British American Tobacco (BAT) has launched a new Sustainability Agenda as it commits to enhancing its ESG priorities.
The firm has traditionally been excluded from inclusion in ethical investors’ portfolios alongside other tobacco players due to the harmful consequences of smoking, which are at odds with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, specifically number three that promotes universal “good health and well-being.”
However, more recently tobacco firms’ shift into e-cigarettes and smoking alternatives have caused some to argue they are responding to concerns about their social impact on society and could therefore be included for this progress.
Its in sustainability report entitled A Better Tomorrow, BAT said it is reducing the health impact of its business by offering a greater choice of “less risky” products to consumers.
Jack Bowles, chief executive of BAT, said: “We are transitioning from being a business where sustainability has always been important to one where it is front and centre in all that we do.
“Over the last 20 years, we’ve made significant progress on our sustainability journey. Yet our approach needs to constantly develop, much as the world around us is evolving – from increasing expectations of the role of business in contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and addressing climate change; to evolving consumer preferences and the emergence of new category products, such as vapour products (e-cigarettes), tobacco heating and modern oral products, that offer potentially reduced risks for the many millions of people across the world who continue to smoke cigarettes.”
The report outlines plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions so the firm is carbon neutral by 2030, eliminating unnecessary single-use plastic and making all plastic packaging recyclable by 2025, a 35% reduction in water withdrawals by 2025, increasing BAT consumers of non-combustible products to 50 million by 2030, human rights training sessions for farmers in its tobacco leaf supply chain in 2019, and a 12-20% increase in tobacco crop yields as a result of new seed varieties.
BAT also highlighted £46.1m had been invested in community projects and charitable donations in the last three years, female representation in senior management has more than doubled since 2012 from 11% to 23% in 2019, and women represent 37% of all management roles globally and 100% of employees have completed its Standards of Business Conduct and formal compliance signoff procedures.
Bowles added: “I am proud that we have a strategy with sustainability embedded at its heart and I firmly believe it will lead to A Better Tomorrow for our consumers, our employees, our shareholders and, undoubtedly, for society.”