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Sunday, September 25, 2016
Christian Aid presents report to British American Tobacco
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¬†A report revealing how Britain's leading tobacco company lobbied behind the scenes to prevent regulation of the industry was presented to company executives at its annual general meeting yesterday. BAT in its own words, published by Christian Aid, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and Friends of the Earth, uses company memos, emails and letters to illustrate how British American Tobacco (BAT) has constructed an image of responsibility to convince governments not to regulate the industry. The internal documents were given to the three charities by academics who have been scouring archives made public under a US legal ruling. Andrew Pendleton, Christian Aid's senior policy officer working on corporate accountability, quizzed BAT company directors at their AGM. He asked Jan du Plessis, BAT's chairman, whether he thought a truly responsible company would back, rather than undermine efforts to curb smoking in the developing world, where already overstretched health services would be put under additional pressure if tobacco-related illnesses increase. Mr du Plessis responded, saying that the company had no problem with the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global initiative aimed at stopping tobacco advertising and promotion. Mr Pendleton said that BAT in its own words showed how in the past the company had sought to block the WHO's initiative. Earlier, Mr du Plessis used his address to shareholders to criticise Christian Aid, ASH and Friends of the Earth for continuing to 'decline invitations to dialogue'. He added: 'I question whether it is wise to refuse dialogue, yet commit the resources they have to attacking multinationals ≠ often the very companies that are working hardest to address their concerns.' Mr Pendleton told BAT's Chairman that Christian Aid had supported both its partner organisation in Brazil, and a tobacco farmers' support group in Kenya to take part in talks with BAT over improving conditions for farmers. "We have no objection to dialogue," said Mr Pendleton, "but companies must understand that dialogue is not an end in itself; they actually have to change things too."
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