Bangkok, 13 September 2017: The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) applauds the decision of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) to permanently ban the tobacco industry from UNGC participation, along with businesses associated with producing landmines or nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; businesses subject to a UN sanction; and businesses blacklisted by the UN Procurement Office for ethical reasons.
The UNGC, a voluntary initiative of the United Nations formed and launched by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 1999, encourages businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies. The UNGC has its own set of principles focused on human rights, labor rights, environmental protection, and anti-corruption and is tasked to support and promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is very obvious that the tobacco industry’s participation in the UNGC presented many conflicts of interest with the UNGC’s objectives of promoting the SDGs among businesses. A business that contributes greatly to diseases, deaths and other social, economic, and environmental harms cannot be considered socially responsible or supportive of the SDGs. The tobacco industry is not like any other industry,” said Ms. Bungon Ritthiphakdee, SEATCA’s Executive Director.
This irreconcilable conflict between sustainable human development and the tobacco business that undermines sustainable development has been the basis for rejecting tobacco industry funding and partnerships by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, UN Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). In June 2017 the UN ECOSOC adopted a resolution (E/2017/L.21) encouraging UN agencies to develop policies that would place a firewall between the UN and the tobacco industry.
SEATCA’s latest report “Hijacking ‘Sustainability’ from the SDGs: Review of Tobacco-related CSR Activities in the ASEAN Region” also finds that as ASEAN governments become more aware of the deadly effects of tobacco and step up regulation of the industry, tobacco companies are resorting to more below-the-line tactics to promote their corporate name and products to reach consumers, such as exploiting corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities as a key strategy to enhance their image, sometimes even associating such activities with different UN agencies without the knowledge or consent of these agencies.
Explosive investigative reports by Reuters and The Guardian have also exposed how Big Tobacco, particularly Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco (BAT), are running secret campaigns to block or undermine the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and governmental negotiations at the FCTC Conference of Parties (COP).
“SEATCA is very pleased with the UNGC decision and urges all UN agencies and other international organizations to adopt specific policies to dissociate themselves from the tobacco industry and its activities just like what the WHO, UNDP and UNESCO have,” added Ritthiphakdee.
Tobacco use remains one of the world’s leading preventable causes of premature death. In the ASEAN region where half of all adult men smoke and where 10% (125 million) of the world’s smokers live, tobacco kills about 500,000 people per year.
Wendell C Balderas, Media and Communications Manager – SEATCA
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- UN Global Compact Integrity Policy Update (official statement, 12 September 2017) – https://www.unglobalcompact.org/docs/about_the_gc/Integrity_measures/integrity-recommendation-2017.pdf
- Hijacking ‘Sustainability’ from the SDGs: Review of Tobacco-related CSR Activities in the ASEAN Region – http://seatca.org/?p=10172
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance working to promote health and save lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.