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Tobacco Companies Should Help Smallholder Farmers Diversify, Work To Shift Own Expertise To More ‘Reliable Markets’

Devex: Opinion: Can tobacco companies contribute to development outcomes?
Christopher Hirst, CEO of Palladium

“…While socially responsible investors move to divest from ‘sin’ products such as fossil fuels, weapons, and tobacco, the reality remains that 90 percent of tobacco is grown in low- and middle-income countries, where commercially viable alternatives for smallholders are scarce. … With the number of smokers declining in high- and upper-middle income countries, market demand for tobacco … appears to also be on the decline. … Do we focus our finite resources on helping the poorest of the poor move out of poverty, or do we prevent others from falling into poverty by getting ahead of future problems now? Companies have a role to play, as the sustainability of their business is inextricably linked to the social well-being of the ecosystems in which they operate. … I see an opportunity to help tobacco farmers diversify to safer and more sustainable crops, and for tobacco companies to shift their own expertise into more reliable markets. With a mind to inclusive growth, we can protect the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, transfer usable and valuable skills from aggregators and exporters, and invest in crops that create more net positive impact — because it’s both the right and the profitable thing to do, for everyone involved” (1/10).