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"Working to shape what society's expectations of us should be": Philip Morris's societal alignment strategy
  1. Joshua S Yang,
  2. Ruth E. Malone
  1. University of California, San Francisco, United States
  1. E-mail: ruth.malone{at}ucsf.edu

Abstract

Background: A key element of Philip Morris's (PM) corporate social responsibility initiatives is "societal alignment," defined as "strategies and programs to meet society's expectations of a responsible tobacco company." We explored the genesis and implementation of PM's societal alignment efforts.

Methods: We retrieved and analyzed approximately 375 previously-undisclosed PM documents now available electronically. Using an iterative process, we categorized themes and prepared a case analysis.

Results: Beginning in 1999, PM sought to become "societally aligned" by identifying expectations of a responsible tobacco company through public opinion research and developing and publicizing programs to meet those expectations. Societal alignment was undertaken both within the US and globally to ensure an environment favorable to PM's business objectives. Despite PM's claims to be "changing," however, societal alignment in practice was highly selective. PM responded to public "expectations" largely by retooling existing positions and programs, while entirely ignoring other expectations that might have interfered with its business goals. It also appears that convincing employees of the value and authenticity of societal alignment was difficult.

Conclusions: As implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control proceeds, tobacco control advocates should monitor closely development of such "alignment" initiatives and expose the motivations and contradictions they reveal.

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