A grim contradiction: the practice and consequences of corporate social responsibility by British American Tobacco in Malaysia

Soc Sci Med. 2008 Apr;66(8):1784-96. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.01.001. Epub 2008 Mar 4.


In the wake of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is among the few remaining mechanisms for tobacco corporations publicly to promote their interests. Health advocates may be unaware of the scale, nature and implications of tobacco industry CSR. This investigation aimed to construct a typology of tobacco industry CSR through a case study of the evolution and impact of CSR activities of a particular tobacco corporation in one country - British American Tobacco, Malaysia (BATM), the Malaysian market leader. Methods included searching, compiling and critically appraising publicly available materials from British American Tobacco, BATM, published literature and other sources. The study examined BATM's CSR strategy, the issues which it raises, consequences for tobacco control and potential responses by health advocates. The investigation found that BATM's CSR activities included assistance to tobacco growers, charitable donations, scholarships, involvement in anti-smuggling measures, 'youth smoking prevention' programs and annual Social Reports. BATM has stated that its model is predominantly motivated by social and stakeholder obligations. Its CSR activities have, however, had the additional benefits of contributing to a favourable image, deflecting criticism and establishing a modus vivendi with regulators that assists BATM's continued operations and profitability. It is imperative that health advocates highlight the potential conflicts inherent in such arrangements and develop strategies to address the concerns raised.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Documentation
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Malaysia
  • Marketing / ethics
  • Middle Aged
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Organizational Policy
  • Smoking / economics
  • Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Social Responsibility*
  • Tobacco Industry / economics
  • Tobacco Industry / ethics*
  • Tobacco Industry / legislation & jurisprudence