A critical evaluation of alcohol companies corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity has found that fewer than 2% of CSR activities conducted in Europe produced positive health effects.
The findings were published in the Volume 4 Issue 3 of World Health Organization (WHO) Europe’s online magazine Public Health Panorama.

Researchers performed a content analysis of 679 CSR actions from more than 3,500 industry-led initiatives and schemes involving producers, trade associations and social-aspects organisations claiming to be in support of the Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, adopted by WHO in 2010.

It found that:

  • 1.9% of CSR activities were supported by evidence of effectiveness;
  • 74.5% did not conform to Global strategy categories; and
  • 0.1% were consistent with “best buys” for prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.

A statistically significant correlation was also found between volume of CSR activities and alcohol industry revenue, as well as market size.

Researchers estimated that the majority of the actions were unlikely to affect more than a small number of people, and that only 2.1% of actions fit the definition of an altruistic approach, in contrast to 82% that were considered to have been designed to further industry commercial interests, such as, for example Heineken introducing the slogan ‘Enjoy in Moderation’ on its labels.

The research team concluded that CSR activities conducted by the alcohol industry in the WHO European Region ‘are unlikely to contribute to WHO targets but may have a public-relations advantage for the alcohol industry’.