Corporate social responsibility and drugs: the present and the future

You may have heard about corporate social responsibility or CSR: some people think that organizations are accountable to society so CSR policies are suitable; others believe it’s just greenwashing (when a company pretends to be environmentally friendly).  “CSR awareness” could also depend on your age. According to a survey, 49% of generation Y millionaires( people born between 1980s to the early 2000s) take CSR into account, compared to just 27% of older millionaires.

This may be the reason why the alcohol and tobacco industries have implemented CSR policies: young people are potential consumers. As devil’s advocate one may add that drug industries have to attract people to ensure the sustainability of their businesses. British American Tobacco has conducted water supply and sustainable agriculture projects, and planted trees in Bangladesh; scholarships have been provided in Nigeria. Pernod-Ricard beverage brand has implemented “responsible drinking” schemes in Poland. Obviously, these industries also need a CSR policy: for example, tobacco and alcohol are affected by climate change. If forests disappear, soils could not be properly irrigated and crops, as raw materials such as hops and vines, could be jeopardized. So you know what would follow: sales would decrease and these industries would no longer exist.

CSR could be a crafty way to sell more but one has to admit it’s a necessary evil. Life could be worse for some people without CSR programmes. Drug industries are also not accountable for each individual’s behaviour: taking drugs is also a matter of individual choice. Moreover, drug policies are changing: marijuana is legalized (or will be soon to be) for medicinal and\or recreational purposes in several countries. Civil society, politicians and even parents of drug users have been calling  for drug consumption rooms and even heroin/cocaine monitored markets. These markets imply a lot of shops, retailers, and…. CSR policies. What would be a CSR policy regarding new drug industries such as marijuana and cocaine?

Concerning economic part of CSR, why not imagine a label like the “Social Entrepreneurship” one implemented in France (not applicable drugs of course, yet!)? This label rewards selfless management of an organization. Fair redistribution of the benefits between top management and employees could be beneficial. Malik Lounes, a French activist, said in a conference that drug trafficking is characterized by violence, irresponsible capitalism, lust for power and sexism. Regarding what Malik Lounes said, regulated markets could curb the violence; the “might is right” mind-set would have less influence. Let’s also imagine social initiatives: anti-HIV projects funded by cocaine/heroin industries like AIDS awareness radio programmes (for example UNESCO’s project in Zambia) or helping to develop cybercafé networks run by HIV positive people such as in Burkina Faso in Africa. What about fair trade programmes? Legal opium cultivation in Turkey could inspire future CSR policies Labels could guarantee and ensure there are no add-on products like bleach and/or high level of active substance such as THC. Monitoring drug manufacture could avoid drug users overdosing and other adverse effects.

We could imagine a CSR policy that goes beyond states’ involvement: harm reduction policies funded by drug industries such as training for professionals, conferences, rehab centres and even drug consumption rooms. Nevertheless, implications for private industries could be tricky: bribery of politicians/officials via big lobbies could happen. Watchdogs, like committees composed of officials and representatives of drug industries, are necessary to ensure balanced CSR policies that include partnerships with new drug industries.

However we are miles away from such policies. The answer? Better drug laws. Let’s see if it will happen within less than 5 years. To be continued.