Statement: Philip Morris CSR Is a Smokescreen

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Christine Chester, 617-695-2525

Statement: Philip Morris CSR Is a Smokescreen

WASHINGTON - My name is Julia Gabbert, and I’m an organizer with Corporate Accountability International.

More and more countries, spurred by the success of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), are implementing comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. We know that one way Philip Morris International (PMI) skirts regulation and undermines public health is by promoting “corporate social responsibility” initiatives, or CSR. PMI’s own internal documents illustrate how CSR is part of a coordinated attempt to improve PMI’s tarnished image and gain access to customers and politicians.

Though PMI claims to have changed and evolved, citing CSR initiatives like the ones highlighted in your annual report, CSR is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as another form of advertising, promotion and sponsorship. CSR is one way that PMI reaches kids and other targeted populations. In fact, countries like Mauritius included a ban on CSR when it passed its law restricting tobacco marketing to implement the treaty.

PMI profits from selling a deadly product with tremendous economic costs. In particular, healthcare costs drains dollars from economies, reducing budgets for essential public services like the ones PMI now offers to support: hunger and poverty eradication, education and disaster relief.

For example, in this year’s annual report, the corporation highlights its education programs in Colombia. These programs specifically target young children of indigenous and tobacco-growing communities, an egregious example of not only flouting the country’s obligations under the global tobacco treaty but also seeking to addict another generation of customers.

In the Philippines, the self-promoting CSR programs of your affiliate Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC) are even more transparent. Chris Nelson, the president of PMFTC recently appeared on the cover of a national newspaper’s Sunday magazine in a feature emphasizing the corporation’s CSR. Photos in the article showed employees painting a school and packing relief goods for typhoon victims, and the story boasted about how important PMFTC’s growth is for the Filipino economy. The article also references the “Golden Leaf Awards,” PMFTC’s incentive to curry journalists to promote its interests.

When advocates called the Philippine Star, employees claimed the “feature” was actually a paid advertisement even though there was nothing in the feature to indicate it was an ad—which would make it a violation of the country’s comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Considering that PMI likely spends more promoting CSR than on actual CSR programs, when will you publicly acknowledge that CSR is another form of advertising and account for it as such for the benefit of shareholders?

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Corporate Accountability International has been waging winning campaigns to challenge corporate abuse for more than 30 years. We were there at the beginning of this movement to demand direct corporate accountability to public interests and have been at its forefront ever since.

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