Content analysis finds CSR effectiveness is illusory

Alcohol industry corporate social responsibility (CSR) schemes strengthen their own commercial interests while failing to meaningfully reduce harmful alcohol use, according to a new report released today.

Published in the BMJ Open, the study of industry CSR actions across six global regions found that almost all of them (96.8%) lacked scientific support. Meanwhile, alcohol producers benefitted from brand exposure and the appearance of being able to manage risk and achieve strategic goals.

The research team employed a content rating procedure to analyse 30% (N = 1,046) of 3,551 industry-sponsored actions described in an online database website maintained by the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD).

Actions were assessed on the basis of their global distribution according to United Nations regions, the benefits reaped to the industry in terms of marketing potential, impact on regulatory policy, and type of CSR strategy, and the public health impact of the industry actions were evaluated in terms of their likely effectiveness and potential harm.

The industry actions were found to have been conducted disproportionately in regions with high-income countries (Europe and North America), compared with lower proportions in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

In addition to a widespread lack of scientific rigour behind the actions, only a quarter (27%) conformed to the recommended World Health Organisation (WHO) target areas for global action to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, and 11% had the potential for doing harm.

Commenting on the report, lead author Professor Thomas Babor, head of the Department of Community Medicine and Health Care at the University of Connecticut said of the findings:

‘The corporate social responsibility activities of alcohol producers conceal a clear conflict of interest in improving public health, as a truly effective approach to tackling alcohol harm will only hurt their bottom line. Governments, however, have a clear duty to put public health first and must do so without industry interference.’

Katherine Severi (née Brown), Chief Executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies and one of the report authors, said:

‘This paper shows there is sufficient evidence to believe that the alcohol industry’s claims to be a responsible actor in reducing harms are illusory, and in fact may be actively detrimental to people’s health across the globe.

‘With rates of death and disease on the increase in the UK, we cannot afford to delay meaningful action, and that can only come from the government looking at the evidence of what works. Data from home and abroad is crystal clear, tackling the availability of ultra-cheap alcohol through tax increases and minimum unit pricing will bring huge improvements to the health of the nation.’

Notes to Editors

Is the alcohol industry doing well by ‘doing good? Findings from a content analysis of the alcohol industry’s actions to reduce harmful drinking is here available: link

Contact details for media enquiries:
Habib Kadiri, Research & Information Officer
The Institute of Alcohol Studies
Alliance House
12 Caxton Street
London SW1H 0QS
Telephone: 0207 222 4001

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