Bangkok, 22 December – The tobacco industry conducts its so-called corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities by donating to groups and foundations in different countries. However, this fake “charity” is just a way to divert attention from the diseases and harms caused by its products, buy goodwill and publicity, influence regulatory policy development, and weaken or hinder the implementation of tobacco control policies.
The tobacco industry has been steadily increasing its CSR investment in the ASEAN region. Philip Morris International (PMI) tripled its contributions over the past three years but allocated this amount to particular organizations. Among these, Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation Inc. (JVOFI) from the Philippines received the biggest amount at USD 17.3 million. Coursing its donation through JVOFI brought Philip Morris in contact with a range of government officials including the Philippine National Police, city health officials, and barangay (community) officials.
Despite its health-harming business, the tobacco industry donated medical supplies and supported efforts to develop vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic. British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International have also been “greenwashing” their harms to society with donations to environmental and sustainability efforts.
“The core business of tobacco companies is making and selling a product that kills eight million people each year. To deceive the public into thinking they are a socially responsible business, these companies donate money (less than 0.005 of their profits) to charitable causes,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).
This well-documented strategy by the tobacco industry prompted the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) Guidelines to call on Parties to ban contributions from the tobacco industry and to de-normalize activities described as “socially responsible” by the tobacco industry, including but not limited to activities described as “corporate social responsibility.”
While there has been progress in ASEAN countries, SEATCA recommends that governments denormalize and prohibit CSR activities of the tobacco industry, uphold transparency and accountability of public officials’ interactions with the tobacco industry, and reject grants and partnerships with the tobacco industry.
More information can be found in SEATCA’s updated report “Tobacco Charity Exposed: Review of the Tobacco Industry’s CSR activities in the ASEAN”.
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control 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.
Val Bugnot, Media and Communications Manager, SEATCA
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile: +639173124600
- Tobacco Charity Exposed: Review of the Tobacco Industry’s CSR activities in the ASEAN
- SEATCA’s Tobacco Watch
- WHO FCTC Article 5.3 (Tobacco industry interference) Guidelines
- WHO FCTC Article 13 (Tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship) Guidelines