180400 Meeting or shaping its social contract? Philip Morris's societal alignment strategy

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: 5:00 PM

Joshua Yang, PhD, MPH , Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
A key element of Philip Morris's (PM) corporate repositioning strategy is “societal alignment,” defined by the company as “strategies and programs to meet society's expectations of a responsible tobacco company.” To explore the role of societal alignment in PM's public affairs strategies, we searched for and analyzed approximately 375 publicly available internal PM documents, using an iterative process to categorize themes and summarize findings. Results: PM publicly and privately described societal alignment as an effort to meet social expectations of the company as responsible and to fulfill its social contract with every society in which it operates. In practice, however, societal alignment activities were used to advance the company's position on key issues, such as second hand smoke, by identifying and developing relationships with business, minority, and women's organizations. PM capitalized on the legitimacy of allied groups to increase the acceptability of its positions. PM's domestic and international societal alignment strategies were not intended to enable the company to meet society's expectations of a responsible tobacco company but to shape those expectations and create a favorable business environment. PM uses the legitimacy of socially reputable groups to enhance its own image and the public acceptability of its position on key issues. We propose ways for tobacco control advocates in different national contexts to challenge public acceptance of tobacco industry positions.

Learning Objectives:
1. Articulate Philip Morris’ rationale for “societal alignment” programs. 2. Distinguish between effective tobacco control measures and tobacco industry regulatory preferences. 3. Discuss how tobacco control advocates can disrupt tobacco company efforts to borrow other organizations’ legitimacy.

Keywords: Tobacco Industry, Tobacco Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I performed the research and wrote the abstract.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.