BAT social responsibility report – like the Mafia at church, says ASH.

Wednesday 03 July 2002

ASH news release:  3 July 2002  For immediate release   
As BAT prepares to launch its first social responsibility report, ASH has published a critique of BAT’s ethical performance.    ASH’s review:  BAT – The Other Report to Society [1] highlights aspects of BAT’s activities which we believe should form the core of its report to society.

Examples of activity that should be a central focus of BAT corporate social reporting include:

·         The nature of its product. BAT does not even accept that its product is addictive or that its business relies heavily on the physical dependence of its customers.

·         Scale of death arising from its annual sales. We estimate that current annual sales will cause about 1 million premature deaths per year – mostly in developing countries.

·         Impact of tobacco expenditure on poor people. Up to 10 million people in Bangladesh are malnourished because of the diversion of household expenditure from food to tobacco.

·         BAT’s involvement in tobacco smuggling.  The company faces a UK government investigation and legal action in the US courts for orchestration of the black market.

·         Price fixing.  Last year The Economist published an investigation revealing that BAT has fixed prices or market share with its main rivals in at least 23 markets.

·         Document shredding.  In March this year, an Australian court found that BAT had deliberately shredded documents to deny justice to victims of smoking-related disease

·         Unethical public relations.  BAT has been part of public relations activity aimed at subverting the normal processes of governance, and policy making or undermining scientific research.

Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:

“It’s like the Mafia godfather going to church on Sunday and putting a thousand dollars on the collection plate  – it’s what they do during the week that matters.

“It isn’t just that BAT makes a deadly product, our main concern is with the way it runs its business.  BAT stands accused of orchestrating smuggling, price-fixing, document shredding, buying scientists, covert unscrupulous PR, marketing to kids, denial and obfuscation about the impacts of its products and creating bogus anti-smoking campaigns to try to buy respectability.

“It’s the health equivalent of ‘greenwash’. Somehow, the stakeholders BAT wanted to hear from didn’t include life-long customers now suffering with cancer, emphysema, or heart failure.

“Of course they should be tackling child labour, but this is not a central issue in BAT’s impact on society. All we want to see is honesty about the way they run their business”

“ASH provided extensive information to BAT’s auditors, but it seems to have been largely ignored. Like most health groups in the UK, we refused to get involved in dialogue and allow BAT to appropriate our time in a process defined by them for their benefit not ours.


Notes and Links

[1] British American Tobacco – The other report to society, Action on Smoking and Health (London), June 2002

[2]  In advance of the publication of the main BAT report, BAT Malaysia has published its own social responsibility report. This can be viewed on their website here.

[3] BAT’s website, corporate social responsibility section

[4] The report was supposedly prepared in conformance with AccountAbility’s AA1000 standard and the Global Reporting Initiative.  The main auditor was Bureau Veritas



Contact:  Clive Bates:  077 6879 1237 or 00 47 24 10 30 00 (3-4 July)

or Amanda Sandford: 020 7739 5902