Only five companies – Philip Morris International Inc (PMI), Imperial Brands Plc (Imperial), British American Tobacco Plc (BAT), Altria Group Inc (Altria), and Japan Tobacco Inc (JTI) – make an explicit commitment to stakeholder engagement to inform harm reduction strategy. Although, even for these companies, disclosure of the nature and content of engagements can be improved.
Disclosure of stakeholder engagement activities is provided by PMI, Imperial, BAT, Altria, Swedish Match AB (Swedish Match), and JTI, taking a variety of forms. For example, Imperial publishes the observations and recommendations of an independent panel of stakeholders who reviewed Imperial’s sustainability strategies and actions. One of their key recommendations was to focus on harm reduction and that there was significant work to be done to transition significant numbers of consumers to less harmful products. BAT publishes a biennial Harm Reduction report which details some of its stakeholder engagement activities. For example, it highlights efforts to collaborate with national and international standards bodies to develop new quality and safety standards for vapor products.
Several companies note the use of stakeholder engagement to inform materiality assessment processes, which in many cases identify harm reduction as a key issue. PMI, for example, highlights “Product Health Impacts” as the most important topic for stakeholders consulted for its materiality assessment.
Several companies have made commitments to and/or disclose details related to stakeholder engagement, but these details are not comprehensive.
Companies also increasingly provide platforms for engagement with the scientific community in relation to the development of reduced-risk products. For example, PMI launched its sbv IMPROVER platform in 2011, which was designed to enable independent scientific experts to review and validate PMI’s scientific methods and conclusions. It is accompanied by another website that provides an overview of the company’s scientific results and research, and another one which allows all relevant stakeholders to share and explore toxicity assessment data produced in relation to reduced-risk products. JTI also began publishing its research findings in 2017.
The remaining nine companies do not disclose if or how they engage with stakeholders concerning tobacco harm reduction. ITC Ltd (ITC) and KT&G Corp (KT&G) do highlight stakeholder engagement, but this centers on wider sustainability issues instead of a clear harm reduction agenda.
Transparent stakeholder engagement is critical to the development of a multi-faceted tobacco harm reduction strategy that considers the impact on a wide range of relevant stakeholders beyond a company’s shareholders. Several companies have made commitments to and/or disclose details related to such engagement, but these details are not comprehensive.