Talking about Big Alcohol’s track record of unethical practices
Absolut Vodka and their French parent company Pernod Ricard are once again exporting their products to Russia. They ignore the comprehensive sanctions and ever-new reports of serious war crimes committed by Putin’s regime against the people of Ukraine.
Now when the politicians express anger and call for boycotts of Pernod Ricard’s products on social media it makes me ask the question: Are you really surprised?
What we rarely dare to talk about is that alcohol is not an ordinary commodity. The products and practices of alcohol companies like Pernod Ricard cause addiction, destroy families, cause cancer, lead to cardiovascular disease and hinder people’s access to clean water.
The list of harms caused by alcohol companies is long, very long.
However, the profit maximization interest of the alcohol industry is obviously so great that they ignore the damage their products and practices are causing to people and communities around the world. Should we be surprised when one of the world’s largest alcohol producers wants to export alcohol to a country that has launched a war against its neighbor against breaking international law?
If we examine how other alcohol industry giants behave, the picture gets even darker.
- In Myanmar, the beer giant Kirin has very close relations with the military junta.
- In Nigeria, investigative journalism exposed that Heineken used poor prostituted young women to increase beer sales in bars in cities such as Lagos. Heineken is said to have known about problems with sexual abuse but did not act to stop the exploitation.
- Alcohol companies also seem no stranger to marketing to children.
- In Ireland, 53% of all 13-15-year-olds have consumed alcohol.
- And in the United States, the alcohol industry has made $17.5 billion from its marketing to children.
Are you still surprised?
No ordinary product, exploitative companies
The alcohol industry completely ignores the fact that the products they sell deeply harm people and communities.
Now that they are once again selling to Russia – Pernod Ricard is not alone, also Heineken is investing in Putin‘s regime – they claim they want to “protect local employees” and “ensure the financial sustainability of the local organization”. It is the same Newspeak that Big Alcohol deploys here in Sweden in their attack on our world class alcohol policy system. They lobby for so-called “farm sales” to undermine Systembolaget.
What they are really saying is: we want to make money no matter the consequences for people and societies.
For those who are actually surprised by how the alcohol giants behave, I hope this can be a wake-up call. It is time that we seriously question relations with the alcohol industry: in politics, in the media, and in the corporate world. The interests of people, communities, and society at large and the interests of the alcohol companies cannot be reconciled. The alcohol industry has a fundamental and direct conflict of interest when it comes to the health, well-being, and sustainable development of our communities and societies.
It is time to acknowledge this and adapt our actions.