Corporate Citizenship and the Alcohol Beverage Industry
Among food and drinks companies, members of the alcohol beverage industry take corporate social responsibility activities seriously. They produce beverages that are enjoyed by millions, and when consumed responsibly, can be part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Leading members of the alcohol beverage industry acknowledge, however, that irresponsible or excessive drinking can cause harm to the individual consumer and others.
Over the years, industry members have spent millions of dollars on reminding the public about responsible alcohol consumption and funding innovative and effective campaigns to deter drinking and driving and underage drinking. They have also supported peer-review alcohol research that increases the understanding of alcohol's positive and negative consequences.
The impact of such initiatives has been impressive. Over the past 12 years, significant decreases in drink drive fatalities are evident in Australasia, Europe and the United States. Although other factors beyond industry initiatives are also helping to reduce drink driving problems, the industry's contribution is noteworthy and significant. Major producers have effective company advertising codes and support self-regulatory and independent mechanisms to attempt to ensure that advertising does not even inadvertently target the underage or appear to condone inappropriate drinking behaviour.
The alcohol beverage industry also recognises that good corporate citizenship is more than ensuring the product is used safely and responsibly. It also entails balancing the needs of its employees for a safe and rewarding job, improving the environments in which they work and the wider culture in which they engage in business with the needs of shareholders for a fair return on their investment.
In practice, this means that most major alcohol producers comply with or exceed governmental requirements and international norms governing environmental impact of the products they produce through improvements in the use of water, packaging, greenhouse gases, energy, solid waste, air emissions, hazardous substances and transport. High standards are set regarding their business conduct and those of the partners with whom they work, and they support a host of cultural and educational activities in the communities where they operate.
These corporate responsibility efforts are supported in mature and emerging markets, at the local, national and international level and in partnership with a variety of stakeholders from the public and private sector. They take place at the manufacturer, wholesale and/or retail level and may be implemented through individual companies, trade associations and social aspects organisations. This diversity allows social responsibility efforts to be responsive to differing national and cultural contexts.
The creation of the International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP)1 by ten leading drinks companies in 1995 is the most visible example of such activity at the international level. With representation from the beer, spirits and wine sectors, ICAP's mission is to focus on broad societal issues.
For almost a decade, ICAP has dedicated itself to improving the understanding of alcohol policy internationally through active partnerships with government, the alcohol beverage industry, and the public health community. Based in Washington, D.C., ICAP has worked in more than 40 countries to reduce reckless drinking and help build the tools to create sustainable alcohol policies in both mature and emerging markets.
ICAP's activities seek innovation by offering diverse viewpoints and partnerships on a range of alcohol policy issues. ICAP allows industry, government and public health to listen to one another on equal terms and act on areas that they have in common. It has thus been involved in initiating broad international consultation to assist in developing transparent guidelines governing alcohol policy research (the Dublin Principles) and alcohol policy development (the Geneva Partnership). Representatives from the World Bank, the World Health Organisation, and the United Nations have contributed to its discussions.
Four years ago, ICAP sponsors developed a set of guidelines to help inform their corporate responsibility efforts in the Global South and emerging markets, where they are becoming increasingly active. This document became known as the Framework for Responsibility and involved working to support activities in the areas of research, promotion and education.
In 2000, ICAP was invited to join the UN Global Compact, an initiative of UN Secretary General, which asks corporate and civil society to support nine principles in the areas of human rights, labour and the environment. Two of ICAP's sponsors are now members also. In 2001, ICAP's president was asked to serve as Chairman of the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP), an initiative of the World Bank and the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to help improve standards for road safety in developing countries. Several ICAP sponsors are now active in GRSP at the local level.
Through its proven ability to bring diverse viewpoints together under one roof, ICAP ensures that the door is always open for those willing to tackle old problems in new ways. Effective partnerships help build good corporate citizenship.
For more information:
International Center for Alcohol Policies
+1 202 986 1159
Current ICAP sponsors are: Allied Domecq plc, Asahi Breweries Ltd, Bacardi-Martini, Brown-Forman Corporation, Coors Brewing Company, Diageo plc, Foster's Brewing Group Ltd, Heineken NV, Molson Breweries and SABMiller.