In the beginning of April, I had the pleasure of attending AP17 – the US Alcohol Policy Conference organized by the United States Alcohol Policy Alliance. The theme was “evidence to action”.
We were there with IOGT International President Kristina and myself, both of us scheduled to present on crucial issues for alcohol policy. Kristina’s presentation was on the topic “Alcohol in All Policies: The Case of Mainstreaming Alcohol Policy in Global Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Political Processes” as part of a session on “TOOLS FOR ADVOCACY AND FRAMING.”
My presentation was part of the session “GLOBAL REACH: FRAMING INITIATIVES ON ALCOHOL MARKETING.”
So, I had the honor of presenting on the topic of “Questionable Company: Big Alcohol and the Corporate Consumption Complex”. It is this presentation that the President of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) singled out in order to attack IOGT International in a message to the DISCUS constituency.
Mr Kraig R. Naasz, President and CEO of DISCUS wrote in the so-called “Distilled Dispatch” of April 19, 2016:
One new advocacy group, IOGT International (a Scandinavian temperance organization), led a session to “provide evidence that…the alcohol industry is the most destructive industry.”
Every element of this sentence is faulty and inaccurate. Nevertheless, I’m are not surprised by DISCUS’ problems with the truth. DISCUS itself as well as its member companies have been at odds with representing factual reality.
- IOGT International is not a new advocacy group. We were founded in 1851 and are celebrating our 165th anniversary.
- We are not a Scandinavia organization. We are a global movement of 129 Member Organizations from 55 countries. We are proud of our members, including those from the IOGT-NTO movement in Sweden.
- We did not lead the session. I was one presenter among seven in the context of a session exploring different advocacy and campaign approaches against unethical marketing practices by the alcohol industry.
- In the abstract outlining my presentation, I describe the point of my presentation in a way that Mr. Naasz omits in his letter to his members:
Additionally, the panelist will look at the tactics of the alcohol industry, from targeted marketing, aggressive lobbying, tax evasion schemes, corporate social responsibility, and self-regulation efforts. These considerations serve to provide evidence for discussing the main hypothesis: that the alcohol industry is the most destructive industry that is, at the same time, the least scrutinized.”
So, the point is that of the industries forming the corporate consumption complex (see the title of my presentation), the alcohol industry engages in 5 types of unethical business practices, which are largely unrevealed and remain unscrutinized. In this context of the corporate consumption complex, Big Alcohol is the most destructive industry – in the combination of absence of comprehensive regulation, lack of public scrutiny and investigation and their massive political, market and purchasing power.
This petty attack on IOGT International in an attempt to “rally the troops internally” is really embarrassing for DISCUS and Mr Naasz.
DISCUS was only accurate with the fact that IOGT International is an organization for people who choose to live free from alcohol and other drugs – and who stand up for freedom, democracy and Human Rights for all human beings. In fact, we are the largest global community gathering people and organizations that promote a better, more sustainable and equitable world through their own lifestyle free from alcohol and other drugs.
I emphasize this because in addition to the four mistakes I enumerate above, Mr Naasz misrepresents the truth in more occasions in his letter. One of those is right in the beginning, when he writes:
A who’s who of anti-alcohol activists gathered in Washington, D.C.,…”
I was at AP17 for the full three days and I haven’t met any anti-alcohol people. I have met people though that are against the unethical business practices of the alcohol industry – such as constantly and blatantly misrepresenting facts. I have met people that are against the paramount problems that alcohol imposes on society. And I have met people that are for a better society – a society where the alcohol industry is held accountable; a society where politicians step up to protect children and youth from alcohol marketing; a society where women and girls can feel save in public spaces; a society where healthy lifestyle choices are enabled and where people are more than consumers, where people are citizens.
That’s a society that DISCUS and Mr Naasz are against because such a society does not allow ruthless profit maximization by the alcohol industry – on the back of the most vulnerable people.
More About DISCUS
The Distilled Spirits Council is the national trade association representing the leading producers and marketers of distilled spirits in the United States. Member companies are some of the biggest alcohol corporations worldwide, such as Pernod Ricard (maker of Absolut Vodka), Diageo, Brown-Forman or Constellation Brands.
In 2015, DISCUS spent more than $5.5 million for lobbying, per Open Secrets.
On numerous occasions have DISCUS member companies, for instance Pernod Ricard and Diageo, been fined for illegal business practices such as bribery and tax evasion.