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The Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge: a tool for change

30 July 2020
Clare Payne, FCTC, Tobacco Free Portfolios

Clare Payne, Director of Communications

Tobacco Free Portfolios

How the Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge is advancing global tobacco control

Addressing financial support of tobacco companies is a crucial piece in global efforts to control tobacco. Whilst it is well known across the health sector that tobacco kills an estimated 8 million people per year, in other sectors, such as finance, this number can startle - as does the fact that almost no cigarette can be guaranteed to be free of child labour. As the finance community increasingly seeks to align investments with the Sustainable Development Goals, Tobacco Free Portfolios plays the important role of highlighting to the finance sector the wide-ranging negative impacts of tobacco, including the cost to the global community of treating the innumerable adverse health effects of tobacco products – estimated to be more than US $1 trillion per year.

The Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge as a tool for change

The Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge provides a public platform for promoting tobacco-free finance and the importance of comprehensive tobacco control. The Pledge was founded in 2018 by Tobacco Free Portfolios and developed in collaboration with the United Nations’ Environment Programme Finance Initiative, the UN-supported Principles for Sustainable Insurance, the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, AXA, BNP Paribas, Natixis and AMP Capital. The Pledge highlights the leadership of financial institutions that have implemented tobacco-free finance policies and encourages others to follow suit. Organisations that sit outside the finance sector, such as NGOs, health and educational institutions, are warmly encouraged to become ‘Supporters’ of the Pledge, adding to the strength and power of this important initiative.

Progress despite the pandemic

While COVID-19 is presenting economic challenges across the globe, we have found support for tobacco-free finance continues to gain strength. With public health clearly on the agenda, there is an opportunity to encourage tobacco-free finance to bring us closer to a healthy, tobacco-free future. 

Since mid-March, Tobacco Free Portfolios has secured many new notable Signatories to the Pledge including large institutions such as Crédit Agricole - the largest retail bank in France, Amundi Asset Management - the largest European asset manager, Crédit Agricole Assurances - the largest insurer in France and CNP Assurances Group - a major insurance provider in Europe and Latin America. Signatories to the Pledge now control a combined total of over US $10 trillion, indicating great progress. With around US $100 trillion being invested globally – it’s also a reminder of the need for continued advocacy. Positively, we have found that through careful advocacy many leaders and finance executives are willing to listen, learn and implement tobacco-free policies.

Challenging the business model

Tobacco companies have thrived through continued financial investment allowing expansion and influence. They have also benefitted from a business model that has allowed the privatisation of profits with the outsourcing of costs to society, most commonly to governments. However, we are now seeing less tolerance for this business model as sustainable and responsible investment gains momentum.

The Sustainable Development Goals and tobacco

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are increasingly being adopted by the finance sector to guide and measure their activities. The SDGs have provided a constructive platform on which to base dialogue regarding tobacco-free finance. Whilst it is easy to appreciate the importance of tobacco control in pursuit of SDG 3, ‘Good Health and Well-Being’, many are now aware that dramatic improvements in comprehensive tobacco control are vital for the achievement of 14 of the 17 SDGs (Watch this video to learn how the SDG are negatively affected by tobacco). SDG 17 calls for ‘Partnerships for the Goals’, which most clearly articulates the importance of cross-sector collaboration when addressing major global issues and is the philosophy that underpins the tobacco-free finance movement.

Become a Supporter of The Pledge

We warmly encourage all organisations working in tobacco control and health to become Supporters of the Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge by simply completing this brief form. Your commitment will make a difference, helping to bring us closer to a world that is free of tobacco.

You can learn more and become a Supporter today here: https://www.unepfi.org/psi/tobacco-free-finance-pledge/

About the author

Clare Payne holds a Bachelor of Communications and Laws, is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and has been recognised as an Australian ‘100 Women of Influence’. In addition to her role with Tobacco Free Portfolios, Clare holds the position of EY Fellow for Trust and Ethics and is an Honorary Fellow of The University of Melbourne. Clare has applied her unique and valuable skillset to Tobacco Free Portfolios since 2015, with regard to strategy, governance and communications.

Dr Bronwyn King AO began her medical career working as a doctor on the lung cancer ward at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia. While doing her best to treat her patients, Dr King observed first-hand the truly devastating impact of tobacco - many deaths and much suffering. She was unaware that at the very same time she was investing in Big Tobacco via her compulsory superannuation (pension) fund. Tobacco-Free Portfolios was set up in response to that uncomfortable discovery. Since then, Dr King has assembled an accomplished team that has been instrumental in advancing the switch to tobacco-free finance across the globe.

Last update: 
Monday 9 November 2020
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