SEATCA: “Corporate Social IRresponsibility: Tobacco Industry Fails International Standards”


Report Abstract

It has been ten years since the World Health Organization (WHO) published the report, ‘Tobacco Industry and Corporate Responsibility: An Inherent Contradiction’, on how the tobacco industry uses corporate social responsibility (CSR) discourse to disguise many of their truly irresponsible practices. Since then the tobacco industry has stepped up its CSR activities and now refers to international standards such as the International Standards Organization (ISO), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the UN Global Compact to prop-up its activities.

The ISO 26000: Guidance on Social Responsibility is the most comprehensive standard related to social responsibility. A gap analysis on the expectations of 7 Principles and 7 Core Subjects of ISO 26000 and the tobacco industry practices reveals that the tobacco industry cannot fulfil almost all the expectations therein, and therefore cannot be considered as a socially responsible industry. CSR experts refer to the tobacco industry’s practices as the most blatant examples of corporate social irresponsibility, or what advocates simply call, fake CSR. This report provides a point-by-point analysis of the Principles and Core Subjects on the tobacco industry practices.


Transnational tobacco companies, namely Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International have used international standards to report their activities to increase their public profile. WHO FCTC Guidelines on Article 5.3 (protecting public health policies from the tobacco industry’s interference) and Article 13 Guidelines (banning all forms of tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorship) recommend a ban on CSR activities by the tobacco industry. The following recommendations provide a way forward:

·      Expose the evidence on the tobacco industry’s tactics from this report

·      Collaborate with national standards body that subscribes to ISO standards on how to address the tobacco problem

·      Ban tobacco industry related CSR activities in line with the recommendations of the FCTC Article 5.3 and 13 Guidelines, and meet the requirements of ISO 26000 Principle 6 on respect for international norms of behaviour;

·      Apply a moratorium on the tobacco industry from using the good name of the ISO and GRI in industry reports on CSR and sustainability.

Full report is available here:

SEATCA wishes to acknowledge Mr. Jalal Ramelan, a CSR monitoring and research specialist, for conducting the research for this report and providing expert inputs, and Dr. Mary Assunta for conducting additional research, and editing the full report.