Clean Up Britain

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Clean Up Britain (CLUB) is a British non-for-profit organisation that uses behavioural interventions to reduce littering. CLUB has entered two partnerships with Philip Morris International (PMI) between 2019 and 2021 to create public campaigns against smoking-related littering.

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry

Research into portable ashtrays in partnership with PMI

Between 2019 and 2020, Clean Up Britain carried out a project in partnership with PMI to research a potential investment into portable ashtrays for the tobacco company. The report highlighted the potential role of PMI to “create and capture the portable ashtray market” and contribute to reducing cigarette litter1 In response, PMI stated that “The findings will be used to develop portable solutions that are more likely to be adopted by smokers on the move.” 23

Multi-year agreement with PMI

In January 2021, CLUB entered a multi-year agreement with Philip Morris Limited to “tackle cigarette butt litter”. Within this voluntary agreement, CLUB acts as independent administrator for a PMI-funded project.4 PMI reportedly paid a “seven-figure sum” to fund the project, which consists in applying “emotional” pressure on smokers caught littering cigarette ends.5 The campaign was launched in January 2022 in Bristol, under the title “Get Your Butt Off Our Streets”, to be later rolled out across Britain.6

While supportive of the initiative, Bristol City Council stated it could not “be directly involved due to it being funded by Philip Morris Limited”.6 Tobacco Industry sponsored public campaigns are not only recommended against by the Bristol City Council Advertising and Sponsorship Policy,6 but are also covered under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control recommendations against tobacco sponsorship.78

CSR: Greenwashing

As an effort to align their image with socially and environmentally beneficial activities, PMI’s involvement in the campaign can be considered an example of Corporate Social Responsibility as a strategy, in particular as a practice of greenwashing. Greenwashing refers to the practice used by controversial industries to market their goods and/or image as environmentally friendly 9 in an effort to increase product sales and divert public attention from their own environmentally damaging practices.10

While cigarette filters that do not decompose are the most commonly littered item on earth,11 waste from tobacco products is far from the only environmental impact of the tobacco industry, whose activities contribute to soil degradation, deforestation, loss of biomass and pollution.11

The ”Get Your Butts Off Our Streets” campaign is aimed at “reducing cigarette butt littering at its source, by encouraging adult smokers to dispose of their cigarette butts properly.”12 Post-consumer waste, largely in the form of discarded cigarette butts, and its disposal, is however only the last step of life-cycle of a cigarette. Each step of the tobacco supply chain, from agriculture to distribution, contributes substantially to climate change and environmental degradation.

Relevant Links

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  1. Clean Up Britain, Portable Ashtrays Project in the UK: report on the quantitative research, January 2020, Accessed November 2021
  2. Philip Morris International, Progress toward a world without cigarettes, integrated report 2019, 2019, accessed October 2021
  3. Philip Morris International, Littering prevention, undated, accessed October 2021
  4. J. Read and P. Muttart, Clean Up Britain, letter to Clive Betts MP, 21 January 2021, accessed October 2021
  5. C. Hope, Smokers who drop cigarette ends in street to be shown video revealing environmental impact, The Telegraph, 31 January 2021, accessed October 2021
  6. abcB. Bloch, Drones and AI being used to clean up Bristol, Bristol Post, 21 January 2022, accessed January 2022
  7. World Health Organisation, Guidelines for implementation of Article 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship), 2008, accessed February 2022
  8. World Health Organization, Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC, 2008, accessed February 2022
  9. F. Houghton , S. Houghton, D. O’Doherty et al.Greenwashing tobacco—attempts to eco-label a killer productJ Environ Stud Sci 2019;9:82–85, doi:10.1007/s13412-018-0528-zB
  10. B. Watson, The troubling evolution of corporate greenwashingThe Guardian, 20 August 2016, accessed March 2020
  11. abSTOP, The Tobacco Industry and the Environment, June 2021, accessed November 2021
  12. Clean Up Britain, Bristol Campaign, January 2022, accessed February 2022