Today a mail reached me from one of our members. It started this way: “We matter and change the world.”
What I could read then, was a mail exchange between my friend Adalsteinn, who is the Secretary-General of IOGT Iceland and a company called The Nuance Group. Yes, they sell alcohol – for example on airports. And that’s where Adalsteinn came across an alcohol display that violated all sorts of rules, codes of conduct and Child Rights.
But he didn’t just get upset by this, he also took action. Here’s what he wrote to the company in question:
“Hi, my name is Aðalsteinn Gunnarsson.
I want to ask you to stop alcohol targeting children in your shops.
When I was in Sweden Arlanda airport duty free store T5 pier B,
I saw this disturbing marketing of alcohol targeting children.
I hope you will also change your marketing methods,
in all your shops and show responsabilitie and respect towards children .
You should read the “convention on the rights of children” and prevent the exposure of alcohol to children.
I will monitor your changes and would like to see your marketing policy towards children change dramatically.
I wait your answer and action, please act soon.”
He wrote that first e-mail on February 4, and reminded twice afterwards, until he received a reply from the company. Just today they replied to him:
“Dear Mr Gunnarsson,
We would like to thank you for contacting Nuance and raising this concern. We sincerely apologise for any confusion caused.
As soon as we were notified we took immediate action to rectify the situation. We have now removed the children’s products in question from the store completely.
We would also like to assure you that we follow the local laws and regulations. Despite the confusion in this circumstance, we do not under any circumstances sell any alcohol or tobacco products to any person under age of 18 (tobacco) and 20 (alcohol).
Thank you once again for alerting us of this issue. We have acted immediately to inform our teams to pay particular attention to this matter so that we can avoid any this kind of situations in the future.
I was and am still happy for Adalsteinn sharing this example with us. It is a good case to illustrate two points:
1) Self-regulation does not work. Obviously many children had been exposed to this type of alcohol marketing before it was taken down, had been trained to associate hard liquor with favourite toys. The self-regulation system always puts the rights of children (and other vulnerable populations) at mercy of Big Alcohol. First they violate their own rules and codes of conduct. Then it needs a complaint by engaged and committed citizens like Adalsteinn, who put children’s welfare before their own comfort when travelling, who seek out information about the company running the shop, their contact information and who eventually take a photograph and write an e-mail (or several). It’s a process demanding persistence and perseverance in a fleeting world.
We need better laws and policies regulating alcohol marketing and banning it, where children might be exposed to it.
I am inspired by Adalsteinn’s action and perseverance and happy for the result. As he wrote to us today: “We matter and change the world.” He managed to protect children.
2) Adalsteinn is a fantastic example of what the members of IOGT are all about. Heart-driven. And in this spirit, we can accomplish little victories and big victories, make small steps of progress and when we hardly expect huge leaps will happen, too.
By the way, Adalsteinn will surely be with us at the World Congress in Thailand. You are most welcome, too!