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"Trust us: We’re Socially Responsible"

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
MEDIA RELEASE


“Trust us: We’re Socially Responsible”
THE TRUTH BEHIND British American Tobacco New Zealand’s (BATNZ) CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY REPORTS

ATTN: BUSINESS EDITOR

Is the concept of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ becoming the latest twist in PR Spin?

A report published today by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) New Zealand draws attention to the manipulative efforts of BATNZ to portray itself as a caring organisation while playing word games to avoid responsibility for the detrimental affects of smoking.

The report, “Trust us: We’re Socially Responsible”, written by Dr George Thomson from the University of Otago examines BATNZ’s Social Report 2002-2003 and the Scorecard 2004 for their content, style, purpose and validity.

ASH director Becky Freeman says the report shows how the world’s second largest multinational tobacco company hides the damage it causes to health, development and the environment behind a mask of “corporate social responsibility”.

“Trust us: We’re Socially Responsible” shows how British American Tobacco New Zealand’s (BATNZ) two ‘social responsibility’ reports of 2002-2003 and 2004 provide a distorted perspective of the company activity. The reports attempt to portray the company as a caring, helping “responsible corporate citizen”.

Read uncritically, the publications appear to give a reasonable picture of the company’s situation. However, when critically analysed, the publications are found to be constructed with deceptive and manipulative language, and disingenuous and hypocritical declarations.

Becky Freeman says:

“It seems nonsense for BATNZ to try and look good by sponsoring health programmes in schools and the arts while producing and promoting products that kill half its customers.”

She says: “British American Tobacco NZ and the other tobacco companies spend ‘advertising’ dollars on glossy CSR reports to promote their company and cover up its deadly products.

The report “Trust Us, We’re Socially Responsible” seeks to expose the truth behind the BATNZ documents.

At the outset the tobacco companies’ social report looks harmless. But the use of carefully chosen jargon and glossy, colourful pages hide the truth behind the company – A company that produces a product that kills at least 4000 New Zealanders every year.

These reports spin a tale of lies, deceit and death.”

The idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR) arose from businesspeople who were genuinely concerned with how to stop the socially and environmentally destructive activities of business.

While many NZ businesses genuinely try to be responsible, BATNZ uses CSR as eyewash to promote products that are unhealthy and in many cases life threatening for their selfish profits.


Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
MEDIA RELEASE

“Trust us: We’re Socially Responsible”
THE TRUTH BEHIND British American Tobacco New Zealand’s (BATNZ) CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY REPORTS

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY
10.30am Tuesday 8th November, Wyndham Street, (outside St Patrick’s Cathedral), Auckland City.

Contemporary dancers and choreographers will be doing a fashion show outside BATNZ’s offices to question the company’s ethical behaviour. Titled “Healthy Holidays?” the dance and fashion show will emphasize the truth behind BATNZ and their products.

A new report, published today (Tuesday, 8 November 2005), shows how the world’s second largest multinational tobacco company, British American Tobacco (BAT) hides the damage it causes to health, development and the environment behind a mask of “corporate social responsibility”.

The report, “Trust us: We’re Socially Responsible”, published by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) New Zealand and written by Dr George Thomson from the University of Otago examines BATNZ’s Social Report 2002-2003 and the Scorecard 2004 for their content, style, purpose and validity.

“Trust us: We’re Socially Responsible” shows how British American Tobacco New Zealand’s (BATNZ) two “social responsibility” reports of 2002-2003 and 2004 provide a distorted perspective of the company activity. The reports attempt to portray the company as a caring, helping “responsible corporate citizen”.

Read uncritically, the publications appear to give a reasonable picture of the company’s situation. However, when critically analysed, the publications are found to be constructed with deceptive and manipulative language, and disingenuous and hypocritical declarations.

ASH Director Becky Freeman says:

“British American Tobacco NZ and the other tobacco companies spend ‘advertising’ dollars on glossy CSR reports to promote their company and cover up its deadly products.

This report seeks to expose the truth behind the BAT documents.

At the outset the report looks harmless but behind the posh language and glossy, colourful pages hide the truth behind the company – A company that produces a product that kills at least 4000 New Zealanders every year.

These reports spin a tale of lies, deceit and death.”


ENDS

NOTES

A copy of the summary document is attached.

INSTANCES OF PR SPIN IN THE BATNZ REPORTS
Uses of the words ‘choose’ and ‘choice’ in the BATNZ 2003 CSR report

‘We believe smokers in New Zealand are well aware of the risks of smoking and, despite knowledge of these risks, many will continue to choose to smoke’ (2003 p.23)

‘ensuring adult consumers can continue to make an informed choice about a legal product’ (2003 p.32)

‘smoking must only be a choice for informed adults’ (p.34 and p.40)

‘Adults can then make an informed decision about whether to smoke or not; and if they smoke, choose to either continue or to quit’ (p.34)

‘Some stakeholders asked that British American Tobacco New Zealand take steps to ensure that consumers who continue to choose to smoke have access to information which may help them to minimise the harmful effects of smoking’ (p.55)

‘Despite the wide range of products available, smokers in New Zealand prefer full flavoured products and continue to choose to smoke them’ (p.56)
Uses of positive words to associate the values with BATNZ

In the 2003 Social Report:

‘Responsible’ or ‘responsibly’:

‘Managing a product that poses real and serious risks to health, we believe that it is all the more important that we do so responsibly (2003, p.5)
As a responsible company we believe we must uphold high standards of behaviour and integrity.(2003 p.22)
…. we have a vital role to play in demonstrating best practice, operating responsibly and transparently (2003 p.22)
…. we believe the wider public interest is better served dealing with a responsible tobacco company (2003 p.23)
…. being a good corporate citizen and a responsible company (2003 p.28)

‘Sensible’ and ‘common sense’ (in addition to five mentions on p.32):

‘we support the sensible accommodation of smokers’ and nonsmokers’ interests alike (p.58)
… that through common-sense and courtesy and the appropriate use of modern ventilation and filtration measures, it is possible to accommodate both smokers and non-smokers without the necessity of government intervention and outright bans (p.58)
… the accommodation of smokers and nonsmokers can be achieved through consideration, tolerance and common sense (p.61)
…. do not question that tobacco should be subject to sensible restrictions. …. our commitment to working with government to formulate sensible, workable regulations (p.126).’

“Trust us: We’re Socially Responsible” is available to media at http://www.ash.org.nz/ASH-BAT.php
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