companies, the ECOSOC adopted aresolution to prevent tobacco industry interference, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights ended its collaboration with PMI in 2017 stating, “Tobacco is deeply harmful to human health, and there can be no doubt that the production and marketing of tobacco is irreconcilable with the human right to health.”

According to the TEI’s website, there are 10 criteria on which corporations are reviewed and certified. What does the tobacco industry’s activities and BAT’s advertisements for recruitment of new employees mean when compared against these criteria and the effect of the business for the world?

  Top Employer Institute The World
1. Talent Strategy “Lead, develop and coach” – recruit talented people to work for an industry which has its own treaty – WHO FCTC which aims to reduce the use of the product.
2. Workforce Planning “To lead a motivated team of professionals in a high-performing, diverse and passionate work environment” – manufacturing a harmful product.
3. Talent acquisition BAT advertises, “We are keener than ever to attract the best people” – to market and sell more cigarettes.
4. On-boarding Everyone knows smoking harms and kills, yet the industry is still integrating new employees into the harmful tobacco business. 
5. Learning & development “There are plenty of ways of marketing products without advertising. We have strong brands that we have built up over the years and they will continue to be promoted” Gallaher, 1997
6. Performance management Best performance will result in more cigarette sales – more disease and death. How is that exemplary employment?
7. Leadership development “Some people are more ambitious than others. More innovative. More collaborative. More adaptable. More courageous – the qualities of a leader.” Leaders in selling a harmful product?
8. Career & succession management BAT: “If you have the talent and motivation to help us succeed you’ll find we are equally committed to helping you reach your full potential” To be best at selling a harmful product?
9. Compensation & benefits A multi-billion dollar company selling an addictive product has to compensate its employees well.
10. Culture BAT’s culture: “We give our people freedom …. Freedom to explore. Freedom to choose. Freedom to grow.” Cancer is not liberating – it causes much suffering, is debilitating and ends in death for many.

BAT refers to itself as “a leading and extremely successful FMCG company”. It is a ‘fast moving consumer good’ company when it suits itself, but when applying pictorial warnings, it plunges into a ‘slow moving company’ that needs 18-24 months just to change its pack labels or ‘dispose of old stock’.

Tobacco is the only consumer product in the world that is bound by a treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control where 181 governments are obliged to reduce tobacco use. Tobacco use is responsible for more than 7 million deaths worldwide every year. The dubious ‘top employer’ award must be contrasted against this reality.