Archive for the ‘Responsibility Deal’ Category

Following our debate in May looking at The Responsibility Deal, we were really interested in seeing the article on page 2 of The Independent yesterday: Drinks industry takes a hold on Government alcohol policy

According to this article, the alcohol industry has tightened its grip on a key government policy making committee that is responsible for reducing the harm of excessive drinking.

The name of the committee has changed from the ‘Alcohol Strategy Group’ to the ‘Government and Partners Working Group on Alcohol’, which The Independent positioned, reflecting its new commercial bias?

The article also looks at the debate on whether the Government was right to consult the industry about its plans but was wrong to include it on policy-making committees. 

It discusses whether “making money from alcohol sales is at odds with reducing harm.” 

The Department of Health will publish a revised alcohol strategy later this year. As we discussed at a previous  Conversation Society live debate, in March of this year, six major health groups did not sign up to the “Responsibility Deal” on alcohol covering voluntary deals with the drinks industry on matters like price, labels and marketing.

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern said yesterday the Government must decide if it “wants to get to grips with alcohol harm or let the drinks industry call the shots.” 

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We are committed to challenging the assumption that the only way to change people’s behaviour is through adding rules and regulations.” 

Dr Vivienne Nathanson commented on how alcohol firms have a vested interest in boosting sales. She says “we badly need an alcohol strategy, but executives from the drinks industry are not the people we want writing it.” 

Whatever your view points on this, we can’t ignore the prevalence it has following these recent comments. This topic seems to be very much on agenda at the moment, with BBC Panorama looking last night at the growing toll of harm caused to young people by alcohol.


A week ago the Conversation Society hosted its third debate which looked at Sustainability: Is business doing enough? Is it OK to profit from sustainability?

Our final panelist was Matt Bell, Group Head of External Affairs at Berkeley Group Holdings, London’s biggest homebuilder and a very successful and well-run FTSE 250. 

Matt had an interesting perspective when it came to the importance of our built environment, which he broke down into three main areas. Firstly, looking at how change happens; secondly dealing with the dilemmas of consumer behaviour; and thirdly he touched on the role of technology, suggesting it might just be over-rated.

The Berkeley Group builds homes and neighbourhoods. Like most residential developers, its work on sustainability has been dominated for seven or eight years by The Code for Sustainable Homes.  The ‘Zero Carbon Home’ concept came alive in the UK in 2007 when Yvette Cooper, then Housing Minister, decided this would be the way forward for the next generation of house-building in Britain. It has taken four years since then to define what zero carbon actually means and the regulation required to enforce it. However, the introduction of the Code was a great example of conviction politics. Many people in the industry have moaned a great deal about the additional cost and complexity it creates. But we are getting better products with a better impact on society because of it.

The second issue is dealing with consumers and their split personalities. The Berkeley Group prides itself on being a sustainable house builder, focusing on a “fabric first approach”. Its focus is on build quality, making the structure robust, and ensuring there is great insulation and minimal heat loss through the floors, the windows and the roof.

With this approach, you don’t, for instance, necessarily need a radiator in your house. But ironically consumers often remain unconvinced and insist on having them installed regardless! Matt’s thoughts on this particular issue: “A lot of consumers are quite traditional. Old habits die-hard. They may say one thing but do another, and behaviour doesn’t always follow attitudes.”

Matt addressed his last thoughts to technology. He suggested that there is little evidence of smart meters or kits driving mass changes to consumer behaviour (sadly). “We find ourselves now in a situation where many of the things which will fundamentally change the way we behave relate to the built environment.  So Berkeley’s ambition is to focus on creating sustainable places and perhaps worry less about the product and the technology, but slowly reshape the relationships between the different spaces in which people live their lives. I know that for me what would most change my carbon footprint would be living in a sustainable place, a neighbourhood that equally prioritises the environmental bit, the social bit and the employment aspects of my life. If we could get the relationship between those better captured in the design of the places where we live, then I think we’d be able to make some real progress.”

A week ago the Conversation Society hosted its third debate which looked at Sustainability: Is business doing enough? Is it OK to profit from sustainability?

First to talk from our panel was Jo Daniels, who is the Marketplace Director at Business in the Community. 

Jo starts of the discussion by saying “I think in terms of where we are in the agenda of corporate responsibility, I think there is a general acceptance now that it is okay to profit from sustainability and maybe when this whole movement started – I know when Business in the Community was started 30 years ago it was very much about how companies spent some of their profits on good charitable causes and investing in local communities and creating cohesive communities – and over the last 30 years the agenda has developed, it has become much more sophisticated and the challenges that companies are facing are ever more complex and challenging.  And so how we’re looking at a company’s positive impact on society and the environment, it’s right through its operations in terms of how it treats its workforce, through the impact of its products and services and some of its extended impact through its supply chain and its customer and consumer relationships.  So it’s much broader.”

Companies are moving towards a more sustainable business.  The real shift emerged about six years ago and it was really about changing the nature of the conversation and seeing how corporate responsibility creates value for the business. A lot of the retailers pay special attention to their supply chains and ensure satisfactory standards especially when it comes to child labour, excessive working hours, poor health and safety and bonded labour. Which is always reassuring to know!

Another question asked by Jo “How can we be part of a solution in tackling some of those key issues on the factory floor in our supply chain?”.  She comments further and states that there are different ways of working and it might involve working with different people who they’ve worked with before such as NGOs, and even their competitors, in order to tackle the root causes in their supply chain.  It is the business’ creativity and innovation that will be the ongoing solutions to the challenges faced. Competitively and collaboration will drive good practice which will be important to the well-being of any business.

It is further thought that corporate responsibility for CSR had been a department down a corridor that were the sales prevention team. When in fact business should be responsible and get all the different functions on board right and ensure that it is embedded into the commercial and business strategy.   Companies like Puma are starting to look at the finance around a price on the ecosystem services that they’re using, however, that is getting into a whole other department which probably before just saw CSR as a bit of a cost. But now, building that into how the business operates, is really, really important.

That collaboration between departments is where there will be evidence of this movement happening.  Unilever is another example of a brand-led company with their work being led by areas such as product innovation and working with their consumers. However, this concept has worked because it has needed the brand teams, the sustainability teams, the supply chain team, to work in collaboration (this is what will give them a competitive advantage.)

Another great example of investment into the supply chain is Cadbury who have invested 45 million pounds over ten years to take Cadbury Dairy Milk, Fair Trade.

Jo continued to talk about some great examples but ultimately sustainability looks at the external issues affecting us such as Population growth . It is to rise by 2050 reaching a total of 9 billion people, and by 2030, we will require 50% more energy to sustain the lifestyles currently had, with 50% more food, 30% more water. The future of sustainability looks uncertain but what will be key to further growth is ‘innovation’ and how the business model operates.

Jo’s final thoughts around the debate were “Is it okay to profit from sustainability and are businesses doing enough and going far enough?” my answers would be yes, absolutely – profit from sustainability – and,. “Are they going far enough?”  No.”

Ella Mayhew, Director, Corporate

I was delighted to hear that Diageo is to pay for 10,000 midwives in England and Wales to be trained to offer advice on the dangers of alcohol during pregnancy. In my opinion, this is a great example of what can be achieved through a collaborative partnership, rather than top-down Government intervention. 

A recent poll of UK consumers by the research company TNS indicates that consumers are inclined to agree. A quarter of respondents think that the food and drinks industry should lead the way in educating consumers on how to make healthy choices and more than half (58 percent) say it is down to individuals to take personal responsibility for what they are eating and drinking.  So, with funding from industry, guidance from Government, access to primary care practitioners and the delivery of information to consumers, could it be true that with the Responsibility Deal, the government has in fact, come upon the perfect behaviour change approach?

I’d like to think yes, but already the naysayers are out in force.  Of course, there are some who feel there are insurmountable conflicts of interest in an industry player funding the solution.  To this group of people, industry will only ever be part of the problem.  But these are not the only critical voices that have been circulating since Diageo’s announcement made headlines. Across social media sites and blogger forums the debate about whether the move is money wasted, have been coming in thick and fast: “Don’t they {pregnant women} already know? Everybody else knows. Does it require formal training to get this simple message across?” comments one.  “How many people are unaware that pregnant drinking is bad?” adds another. 

I don’t doubt that the majority of women in England and Wales are aware that drinking alcohol while pregnant is not good for you. But when statistics show that more than a third (34%) of women don’t give up alcohol when pregnant, then clearly, more information is needed.  

If anyone knows how best to create messages and package them in a way that resonates with target consumers, surely it is the world’s biggest food and drink brands?  At MSL London, we work with some of these companies to deliver simple and informative health related materials for use with patients by healthcare professionals. The materials (brochures, pamphlets, websites etc) are developed by independent experts and supported by the latest science. And they are created because these companies want to make a difference.   

If food and drink industry support for improving our health were to stop, the landscape of our wellbeing would suffer. The public purse is more stretched than ever; remove industry support and it becomes harder to fund and coordinate public health initiatives, with the result that far fewer health and wellbeing messages end up reaching the consumer. 

Foetal alcohol exposure is the leading known cause of intellectual disability in the Western world, caused directly by consuming alcohol while pregnant. It is estimated internationally that one in every 100 children are born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). If Diageo’s initiative enables midwives in England and Wales to reach a million women with more information on FASD, then that’s surely good enough reason for us all be hoping the Responsibility Deal is a success.