Walking the talk: PMI’s efforts to spotlight and address the SDGs

23 Sep 2019 · 4 min read
Jennifer Motles, Director Social Impact & Sustainability, discusses PMI’s business transformation, and its focus on six main Sustainable Development Goals *

“It is clear that the actions society is collectively taking are not transformational enough.” That was the outlook of Jennifer Motles in a joint article with Professor Hasan Youness, a Professor of Strategic Management and Sustainability at the Lebanese International University, and a member of the UN Global Compact Lebanon’s Secretariat, serving as its Strategic Advisor. The article was published in 2019's Global Goals Yearbook.

Earlier this year Motles expressed her opinion that despite the complex and new challenges businesses face, they were also being presented with an opportunity to make a positive social impact through the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While the SDGs contain lofty aspirations, many stakeholders across all sectors are using them as their North Star. Philip Morris International (PMI), for example, is working on the realization of the SDGs as part of its business transformation. It has identified the goals it can contribute to the most and established them as priorities for both its sustainability strategy and business transformation.

Its smoke-free vision is meant to be aligned with the SDGs, in a way that provides a basis for the development of a smoke-free future. PMI’s transformation is not just about changing its product, it is about completely changing its value chain (illustrated below).

In her article, Motles says that “for any tobacco company to have any credibility in contributing to the 2030 [SDG] Agenda – and thereby legitimately speak about sustainability – [its] purpose must be none other than to use all of its resources and ingenuity to develop and commercialize better alternatives for society and the environment.”

She continues: “In doing so, they must help eliminate consumer demand for cigarettes as fast as possible, and thus accelerate the end of smoking.”

This is something PMI is aiming to and in 2016 the company introduced a set of verifiable Business Transformation Metrics to measure the actions it is taking to pursue its smoke-free vision. In 2019, it expanded the number of metrics to illustrate better the massive changes taking place, signalling the continued pace of the company’s transformation.

Motles writes: “Some describe the next decade as the crucial chance to create change – a short window of opportunity to alter the ways in which we live on this planet. By 2030, the world population will have surpassed 8 billion, and, unless we try a different approach, it is likely that over a billion people will continue to smoke.”

Discover Professor Youness’ recent blog post on the Global Goals Yearbook article here.

* Jennifer Motles succeeded Huub Savelkouls as Chief Sustainability Officer on November 1, 2020, following Mr. Savelkouls’ retirement from PMI.

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