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Mutual Benefit - British American Tobacco

The principle of Mutual Benefit forms the basis of BAT’s long-standing approach to sustainability. For us, it’s about creating shared value and making sure that what we do as a business doesn’t just benefit our shareholders, but also has a positive impact for stakeholders across our value chain.

From the farmers who grow tobacco leaf, to suppliers of goods and services, to the distributors and retailers who move and sell our products – all are absolutely crucial to the success of our business. So if they do well, we do well.

Take the farmers who are at the root of our supply chain – we work as partners with some 90,000 contracted farmers worldwide. Our Extension Service field technicians provide them with on-the-ground advice and support on sustainable agricultural practices to deliver better yields and which ultimately provides the farmer with a better income.

This includes things such as supplying seeds and offering advice on increasing productivity, helping farmers preserve soil health by reducing pesticides, advice on efficient irrigation to reduce water use, and generally providing access to farming methods and technologies that might otherwise be beyond their reach.

Our approach is focused on five key areas:

  • Farm income: Helping our farmers increase the profitability of their businesses, including growing other crops alongside tobacco.
  • Natural resources: Preserving forests, water, soil health and biodiversity, which are all essential for long-term agricultural productivity.
  • Infrastructure and resources: Providing access to technology and investing in community projects to help ensure tobacco growing areas remain viable places to live and work.
  • Skills, knowledge and labour: Providing advice on how to run successful businesses and on issues such as human rights and protecting the health of farm workers.
  • Community networks: Building farmer networks by helping them to share best practice and become more self-sufficient.

This is not philanthropy – it’s a pragmatic, commercial approach which helps our farmers have the resources they need to be successful and prosperous, while also protecting the security and quality of our tobacco leaf supply.

Solutions through collaboration

Many of the global sustainability challenges being faced today by businesses and society cannot be – and should not be – addressed by one group working in isolation. This is why we look to work collaboratively with others and as part of multi-stakeholder partnerships to implement joint solutions.

For example, child labour is a major issue in agriculture and so in 2001 we co-founded the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) Foundation. We remain active members today, along with others in the industry, the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Save the Children Switzerland. ECLT focuses on research and advocacy and runs long-term community projects to address the root causes of child labour.

Examples include work in Indonesia, where it engaged with stakeholders to understand the child labour situation and identify existing efforts, gaps and needs. The insights gained are being used to develop a new project in the region that brings together all of the key stakeholders from government, industry and civil society.

In Malawi, in partnership with the ILO, ECLT also sponsored a conference convened by the Government and bringing together all of the key players needed to address child labour. This has resulted in a national action plan to eliminate child labour in Malawian agriculture.

Our companies around the world also work in local partnerships with governments, NGOs, academic institutions, industry associations and development agencies. These range from offering capacity building and training opportunities to farmers and young people living in rural areas, to providing much needed local infrastructure and resources for communities, such as health services or clean water and sanitation.

Such partnerships come with their own challenges – just getting everyone around the table and in agreement can take considerable time and commitment but focussing on the principle of mutual benefit can often ensure success in our experience, focusing on shared strategic goals is key– when these goals align, far more can be achieved together.

Ultimately, any business needs to deliver value for its shareholders, but this should not be at a ‘cost’ to society. At BAT, we’ve seen first-hand the success that a focus on shared value mutual benefit can bring – that is why it will remain the basis of our approach for many years to come.

Jennie Galbraith

Head of Sustainability
Jennie oversees the implementation of the Group’s sustainability agenda as well as the sustainability reporting and stakeholder engagement programmes.

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