Hypocrisy: Diageo Gathers Anti-DUI Pledges
In the latest hypocrisy, the global alcohol giant Diageo – which is part of causing alcohol deaths around the world – is collecting pledges against driving under the influence (DUI).
Diageo has teamed up with Formula 1 to collect more than 20 million consumer pledges to never drive while under the influence of alcohol, as part of its global “Join the Pact” campaign.
The campaign has been launched in several countries including Germany, Ireland and Thailand.
We believe that a single death caused by drinking and driving is one too many and each one can be prevented, ” said Kate Gibson, director of Diageo in society, as per The Spirits Business.
Hypocrisy in one image
But the hypocrisy of the campaign and the statement by Ms Gibson become blindingly apparent in just one image: a racing care with the Johnny Walker brand all over it. How does this communicate to seperate alcohol use and driving a motor vehicle?
Campaigns with images and messages like this clearly do not communicate safety, caution and responsibility. Johnny Walkers’s slogan is “keep walking” – an encouragement for excessive alcohol use, beyond any limit.
In fact, independent science has examined the alcohol industry’s road safety campaigns. The results are little surprising but infuriating:
Evidence suggests that some of the alcohol industry’s commercial activities have the potential to not only increase the frequency and amount of alcohol consumption, but also the likelihood of alcohol-impaired driving,” write Babor, Robaina and Noel.
They also found that associating alcohol with car racing is likely in violation of the alcohol industry’s own pledges as well as their own self-regulatory advertising codes. It is clear that with campaigns such as this Diageo example, the brand is being identified with a sport that displays vehicles driving in a manner that would be deemed unsafe and illegal if it occurred on a public road.
It is noteworthy that the alcohol industry in the United States has pledged not to promote alcohol-impaired driving and to avoid associating driving with alcoholic beverages in their marketing activities.
A self-serving and counter-productive campaign
A group of researchers examined the alcohol industry’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to investigate to what extent they have a public health benefit (“doing good”) and to what degree these activities have added value for the private interest of the alcohol industry (“doing well”). The researchers found:
Only 27% conformed to recommended WHO target areas for global action to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. The overwhelming majority (96.8%) of industry actions lacked scientific support and 11.0% had the potential for doing harm.“
Diageo’s campaign is about its own benefits instead of public health and safety. The researchers found that alcohol industry CSR activities are unlikely to reduce alcohol harm but they do provide commercial strategic advantage while at the same time appearing to have a public health purpose.
The benefits accruing to the industry (“doing well”) included brand marketing and the use of CSR to manage risk and achieve strategic goals.”
As such, CSR activities play an important role for alcohol companies such as Diageo in expanding markets and promoting their own profits.
The game is given away by partner companies of Diageo, for example in the United States. Big Alcohol’s front group, the American Beverage Institute (ABI) is actively lobbying against lowering the BAC limit in the United States – a proven measure that would reduce and prevent road traffic injuries and fatalities.
The bigger picture
Babor, Robaina and Noel also point out:
Market expansion by transnational producers of alcoholic beverages is likely to result in increased alcohol availability, which in turn can impact alcohol consumption and the prevalence of alcohol-related health consequences, including traffic injuries and fatalities.”
Traffic fatalities make a up a significant part of alcohol-related harm through injuries, disabilities and deaths. But in a way they are “just” the tip of the iceberg – very visible and tragic as they often impact others than the alcohol user, but far from the full spectrum of alcohol harm.
Cancer, heart disease, mental health problems, intimate partner violence, neglected and abused children, workplace accidents – the list of alcohol harm is long. And the measures to tackle all this harm are the so-called three best buys.
According to WHO, Over 3 million deaths are caused by alcohol around the world every year and alcohol is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease.
It is highly hypocritical of Diageo to be campaigning to end DUI deaths when they are the second largest liquor maker in the world – directly profiting from the substance that fuels the problem. Further Diageo has been caught in many unethical business practices which undermine public health policy and human rights.
For example, Diageo was caught lobbying to lower alcohol tax in Mexico. But raising taxes are a proven measure to reduce alcohol harm. If Diageo intended to reduce harm from alcohol they would not be lobbying against public health policy.
The already troubling assessment is made worse by the fact that DUI-measures are not among the three most cost-effective, high-impact alcohol policy solutions to really prevent and reduce harm.
- Increasing alcohol beverage excise taxes,
- Restricting access to retailed alcohol beverages and
- Comprehensive advertising, promotion and sponsorship bans.
Analysis shows that Diageo, the alcohol industry and their front groups are aggressively lobbying against these three best buys, worldwide and on all levels – as this world map of Big Alcohol interference shows.
The reason is also clear:
There is an inherent conflict of interest between Big Alcohol’s goals (promoting consumption of products that harm health, economy, social fabric and the environment) on one hand and their image campaigns portraying social responsibility. The fact is that Big Alcohol relies on heavy and excessive alcohol use for the bulk of its profits. For example, in the United Kingdom, alcohol sales would decrease by 38%, a value of £13 billion, if consumers would NOT use alcohol in excess of recommendations from the UK’s National Health Service (Siddique, 2018).
Therefore, the “Join the Pact” campaign is not only pointless but actually harmful.
For further reading:
The truth about Diageo and their unethical business practices