I’m just getting back from the Ethical Corporation Conference. For anyone who was worried about lending legitimacy to Philip Morris by allowing them to attend and speak at the conference… forget about it. Vickie Bell, the Manager of Corporate Responsibility for Phillip Morris who attended the conference, had no aspirations to convince anyone that Phillip Morris is a “good” company. Having been with the business for 25 years, she just wants to have the opportunity to discuss with others how to design a path that begins to move the company from its current position as ultimate pariah to a business that deserves to sit at the table.
The lawsuits have had a traumatic effect (as they should have had). And the internal fear they created has caused the company to recede into the shadows as they try and map out a strategy to become a company that does more than kill people.
Are they thinking of getting out of the tobacco business? No. But they are interested in selling tobacco that doesn’t end up in cigarettes. They’ve spent a lot of money on a “reduced harm” cigarette, but they won’t say how much, and so far they haven’t come up with anything that anyone wants to smoke. So at this point they are nowhere. No transparency. No dialogue. But no illusions either!