As the world’s largest beverage company, The Coca-Cola Company’s (TCCC) stakeholders place high expectations on the company’s performance, not just in terms of financial achievements but also on efforts at being socially sustainable. Based on the Coca-Cola water neutrality initiative case study, it is evident that the company’s impact on the environment and on communities did not align with its stakeholders’ expectations. Stakeholders would expect that the company would uphold high standards of quality in its beverage products while using the water resource in its area of operation in an efficient manner. However, following the closure of the bottling plant in Kerala in India, it would emerge that the company was not only depleting clean water for the locals but was also using water with dangerous levels of pesticide in its beverage products. Since, however, the company’s efforts to address the situation are paying off, with the company reporting that it could return to nature and to communities an amount of water equal to that it uses in its beverages by 2020.
Applying the strategic radar screens model to this case, the geophysical environment emerges as the most significant. This owes to the fact that the company utilizes water, a limited resource, in a manner that is unsustainable. With the company utilizing in excess of 82 billion gallons of water annually, it is justifiable to claim that the geophysical environment is the most significant to the Coca-Cola Company’s operations.
In my opinion, TCCC responded appropriately to the public issue. This is because the company committed to analyzing its strategies and the impact they had on the environment by sitting down with its bottlers, engaging the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy and other experts to identify possible best practices. The outcome was the creation of the “reduce, recycle, and replenish” strategy which promises to help the company to realize sustainable operations by 2020.
Section 1: Context
Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS) defines the range of commercial communication processes aimed at promoting tobacco products and their usage. According to the WHO, TAPS promotes tobacco usage, reduces users’ motivation to quit smoking, encourages former users to resume smoking, and encourages youth to experiment with tobacco products. As such, a comprehensive ban on these activities would reduce the consumption of tobacco products. In the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), it is agreed that each party shall enforce constitutional principles that enforce a comprehensive ban on all TAPS. This shall include a comprehensive ban on cross-border advertising, promotion and sponsorship emerging from the ranks of each organization in question. The WHO also recommends banning donations, funds and services to tobacco interest groups; rejecting partnerships with the tobacco industry; and regulate socially responsible behavior by the tobacco industry. These recommendations are based on the realization that TAPS comes in the form of direct and indirect advertising, as well as CSR activities by companies in the tobacco industry.
A comprehensive ban on TAPS is necessitated by the finding that any form of direct or indirect advertising of tobacco products encourages tobacco consumption, including youth imitation. Moreover, findings by Saffer (2000) indicate that partial bans on tobacco are ineffective as the tobacco industry tends to quickly shift to new forms of promotion. However, comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship have been positively linked with reduced tobacco use.
A comprehensive ban on TAPS has other wide ranging benefits including but not limited to: preventing the glamorization of tobacco use; reducing the social acceptability of tobacco use; reducing the prompts that persuade tobacco users to continue smoking, particularly those interested in quitting; freeing the media from influence by the tobacco industry, making it easy for the former to report openly on the issues linked with tobacco usage; and increasing the impact of health warnings used on plain packages.
Other than the WHO, governments have a critical role to play in regulating TAPS. It is the governments that are charged with enforcing laws that ban all forms of advertising of tobacco products, including sponsorships and price discounts. Governments also have a duty to require tobacco companies to use plain packaging and to enforce moves that will restrict depiction of tobacco use in the media, particularly in movies. In the event that all TAPS cannot be entirely eliminated, governments should require tobacco companies to use large, graphic warnings on tobacco product packaging and to disclose the amounts spent in advertising and promoting their products. In the effort to do away with the different forms of TAPS, it is also helpful for an independent authority to be put in place to monitor and enforce the law with adequate resources and authority to enforce the ban (Ashley & Backinger, 2012). The civil society also has a critical role to play in monitoring and enforcing the ban on TAPS. It is useful to provide the public with a complaints line and website to report any form of breach of policy by the tobacco industry in relation to the ban on TAPS.
It is worth acknowledging that, in spite of the efforts by different stakeholders in relation to the comprehensive ban on TAPS, the tobacco industry have the financial muscle to circumvent most of the legal frameworks in place, which has helped the industry to survive for so long since the comprehensive ban on TAPS was initialized in the early 2000s (Uang et al., 2016). The industry has also benefited from weak and ineffective enforcement and penalties, particularly in developing nations where tobacco companies have taken advantage of corrupt and inefficient governments. Moreover, cross-border advertising is not comprehensively banned, which makes it possible for tobacco companies to advertise their brands in various entertainment events. The tobacco industry continues to spend billions of dollars every year in marketing tobacco products using a complex marketing mix that makes it possible promote and reinforce tobacco use, especially among vulnerable groups. It is also not uncommon for the industry to actively deny findings indicating the effect of TAPS in accelerating consumption of tobacco products – tobacco companies argue that TAPS only helps brands to differentiate, rather than accelerating tobacco use among existing and new users.
Section 2: What does this mean to my family?
My family is at the consumer level in the tobacco use eradication effort. My family members may not play a direct role in the industry-wide effort to eliminate TAPS but it directly benefits from enforcement efforts. In the effort to mitigate TAPS, my family participates in campaigns that call for further regulation of tobacco industry. One such procedure is participating in online campaigns and petitions geared towards international regulation of tobacco industry for its role in deteriorating the health of individuals and that of the environment. The effort to pursue regulation of TAPS in my family follows the realization that a wide range of harms are directly attributable to the usage of tobacco products. Having lost a number family friends to different types of cancer, members of my family would want to mitigate the chances of contracting the killer disease at all costs and they feel that by avoiding cigarette smoking and helping others to keep off the habit, they would be at a good place to avoid lung and throat cancers.
Members of my family have also been vocal on the importance of regulating TAPS in mitigating the adverse impacts of cigarette butts on the environment. This is based on the statistic that over two thirds of the cigarette butts used (approximately 4.5 trillion) annually are disposed in the environment (Slaughter et al., 2011). These constitute of the bulk of the plastics deposited to the environment. Their highly toxic nature also has dire consequences on marine life. On this, Slaughter et al. (2011) observe that over 4000 chemicals are contained in cigarette butts, a large majority of which are acutely toxic to marine and freshwater life. With this in mind, members of my family, most of whom are keen on environmental conservation, are deeply concerned about the long-term impact of cigarette smoking and the disposal of cigarette butts on the environment. Even without comprehensive statistical data on the effectiveness of limiting TAPS in reducing tobacco usage, there is a shared belief among members of my family that regulating both implicit and explicit forms of tobacco advertisements will reduce tobacco usage. My parents are particularly keen on limiting access of tobacco products to underage persons. Needless to say, this can best be realized by limiting accessibility and the several cues in the media that advocate for tobacco usage.
The other reason that leads my family members to advocate for a ban on tobacco marketing is the association of tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, with deviance. In the past, cigarette smoking may have been upheld as a trendy habit but it has since lost favor with the public, with only the deviants and addicts being the regular users (Henningfield et al., 2004). With cigarette smoking being linked with such a negative inference, my family members have always thought it right to have tobacco products removed from the market altogether. With these factors in mind, regulation of TAPS as suggested by the WHO would be greatly beneficial to my family.
Section 3: What does this mean to my company?
As an executive in the tobacco industry, I find it critical that companies that manufacture tobacco products provide warning labels to the public to make them aware of the harmful impacts of tobacco usage on human health, on the environment, and on the future of young uncorrupted people at risk of getting addicted to nicotine. For an industry that has, for a long time, misled the public into believing that cigarette smoking is a casual habit without meaningful impacts on the user, I feel that it is time that the public knew the truth and chose to stand up for what is right. It is necessary that the funds that are normally used in advertising tobacco products are dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers of tobacco usage.
A range of procedures should be followed towards making this a reality. Firstly, the tobacco industry, as a whole, should immediately start reducing the chemical products that are not only unnecessary but that also harm both the user and the environment upon the disposal of cigarette butts. This would drastically bring down the number of cancer cases and respiratory conditions that emerge from the widespread usage of tobacco through cigarette smoking. The numerous adverse health effects of secondary smoking would also diminish, as would the adverse impact on unborn fetuses who suffer the fate of tobacco usage among expectant mothers. Diminishing the range of chemicals used in cigarette and other tobacco products would also protect marine and freshwater life, with the biodiversity of lakes and oceans being threatened by the chemicals deposited by the billions of cigarette butts that end up in them.
The second strategy would entail changing the material used to make cigarette butts from a plastic-based product to a biodegradable one. This would be helpful in ensuring that cigarette butts do not add to the bulk of plastics that end up in oceans. These are known to have adverse impacts on marine life, with the World Health Organization estimating that plastics will exceed the number of fish in oceans by 2050 (Ashley & Backinger, 2012). Using a biodegradable filter would not be used as a strategy for promoting cigarette usage. It would, instead, be geared towards ensuring that cigarette butts do not further complicate the issues that cigarettes already contribute to the environment.
The third and final strategy, which would facilitate the transition to a nicotine-liberated world, would entail ridding cigarette packages of all branding information and replacing it with detailed information about the adverse impacts of tobacco usage on human health and the welfare of the environment. This strategy would drastically reduce the number of new cigarette users while helping those already seeking to quit the habit to do it. Eventually, with little to no profitability, due to the lack of branding, tobacco companies would cease selling cigarettes to unknowledgeable people who have traditionally dissociated cigarette smoking from any significant impacts on human health. It is felt that enforcing this strategy would help the tobacco industry prioritize human health and environmental welfare over profitability.
Section 4: What does this mean to my country?
The government has played an active role in regulating the tobacco industry. The most significant step has been the reduction of nicotine quantities in cigarettes and the introduction of nicotine in non-tobacco alternatives for smokers (Uang et al., 2016). This, however, does not dissuade the tobacco industry from attempting to market tobacco products. More stringent measures are required from the government if the health of the public is to be kept at an optimum. It is upon lawmakers to come up with legislations restricting the tobacco industry from marketing tobacco products through direct and indirect means while ensuring that human health and the welfare of the planet is optimized.
The country would greatly benefit from regulation of the tobacco industry in a manner that would limit the ready availability of tobacco products in the market. Like alcohol, tobacco is closely associated with other forms of substance abuse and is a risk factor for youthful populations (Landman et al., 2002). It would, therefore, be helpful if the government diminished the accessibility of tobacco products, particularly to underage populations. Rather than allowing tobacco companies to continually market tobacco products with low levels of nicotine, it is imperative to entirely stop the industry from marketing tobacco products and instead redirect the funds to edifying the public on the dangers of tobacco usage on both human health and the welfare of the environment.
Section 5: Media impact
The media has played the greatest role in promoting the popularity of tobacco products. Smoking imagery in the media has played a role in making the habit popular among members of the public as has advertising in magazines and other traditional media platforms (Davis, 2008). It is not uncommon to come across visible brand placement and visible use of tobacco products in movies and television. Consumers are easily influenced into accepting whatever they see in the different sources of entertainment so that a superhero who uses cigarettes will likely influence consumers into smoking. It has also been observed that exposure to imagery of movie and television characters smoking often dissuades prospective quitters from abandoning the habit (Davis, 2008). The wide range of visual cues in the media that promote the tobacco industry go a long way in promoting tobacco usage.
The tobacco industry has also been able to manipulate the media industry through paid advertisements. As governments and other stakeholders attempt to regulate the tobacco industry and to diminish its influence on the masses, the industry uses its financial resources to manipulate the media so that the latter becomes biased in favor of the tobacco industry. This issue plays a significant role in diminishing the capacity of the government and other stakeholders from upholding its agenda against the tobacco industry.
Ashley, D. L., & Backinger, C. L. (2012). The food and drug administration’s regulation of tobacco: the center for tobacco products’ office of science. American journal of preventive medicine, 43(5), S255-S263.
Davis, R. M. (2008). The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use: Executive Summary (No. 19). US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute.
Henningfield, J. E., Benowitz, N. L., Connolly, G. N., Davis, R. M., Gray, N., Myers, M. L., & Zeller, M. (2004). Reducing tobacco addiction through tobacco product regulation. Tobacco control, 13(2), 132-135.
Landman, A., Ling, P. M., & Glantz, S. A. (2002). Tobacco industry youth smoking prevention programs: protecting the industry and hurting tobacco control. American journal of public health, 92(6), 917-930.
Saffer H. Tobacco advertising and promotion. In: Jha P, Chaloupka FJ, eds. (2000). Tobacco Control in Developing Countries. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Slaughter, E., Gersberg, R. M., Watanabe, K., Rudolph, J., Stransky, C., & Novotny, T. E. (2011). Toxicity of cigarette butts, and their chemical components, to marine and freshwater fish. Tobacco control, 20(Suppl 1), i25-i29.
Uang, R., Hiilamo, H., & Glantz, S. A. (2016). Accelerated adoption of smoke-free laws after ratification of the World Health Organization framework convention on tobacco control. American journal of public health, 106(1), 166-171.