Concordia

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Concordia states that it is a “nonpartisan organization dedicated to actively fostering, elevating, and sustaining cross-sector partnerships for social impact.”1

Each year, the organisation holds summits relating to public-private partnerships, during the same week as the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).2

Concordia is supported by Phillip Morris International (PMI).

Background

Concordia is based in the United States where it is registered as non-profit organisation. 1  It was founded in 2011 by Matthew Swift and Nicholas Logothetis, and was launched with the support of the Libra Group which has interests in multiple sectors including aviation, property and energy.13

According to Concordia, it has over 100 organisational members, including corporations, NGOs and governmental agencies across the globe.3. It says that it connects and supports: “…relationships between individuals and organizations to create a unique community of unlikely partners.”1

Leadership

According to Concordia, its leadership council “is comprised of former heads of state, leaders of industry, and policy experts with practical experience at every level of government and business.” 4

It includes former prime ministers from the Slovak Republic, Portugal and Denmark; former presidents from Nigeria, Uruguay, Colombia, Poland and Spain; senior executives from business and philanthropic organisations; think tanks such as the Asia Society Policy Institute; and NGOs such as Save the Children.

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry

PMI is listed on the Concordia’s website as a “Patron member”.5 There did not appear to be a press release on Concordia’s website welcoming PMI as a patron, despite this  seemingly being the case for other new patrons and sponsors.678  Although it is not clear when the membership  came into effect, it appears to have been listed sometime between September 2020 (after Concordia’s annual summit) and December 2020. 9

However, Concordia’s relationship with PMI can be traced back to at least 2017.

Activities

  • In 2017, PMI led a roundtable discussion called “Disruptive Innovation for Better Business”, where “representatives from both the private and political sectors discussed how regulation can serve as a catalyst to accelerate change”.10 It also covered topics related to product innovation.

  • In July 2018, Concordia organised its first Americas Summit, held in Bogotá, Colombia. Concordia reported that “over 1,000 leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors” attended.11

    PMI led a roundtable at the summit which “centered around encouraging innovation in Latin America to further harm reduction.”10 According to Concordia, this:

      “…focused on utilizing private sector-driven innovation in unlocking new solutions for governments to provide for the wellbeing of their people…The discussion laid clear that there were a number of regulatory levers that the Colombian Government can put in place to convert existing smokers towards the adoption of harm reduction products, while still working to reduce the nation’s overall number of smokers.” 10

  • In June 2018, PMI supported and led a roundtable discussion called “Inclusivity: The Driver of Innovation” in a lead up to its sponsorship of a session on this topic at the annual summit in September.10

  • According to Concordia, the annual summit in September 2018 “provided a powerful forum to catalyze action through shared value approaches and social impact objectives.”12

    PMI sponsored a “Strategic Dialogue session” at this summit on “addressing inclusivity in multilateral decision making”.10 Concordia linked this to its work on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular SDG 17, relating to partnerships.10 According to Concordia:

      “The two organizations will strive to improve cross-sector dialogue on innovation and regulation regarding reduced harm products, while working towards the common goal of improving the overall health of all people and the planet. Additionally, this relationship seeks to strengthen partnerships with, and within, the multilateral space in order to achieve the SDGs.” 10

  • PMI sponsored the 2019 Americas summit, again held in Bogota, this time with over 1,800 reported participants including “current and former heads of state, international C-suite executives, senior administration officials, and nonprofit leaders.”1314

  • Though barred from participating directly in the UNGA, PMI hosted a parallel event at Concordia in September 2019. In attendance, were officials from the UN’s World Food Program, the UN Foundation and the World Bank, as well as PMI’s Vice President of Global Partnerships and Cooperation, who spoke at the event.1516

  • In 2019, Concordia held events in London, under its  Africa Initiative (launched in 2018), where it “identified innovative opportunities for cross-sector collaboration on the African continent.”131718 PMI was not listed as a speaker or sponsor at this event.19 However, on 16 November 2019, PMI hosted a roundtable event under the Africa Initiative umbrella focussing on “illicit financial flows”.9

  • PMI’s then chief executive officer André Calantzopoulos spoke at the annual summit in November 2020 highlighting what he described as a “weaponization, politization and distortion of science”. He stated “I experience firsthand how detrimental polarization is to making real progress- in this case, progress in eradicating smoking” and that “innovative products that do not involve combustion offer a better alternative”.2021

    The WHO Director-General pulled out of Concordia at the last minute after discovering the tobacco link.22

  • In May 2021, Concordia published a blog on its website, described as an “interview with Jacek Olczak, CEO of Philip Morris International, and Matthew Swift”, although it contains no questions.23It quotes Olczak’s statements on PMI’s “smoke-free future”, refers to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization of PMI’s heated tobacco product IQOS in the US, and refers to PMI’s targets for these products.23

    It also quotes Olczak on a need to “combat misinformation”, and how “this mistrust translates to restrictive regulation that prevents many more smokers from learning about and accessing better alternatives to cigarettes.”23

    The content appears to be consistent with PMI’s media strategy, giving the company an opportunity to promote its commercial agenda unchallenged.23

  • Philip Morris International (PMI) had two speakers on the same program with the UN Secretary General, UNICEF and other government dignitaries.24

    CEO Jacek Olczak used the summit to reiterate that the company should be given “a seat at the table”, despite Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), because of its commitment to a ”smoke-free” future.25 The same day, PMI press released an update on its acquisition of three pharmaceutical companies.26

    Deepak Mishra, PMI’s President, America’s region, spoke at a session titled “The Future of Foreign Direct Investment”.27

  • Gregorie Verdeaux, Senior Vice President of External Affairs at PMI, was listed a speaker for two sessions at the Americas Summit held in July 2022. One session was titled “Regional Dialogue on Free Trade Zones, Trade Based Money Laundering and Port Security”. The agenda stated that the objective of the session was to “…address the detrimental effects of illicit trade on ports, economic security, and global supply chains...and the vital importance of creating public-private partnerships in order to combat the problem and boost security and enforcement”.28

    The other session was titled “Industry Transformation: A Necessity for Public-Private Collaboration in Latin America” which aimed to “explore the necessary innovation and transformation required by a multitude of sectors in order to accelerate collective progress towards an improved consumption model”. 29

2022 Annual Summit

In September 2022, Jacek Olczak, CEO of PMI, was listed as giving a talk titled “Driving Change in the Age of Disruption.” The conference website stated that “Mr. Olzcak will address why it is crucial for companies, regulators, and society at large work together and embrace disruptive innovation.”30

Donnica Hawes-Saunders, Global Strategic Partnerships and Civil Engagement at PMI, was listed as one of the judges for the “P3 Impact Award”.31 The website states that this was created by Concordia, the University of Virginia Darden School Institute for Business in Society, and the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Partnerships “to recognize and honor leading public-private partnerships (P3s) that improve communities and the world.”32

Jill Biden, wife of the US President,  was listed as Keynote speaker on the opening day of the summit.33

Relevant Link

Concordia website

Tobacco Tactics Resources

Philip Morris International

References

  1. abcdConcordia, About, website, undated, accessed September 2021
  2. STOP, Tobacco Industry Interference at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 2019, available from exposetobacco.org
  3. abConcordia, Membership, website, undated, accessed September 2021
  4. Concordia, Leadership Council, September 2020 to December 2020, accessed September 2021
  5. Concordia, Members, website, undated, accessed September 2021
  6. Concordia, News blog, website list, page 1, September 2020, accessed September 2021
  7. Concordia, News blog, website list, page 2, September 2020, accessed September 2021
  8. Concordia, News blog, website list, page 3, September 2020, accessed September 2021
  9. abConcordia, Combatting Illicit Financing in Africa, website news blog, 7 December 2020, accessed September 2021
  10. abcdefgConcordia, Concordia and Philip Morris International Programming Sponsorship: Philip Morris International joins Concordia as a 2018 Programming Sponsor, news blog, 21 September 2018, archived 4 February 2019, accessed September 2021
  11. Concordia, 2018 America’s Summit Report, 16 August 2018, archived 27 November 2020, accessed September 2021
  12. Concordia, 2018 Annual Summit Report, news blog, 4 November 2018, archived 7 November 2018, accessed September 2021
  13. abConcordia, 2019 Annual Report, news blog, September 2020 to 31 January 2021, accessed September 2021
  14. Concordia, Philip Morris International organisation page, 2019 Americas Summit Programming Sponsor, undated, accessed June 2022
  15. Philip Morris International, Why was PMI in New York during UNGA 2019?, website, 19 September 2019, archived 27 February 2020, accessed September 2021
  16. STOP, Close The Doors That Help Tobacco Companies Influence UN Policy, 3 October 2019, accessed September 2021
  17. Concordia, 2019 Concordia Africa Initiative in London, website, 28 February 2019, archived 23 February 2020, accessed September 2021
  18. Concordia, 2020 Africa Initiative Report: A Message from Leadership Council Member Cherie Blair, website, archived 25 January 2021, accessed September 2021
  19. Concordia, 2019 Concordia Africa Initiative Speakers, website, undated, archived 19 September 2020, accessed September 2021
  20. Concordia, 2020 Concordia Annual Summit: Leading Industry Transformation with Purpose, website, undated, archived 4 December 2021, accessed September 2021
  21. Philip Morris International, Science, Data, and Facts Should Unite Decision-Making, Says PMI CEO in Speech at Concordia Summit, press release, Business Wire, 24 September 2020, accessed September 2021
  22. STOP, UNGA briefing, Expose Tobacco website, 1 September 2019, accessed September 2021
  23. abcdConcordia, Transforming An Industry From The Inside Out, news blog, 5 May 2021, accessed September 2021
  24. STOP, Open Letter From STOP to Government and UN Delegates Attending the UN General Assembly, 21 September 2021
  25. MarketScreener, Philip Morris International : Science deserves a seat at the table, 21 September 2021, accessed September 2021
  26. MarketScreener, Philip Morris International : PMI progresses on acquisition of three pioneering pharmaceutical companies to accelerate 'Beyond Nicotine' vision, 21 September 2021, accessed September 2021
  27. Concordia, The Future of Foreign Direct Investment, 2021 summit website, undated, accessed September 2022
  28. Concordia, 2022 Americas Summit Agenda Day 1, website, undated, accessed July 2022
  29. Concordia, 2022 Americas Summit Agenda Day 2, website, undated, accessed July 2022
  30. Concordia, Driving Change in the Age of Disruption, website, accessed September 2022
  31. Concordia, P3 Impact Award Judges, website, accessed September 2022
  32. Concordia, Practicalities of Partnership Building, website, accessed September 2022
  33. Concordia, 2022 Annual Summit Speakers, website, accessed September 2022
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