CSR: Imperial and Love Where You Live

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Imperial Tobacco is one of the co-founders of the Love Where You Live campaign in the UK. McDonald's and the chewing gum and candy company Wrigley are the other two companies involved. The campaign is coordinated by Keep Britain Tidy, an environmental campaign group with over 50 years experience, while the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is the fifth partner.

Under pressure from health organisations, local politicians, and the Department eventually, Keep Britain Tidy withdrew all links with the Tobacco Industry in December 2013. The Government had decided early that year to stop funding the campaign in order to comply with the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Love Where You Live

The campaign is set up to encourage individuals, companies and local groups to clean up after themselves. The Love Where You Live website is fresh and modern, its logos are green and it pictures young people of different cultural backgrounds (see pictures 1 & 2). The website explains:

Picture 1. Love Where You Live website, April 2012

"Love Where You Live is a new campaign that aims to inspire, encourage and enable us to make where we live, work and play the kind of place we really want it to be. It's about making a difference ourselves, whether as individuals, groups, local authorities or companies."

"We're setting our sights high. Over the next three years we're planning on winning the hearts and minds of some 3 million people and 3,000 organisations, in order to reduce the amount of litter in England by 2020."

"It's loving where we live that makes us want a great place to be even better. Whether it's the litter in our local park, the graffiti on the wall of a much-used community centre or a favourite canal-side walk in need of a clean up - if we love it, we want to do something to look after it." [1]

Picture 2. Love Where You Live website, April 2012

Greenwash

The fact that this campaign was set up by three companies that are major waste and litter producers themselves puts this initiative in the realm of reputation management and 'greenwash'. In March 2013 Imperial Tobacco ended in the top 10 of the biggest litter count yet organised by Keep Britain Tidy.[2] The Love Where You Live website includes an Imperial Tobacco page that juxtaposes the campaign's green heart symbol with the tobacco company's name. That page also states that the company will be "Encouraging their own staff to get involved in appropriate local community-based projects and raise awareness through engagement with local authorities and media".[3] An effort to stage themselves as companies involved in good governance, the campaign is a good example of using Corporate Social Responsibility as a strategy.

Access to Kids

Another aspect of this campaign is that it grants the companies access to the classroom. As detailed under Education Strategy, having access to children and youngsters is essential for the tobacco industry to reach the next generation of potential consumers. Since advertising for cigarettes is increasingly regulated, and targeting kids is increasingly considered unacceptable, the industry needs other ways to reach youngsters. This campaign attempts to profile the companies involved as cool. In a letter to the Department requesting Defra to end Imperial's involvement in the campaign, David Stapleton of Smokefree Alliance Somerset points out that the website encourages schools, scouts and other community groups to engage with the campaign. He writes:

My concern here is that Imperial Tobacco is potentially being offered a channel with which to engage with young people. As we know that smoking is an addiction acquired in childhood, not as an adult, this would be entirely inappropriate. [...]
This CSR activity masks the hugely detrimental impact the company has on public health, and may assist in its aim of recruiting new smokers from amongst our young people.[4]

Accepted Partner

Furthermore, it is important for the tobacco industry to be an accepted partner at the table for the authorities at all levels. For example Japan Tobacco International (JTI) filed a written submission to the Communities and Local Government Committee in Parliament to take part in the debate on the transfer of public health responsibilities and budgets to local governments, which includes responsibility for tobacco policies and programmes. The company stated:

JTI would like to take this opportunity to demonstrate that worthwhile and genuine partnerships can be formed with tobacco companies despite the perceptions that exist, and that there is a role for discussions with companies such as JTI in the development of local policy on tobacco issues.

Amongst other things, such as corporate philanthropy, efforts to fight illicit trade and youth access to cigarettes, the company emphasized its support for litter bin projects. JTI used its involvement in the Love Where You Live campaign as an example to "demonstrate the successful partnerships that authorities and third-parties are able to have with JTI":

31. In 2010, JTI sat as a member of the Litter Challenge Group, along with the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Keep Britain Tidy, CPRE and other business organisations. The group was formed in order to develop a nationwide anti-litter campaign, “Love Where You Live”, which was launched in 2011.
32. JTI is now working with Liverpool Business Improvement District and East Gallions Housing Association as part of the Love Where You Live campaign. The details of these projects are currently being finalised.[5]

Cooperation Terminated

Campaigns like Love Where You Live offer tobacco companies the opportunity to associate their brand with positive values. However, as health groups and politicians pointed out[6], the involvement of the government - effectively helping to position Imperial and JTI as ’a concerned corporate citizen’ - constituted a violation of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Article 5.3 of the Treaty requires signatories to protect their health policies “from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry”.[7]

Government Cuts Keep Britain Tidy Funding

Parliamentary Under Secretary Lord de Mauley acknowledged that "as the main grant provider of Keep Britain Tidy, some Defra funds were also used to sponsor the Love Where You Live campaign". In a January 2013 letter to David Stapleton, chair of Smokefree Somerset Alliance, the Under Secretary wrote:

However, mindful of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control we have now agreed an exit strategy which we will deliver a satisfactory way forward. Defra's grant to Keep Britain Tidy has been reduced since the beginning of the Spending Review period and the campaign-related grant is to end in just over a year.

The government emphasised the importance of the withdrawal:

This means that there will thereafter be no linkage between the tobacco industry and this hitherto partly-Defra funded campaign. It is important to stress that Defra's funding of the Love Where You Live campaign is driven by the Governments policy to reduce litter and was in no way intended to endorse or validate the activities of other sponsors outside of the campaign.

The letter ends with:

The Government categorically does not endorse the activities of tobacco companies.[8]

Keep Britain Tidy Cuts Links with Tobacco Industry

Almost a year later, in December 2013, Keep Britain Tidy used the launch of the Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control to announce that the charity would no longer work with or accept money from the tobacco industry, and had applied to join the Smoke Free Action Coalition. The Declaration commits local authorities to taking a strong stance against working with the tobacco industry, accepting funding from it or working with organisations that do. Keep Britain Tidy put out a press statement quoting chief executive Phil Barton saying:

It has become clear that Keep Britain Tidy is in a position where continuing to take funds from the tobacco industry will seriously jeopardise our ability to maintain good working relationships with essential public sector stakeholders, particularly in local government, without whose co-operation we would be unable to deliver our work across the board for the improvement of local environments which is at the heart of our work.
Smoking-related litter is a big issue for us as it affects every high street and community in the country costing local authorities millions of pounds a year to clean it up. We want to work in partnership with councils to address this issue and reduce the financial burden it causes.[9]

Notes

Picture 3. Letter from Defra re Love Where You Live, January 2013
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  1. Love Where You Live, How it works campaign website, no date, accessed April 2012
  2. Keep Britain Tidy, Our biggest litter count yet!, News release, 13 march 2013, accessed January 2014
  3. Love Where You Live, Imperial Tobacco page, no date, accessed January 2014
  4. David Stapleton, Letter to Defra, Smokefree Alliance Somerset, DATE
  5. JTI, Written submission from Japan Tobacco International, Communities and Local Government Committee, October 2012, accessed January 2014
  6. See for instance this article by Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East, former leader of Brent Council, member of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee and secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health: Bob Blackman, Saying no to the tobacco industry, Local Government Chronicle, 16 April 2013, accessed January 2014
  7. World Health Organisation (2008) Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: on the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry, point 3, accessed April 2012
  8. Parliamentary Under Secretary Lord de Mauley, Letter to David Stapleton, chair of Smokefree Somerset Alliance, 7 January 2013
  9. Keep Britain Tidy, Keep Britain Tidy cuts links with tobacco industry, Press release, December 2013