BAT to go on with CSR push despite rampant cynicism

LONDON: British American Tobacco has vowed to plow on with its corporate social responsibility program - despite criticism that its first-ever CSR report is simply a PR exercise.

LONDON: British American Tobacco has vowed to plow on with its corporate social responsibility program - despite criticism that its first-ever CSR report is simply a PR exercise.

The tobacco giant last week published its CSR report - the first of its kind for the tobacco industry - after a series of face-to-face forums designed to establish dialogue with its critics. More than 130 stakeholder groups refused to take part in BAT's initiative, including UK anti-smoking campaigning body Action on Smoking, which dismissed the initiative as "worthless and "a PR exercise. But BAT this week said it will continue to lead the way in CSR for the tobacco industry and is planning a further 13 reports across the globe this year, with an ongoing rolling program.

BAT head of CSR Adrian Marshall said, "We are promoting it very hard for precisely the reason that we don't want it to be written off as a PR exercise. We have been under such attack from pressure groups and regulators, that we felt trying to have a rational debate was futile. We needed to demonstrate a different approach."

The report reveals only four of the 24 UK medical groups invited to take part attended meetings, and just two of 19 political reps showed willingly.

Marshall said, "We've committed ourselves to this rigorous approach in the hope it will show some of the people that don't engage with us that it's good to engage with us, and that some good will come of this."

He added: "We would like to work out how to reduce the risks of smoking, and help stop young people smoking. There have to be solutions, and we'll only find them with help from our stakeholders, who know more about these issues than we do."

BAT - which produces cigarette brands such as Dunhill, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, and Kent - was to publish the UK report online this week.

While BAT group companies in 14 countries joined in the program this year, Marshall hopes to extend it to 25 next year. BAT has also set up a formal group CSR governance structure.

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