Blog: Olly WehringWould you like a social conscience with that Martini, sir?

Olly Wehring | 15 January 2007

Don’t you love think tanks. If you want a completely unworkable solution to a real problem, you can always rely on these nameless groups of bureaucrats to come up with a real peach. The drinks industry will be praying then, that the latest brainwave from one of these groups never makes it into public policy.

Go onto the BBC’s news website today and there is a blog by its political editor Nick Robinson reporting on a working group set up by David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative opposition in the UK. The group has been set up to look at how to make business more responsible. It wants the Conservatives to look whether the methods being used to tackle pollution and climate change could also be used to confront other social ills.

So, just as airlines will soon be able to buy and sell permits to emit carbon, food and drink firms might be able to buy and sell them for producing fatty foods or intoxicating drinks.

How on earth this is going to be put into practice is anyone's idea, but the principle is to “give businesses incentives to move away from doing what's bad for society and do more of what's good and to rely less on government regulation”, writes Robinson.

How does a spirits group begin to produce less product though, or a confectionary company stop making sweets? Perhaps if Diageo were to promise to sponsor an orphan for every 1000 cases of Smirnoff it sold, or adopt a dog from Battersea Dogs Home every time someone was arrested for drunk driving, it could even out its “negative” effect on society.

In all seriousness, the whole thing once again demonises drink, when, in truth, for the vast majority of us there is nothing “bad” about it at all.

Nick Robinson's blog


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