Corporate Social Responsibility – Part II: The EU
By Ben Cooper | 30 March 2011
The second part of March's management briefing sees Ben Cooper spread his net further afield, and consider the corporate social responsibility approach within the European Union.
The involvement of EU institutions in alcohol policy has led to a significant amount of pan-European industry-led lobbying and advocacy, and along with it CSR activity.
As industry engages in the debate over EU alcohol regulation with organisations such as the European Commission's Directorate General for Health and Consumer Policy (DG Sanco) and the European Parliament, demonstrating that alcohol producers are committed to tackling alcohol harm is critically important, and all three alcohol sectors have established social responsibility platforms of one sort or another on an EU basis.
Spirits – CEPS and the European Forum for Responsible Drinking
Among other targeted initiatives, the CEPS Charter on Responsible Alcohol Consumption, adopted in November 2005, forms a key component in the social responsibility platform of the EU spirits organisation, CEPS.
The Charter lists seven commitments which EU spirits producers agreed to implement by 2010 relating to advertising and marketing, responsible product development, underage drinking, drink-driving and education about responsible consumption. CEPS also committed to publishing annual reviews on the progress of implementing the Charter.
Its advertising stipulations commit CEPS members to carrying responsible drinking messages on 75% of their advertising, while the Charter also commits members to universal standards on commercial communications.
Progress on implementing the Charter can be viewed at the CEPS website. Last October, the organisation launched the CEPS Roadmap 2015 which builds on its original Charter, with new commitments on marketing self-regulation and promoting responsible drinking. As with the Charter, annual progress reports on implementation will be published.
The CEPS website details its support and engagement in the EU’s Alcohol and Health Forum and lays out its position on the EU Strategy to reduce Alcohol Related Harm.
The website also carries factsheets and articulates CEPS’ approach to the particularly thorny area of pre-mixed spirits, still often referred to in the media and by campaigners as alcopops.
Also on the CEPS website is a link to www.drinksinitiatives.eu, an online database set up jointly by CEPS and the European Forum on Responsible Drinking (EFRD), detailing industry-led responsibility initiatives.
Setting out the industry’s activities in this way can be seen both as a means of spreading best practice within the membership but equally as a way of projecting industry responsibility externally to boost its credentials in the policy debate.
The overall role EFRD plays also speaks to this dual purpose. EFRD says its aim is to "enable the spirits industry to meet the expectations of stakeholders in relation to responsible marketing and self-regulation".
Originally known as the Amsterdam Group, EFRD is funded by six leading spirits companies, namely Bacardi-Martini, Beam Global, Brown-Forman, Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Moet Hennessy. However, the organisation’s influence extends beyond the specific operations of those six companies, and arguably beyond the spirits sector into the wider alcohol market.
EFRD states that its mission is to "promote responsible drinking in the EU" and to "encourage the industry to adopt responsible self-regulatory standards for commercial communications”.
Central to this mission is helping to identify best practice across Europe, providing support to social aspects organisations (SAOs) and CEPS members across Europe, and co-financing, with relevant partners, flagship programmes that are proven to reduce alcohol-related harm.
EFRD programmes cover education and training for bar and retail staff, drink-driving, including its own guidelines for designated driver programmes, and alcohol and young people. It also provides support for parents, for adult consumers on responsible drinking and for pregnant women.
Wine – CEEV and Wine in Moderation
The Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV), the representative body of the EU wine industry, has collaborated with a number of other groups, including professional agricultural organisations and the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA), in setting up the Wine in Moderation (WIM) programme.
The wine sector describes WIM as its “measurable commitment to implement an effective and specific contribution to the reduction of alcohol-related harm, founded on science-based information, broad-based education and sector self-regulation”.
The programme is supported by a range of communication tools and materials for companies and a website bearing information targeted at both companies and consumers.
WIM embodies a responsibility message very much tailored to wine as a product rather than generic alcohol. According to the WIM website, the objective is “to promote responsibility in consumption of wine”, supporting the message that wine is “a premium product to be savoured slowly and in moderation”. It seeks to foster “cultural change in the approach to consuming alcohol” and make moderation “fashionable”.
WIM also aims to mobilise the European wine sector in building partnerships with stakeholders at the EU, national and local levels, complementing and supporting national initiatives already in place.
In collaboration with a number of other wine organisations, CEEV has established the EU Wine Information Council (WIC) as a portal to share best practice across the European wine sector and develop a central Wine Information Database to assist the flow of information between the various national and local wine organisations and other SAOs.
Central to promoting the message of sensible consumption is the "Art de Vivre" education programme, which comprises active education of industry and consumers to encourage cultural change, educating consumers to enjoy wine responsibly as part of a healthy lifestyle and familiarising consumers with the risks of abuse and the benefits of moderate consumption.
Commercial communication is also included. A set of Wine Communication Standards has been defined and is also included on the WIM website.
Beer – Brewers of Europe
The beer sector is arguably some way behind spirits and wine in the establishment of an EU-wide CSR profile.
Brewers of Europe states that part of its mission is to “advocate moderate and responsible beer consumption as part of a balanced, healthy and social lifestyle, promote initiatives and campaigns to inform consumers of the benefits of moderate beer consumption and the risk of alcohol abuse, support and initiate continued independent scientific research into the relationship between beer consumption, health and behaviour and into issues relating to quality and safety throughout the supply chain, and promote independent self-regulation as an effective and credible alternative to the consumption control approach”.
The elements on its website related to responsible consumption and marketing are relatively limited, though it states that issues relating to beer’s impact on society are “one of the main focus areas” for the association and that sensitive issues around beer consumption “greatly shape” the organisation’s work.
Once again, the CSR profile is closely linked with underpinning the industry’s image and credentials in the alcohol policy debate. The Beer & Society Issue Management Team is charged with “attending to securing the brewing sector’s freedom to innovate, promote and market its products responsibly”.
While “advocating beer as a social drink which, consumed responsibly, can contribute to a healthy balanced diet” and encouraging and disseminating independent research to back up that contention, it promotes the “important role” Brewers of Europe plays in raising awareness of the implications of inappropriate consumption and its “proven record of achievements” in initiatives to combat misuse.
The website adds that the Beer & Society team also aims to demonstrate the industry´s ability “to conduct its business responsibly by effective self-regulation of its commercial communications and the active promotion of the highest ethical standards”.
Exchange of best practice with regard to these challenges is mentioned on the website along with establishing and maintaining structured dialogue with relevant European and international organisations and other stakeholders.
Like its wine and spirits counterparts, Brewers of Europe participates in the EU Alcohol and Health Forum. However, as yet the organisation does not have an additional website dedicated to responsibility initiatives. The absence of an additional portal such as this means that the European beer sector offers less in terms of consumer-facing promotion of responsible consumption.
However, the website does include a review of beer advertising self-regulation in Europe, co-published by the Brewers of Europe and EASA. Last December, Brewers of Europe co-hosted with the Belgian Road Safety Institute a conference on drink-driving. At this conference, Brewers of Europe signed up to the European Road Safety Charter (ERSC), a Europe-wide initiative coordinated by the European Commission aimed at improving road safety.
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Corporate Social Responsibility – Part II: The EU
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