At first glance, the story would have something to smile about, but it is very serious. Philip Morris France, the French subsidiary of the tobacco company Philip Morris, has adopted a raison d’être. This possibility introduced in the 2019 pact law makes it possible to indicate the role of the company in society. That of Philip Morris France is stated as follows: “To mobilize and innovate to allow adult smokers to stop smoking by making better choices”.
This commitment is quite surprising for a company that has “five brands of cigarettes, one brand of roll-your-own tobacco“As the official website indicates. For the French leader, it is about acting on the transformation of the company.”By giving ourselves a purpose, we send a strong message. We reaffirm our full mobilization towards a profound and lasting transformation of our activity. This raison d’être places us publicly under the gaze of our various stakeholders to respond to the social, societal and environmental challenges that the company must meet today and tomorrow.“, writes Jeanne Pollès, President of the subsidiary.
This strategy has in fact been part of this process for a long time. Aware of the social and investor pressure on tobacco companies, Philip Morris wants to promote what society calls smoke-free products. That is, tobacco that is heated but not burnt. What the company markets under the name of IQOS. Philip Morris estimates that around 14 million adults worldwide have quit smoking this way. However, this product still contains nicotine responsible for addiction phenomena.
SDGs and investors
In 2018, the former CEO of Philip Morris, Andre Calantzopoulos (replaced in 2021 by Jacek Olczak), wrote in a statement “We are trying to stop smoking (…) It won’t be easyThe campaign started in the UK. The company even wrote to former Prime Minister Theresa May to say: “We believe we have an important role to play in helping the UK become a smoke-free country“.
The company even used the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide its action. “The SDGs are an additional motivation to transform our businessThis commitment to a smoke-free world, but not tobacco-free, is a response to resist the massive exclusions of investors in these sectors. In 2017, a coalition of institutional investors weighing 3.8 trillion dollars dollars led by Axa, had issued a joint statement in which they called on world governments to continue their efforts against smoking.
In 2019, the United Nations Global Compact, which brings together companies that want to be exemplary in terms of the environment or human rights, even excluded Philip Morris like all tobacco companies.
Ludovic Dupin, @LudovicDupin