Business in the Community

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Business in the Community (BITC) says it is a "business-led charity with a growing membership of 850 companies and a further 10,000 engaged through our campaigns, from large multinational household names to small local businesses and public sector organisations". [1] The charity helps member companies carry out CSR initiatives and therefore has been useful to tobacco companies such as British American Tobacco, which has employed an aggressive CSR campaign to try to improve its image.

People

Current Activities

Can Big Tobacco be Responsible?

BAT received a "platinum rating" in the 2009 UK Business in the Community Corporate Responsibility Index with a score of 96.5 per cent. It was the first tobacco company to achieve such a status. According to BAT: "The ranking recognises that the Group – one of only nine new entrants into the platinum band this year – is one of Britain’s most responsible businesses." In 2011, BAT received a gold ranking.[3]

The Index ranks companies according to categories such as corporate strategy, environment management, biodiversity, integration and products and services, but completely omits to ask the question whether a tobacco company can ever be responsible, given the deadly nature of its product.

Indeed, a recent academic research paper questions BAT's use of CSR, and the role of Business in the Community. It argues that:

Recent attempts by large tobacco companies to represent themselves as socially responsible have been widely dismissed as image management. Existing research supports such claims by pointing to the failings and misleading nature of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

The paper concludes:

The findings suggest that tobacco company CSR strategies can enable access to and dialogue with policymakers and provide opportunities for issue definition. CSR should therefore be seen as a form of corporate political activity".[4]

Historical

Funded by the Tobacco Industry

By the early mid-1980s, BITC was receiving £5,000 a year from BAT.[5] From 1988, BITC received £7,500 a year from BAT,[6] [7] although this was reduced to just £2,000 in 1992 as a result of BAT's Chairman Sir Patrick Sheehy's "dismay" at "BITC's apparent decision to abandon its Enterprise roots". [8] The amount seemed to say around £5,000 throughout the 1990s.[9]

BAT in Schools with BITC

In the late 1980s, under the sponsorship of BAT, Business in the Community put together a one-day seminar to improve understanding of the new qualifications and initiatives taking place in schools. According to BAT this sponsorship formed "part of the Company's initiative in improving the relationship between industry and education, about which more information will be supplied in a later Brief".[10]

Assisting Philip Morris with CSR

In 2001, BITC met executives from Philip Morris on a tour of Europe to prepare the company's position on CSR.[11]

Notes

  1. BITC, Website, Accessed September 2011
  2. Business in the Community, Website, Accessed September 2011
  3. BAT, Business in the Community Corporate Responsibility Index, page at BAT website, June 2011, accessed September 2011
  4. Gary Fooks; Anna Gilmore; Katherine Smith; Jeff Collin; Chris Holden; and Kelley Lee, "Corporate Social Responsibility and Access to Policy Élites: An Analysis of Tobacco Industry Documents" PLoS Med, 2011 August, 8(8): e1001076
  5. BAT, Board Meeting held at Windsor House, 50 Victoria Street, London, 10 September 1985
  6. BAT, Agenda for the Meeting of the Board of Directors of BAT Industries to be held at Windsor House, 50 Victoria Street, London, 4 October 1988
  7. BAT, Agenda for the Meeting of the Board of Directors of BAT Industries, Windsor House, 50 Victoria Street, London, 4 February 1992
  8. Sir Patrick Sheehy, Letter to Mr. Neil Shaw, Business in the Community, 21 September 1992
  9. Julia Cleverdon, Letter to Martin Broughton, 18 November 1998
  10. BAT, Communications, Monthly Progress Report, June 1987
  11. PM USA, CSR European Exploration, Corporate Responsibility Taskforce, 14 February 2001