BAT’s Social report: an exercise in artful PR. ASH’s critique reveals flaws in BAT’s approach to corporate social responsibility.



Friday 25 October 2002

ASH news release:  Embargo:  00.01 Friday 25 October 2002
On the day that the BAT-sponsored Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility at Nottingham University hosts its first symposium [1] ASH is publishing a detailed critique [2] of BAT’s first social report launched in July this year. [3].

ASH believes that the private symposium being held today is just another public relations smokescreen that mirrors the activities outlined in its social report.   BAT is using Nottingham University as a front to convince an international network of people that it is a ‘responsible’ company.  The ASH critique published today reveals how BAT’s social reporting is a cosmetic exercise designed to improve its standing in the international community but which ignores the fundamental nature of its business.

The report reveals how BAT has evaded questions about the health impact of its business as well as issues such as possible involvement in criminal activity.

Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:

“On all the issues that really matter the social report is either cosmetic, evasive or deceitful.  It’s certainly artful PR, but no-one should regard this as an insight into this company’s place in the world. 

 “What is shocking is the gullibility of some parts of the ethical investment and corporate social responsibility community that have just blindly lapped up the glossy report and soothing PR without bothering to test whether they are in any way related to the reality of BAT’s real-world operations.”

BAT prides itself on being the first tobacco company to produce a social report. But if it really behaved ethically and responsibly the company would go out of business.

As Stan Shatenstein, author of the report commented:

“There is only one ethical course of action that a tobacco company can follow. BAT executives must do everything in their power to discourage all smokers, young and old, from using the company’s products. Is that likely to happen? Not very. But that’s what ethical executives would do when faced with the certain knowledge that their firm’s products cause disease and death when used as intended.”

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Contact:  Amanda Sandford:  020 7739 5902

Notes and links:

[1]  In November 2000, the University of Nottingham announced its decision to accept £3.8 million from BAT for an International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility.  The symposium being held today is for an invited audience of academics to discuss CSR.  For background information on BAT’s involvement with Nottingham University see: www.ash.org.uk/information/tobacco-industry/conduct

[2]  BAT social report revisited. ASH comes to BAT. October 2002 (pdf)

[3]  British American Tobacco.  Social Report 2001/2002 Can be viewed on BAT’s website at www.bat.com

[4] In anticipation of the release of BAT’s social report, ASH published  ‘BAT – The Other Report to Society’ which assessed BAT’s previously stated positions on corporate social responsibility and outlined business practices that we see as integral to social and ethical reporting for a tobacco company.