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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.

Jo Daniels, ‘Business in the Community’, began the debate by agreeing that it is ok to profit from ‘Sustainability’ but also confessed that she felt that businesses were not doing enough.

She recalled how, over the last 30 years, the challenges that companies face in the CR space have become more complex and why companies now need to ensure that CR is deeply embedded into every element of their business.

One of the most important points she raised was that CSR and Sustainability should no longer be about ‘what businesses can’t do’. Yes it should ensure that it operates ethically, does not rely on slave labour and have far-reaching health and safety guidelines but it should also be about the positive. She commented that as well as pushing the agenda forward, the benefits ‘Sustainability’ offers will enable businesses to stand out in the market place.

Another key point raised by Jo was that CSR shouldn’t just be ‘the small department down the corridor’ – every department and every element of the business needs to consider CSR and that departments need to collaborate to ensure that CSR is pushed forward.

But it’s not just about the business functions, stated Jo. CEOs need to be driving this forward, in fact she claimed that it will take ‘brave leaders’ to ensure that it brings investors along on the journey to ensuring that businesses invest in pivotal CSR measures.

But closing up Jo was unsure whether or not existing CSR efforts ‘Cut the Mustard’. Looking at the way the population is growing and the resources that this growth will require, Jo claimed that businesses will continue to struggle unless they consider ‘Community Building’ and ‘more connected ways of living’. There needs to be a shift, claimed Jo, from product based businesses to service based offerings. For example, do we need to keep making CDs if we all consume digital content? We need to consider new ways of consuming such as ‘collaborative consumption’. Lots of food for thought.

We are excited to confirm The Conversation Society’s next event. Sustainability: Is business doing enough? Is it OK to profit from sustainability?

Date: Tuesday July 12th from 6.30pm – 8.00pm

Venue: The Shooting Gallery, The Haymarket Hotel,

Confirmed speakers:

  • Donna Young, CSR Programme Director, BT
  • Wolfgang Weinmann, Director of Strategy, Cafe Direct
  • Matt Bell, Group Head of External Affairs, Berkeley Group Holdings plc

Lots of people are talking about living sustainably these days but do we all mean the same thing? How can we all use less but create more? Can green ever be mainstream? Is business turning light bulbs off or on with customers?   From health and wellness, through to protecting fragile eco systems, engaging employees and customers, sustainability is a big topic. To lead the conversation, and explain what excellence in sustainability means to their organisations and their stakeholders, our expert speakers will each speak for 10 minutes – no visuals, no PowerPoint, no charts, just conversation. Then it’s up to you.

To register to attend, please visit http://bit.ly/lDEqh7

Remember you can also follow the conversation via Twitter, @ConverSociety and by using #conversationsociety