A range of views are starting to surface on the Coalition Government’s planned Responsibility Deals. In the early days of the Coalition the lack of understanding of what constitutes a ‘Responsibility Deal’ has clearly unsettled both NGOs, opposition politicians and some business representatives. Take a look here for a reminder of Responsibility Deals as they were originally conceived.
Stuart Smith, consultant editor at Marketing Week, says:
“…About 18 months before the election, the Conservatives produced a mini-manifesto on health policy in the form of the Public Health Commission. In it was enshrined an important concept, the Responsibility Deal. It amounted to this: provided that the private sector contributed in a meaningful way to public sector health initiatives, such as Change4Life, the Tories – once in power – would hang up the Doc Martens and lay off legislative curbs.
“The PHC was not just what it said that was important, but how it was compiled. The Tories overtly tapped the resources of industry in formulating their policy. For example, the chairman of the PHC was Dave Lewis, also chairman of Unilever UK & Ireland. The outlook for a cosy concordat between business and government was set fair; not least because an inevitable and severe contraction of the public sector would make health initiatives increasingly dependent on industry funding.
“Since taking power, the Tories have been every bit as good as their word. …
“But all is not what it appears. There are two troubling features for the drinks industry in Lansley’s speech, and they both involve money and Change4Life.
“Lansley is so enthused by the Change4Life concept, initiated by his Labour predecessor in January 2009, that he would like to see it powering ahead under a new operating model. That means real money ploughed in from the private sector, as opposed to the £200m-in-kind contribution pledged by the food and soft drinks industry in 2008. And, just as critically, the project will be “specced up” to embrace a reluctant drinks industry.
“Lansley clearly views alcoholism and associated issues as part of a holistic public health problem (“Alcohol misuse costs society over £17bn each year and obesity much the same figure”) – so why not combine industry efforts to combat these social ills within a single vehicle? By contrast, many drinks manufacturers and retailers see Change4Life participation as at best a distraction and at worst a harmful irrelevance. They consider it too broad-brush and focused on obesity to deal efficiently with the fine-toothed issue of curbing alcohol abuse.
“All the more so since they already have their own educational programme, precisely tailored for this purpose. Drinkaware is a trust, semi-detached from the industry, which is nonetheless financially reliant upon 45 of its members (including many big guns such as Diageo, Carlsberg, Heineken, Tesco and Asda).
“Let’s put it this way, getting funding behind it has not been easy. But last year it achieved a breakthrough with the development of a five-year responsible drinking campaign, now entering its second phase, to which the industry has contributed a headline figure of £100m.
“You can see the industry’s point. Where will the money come from for a contribution to Change4Life MkII? What’s more, this will have to be delivered in real “readies”. Note Lansley’s own words: “To date, industry has made ‘in kind’ contributions. I will now be pressing them to provide actual funding behind the campaign.”…”
David Grayson, Professor of Corporate Responsibility and director of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield School of Management, says:
“…In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher proposed a smaller state but business leaders at that time like Alastair Pilkington, Hector Laing and Allen Sheppard understood the clear quid pro quo: if business wanted a smaller state, it had to step up to the table and be more active in society. It led to a a heyday of public-private-community partnerships — the Groundwork Trusts, local enterprise agencies, Education-Business Partnerships, Community Development Trusts and people development organisations like Fullemploy, Tomorrow’s People, and Common Purpose.
“The thousand flowers that bloomed then created a great deal of positive development which subsequent governments were able to build on and institutionalise. But whilst ‘back to the future,’ might be a good movie title (or two), it rarely inspires politicians, business or society. So don’t try and re-create past approaches. Don’t assume that structures that worked so well then will automatically be fit for purpose in the era of social networks, new media and virtual organisations. But do learn intelligently from the past…
“Last time around, businesses all too frequently reacted to requests from politicians until, frustrated by competing demands from different ministries, they started to assert what were business priorities in society. Twenty years ago, prompted by Prince Charles, Business in the Community ran a major consultation with business, Directions for the Nineties, which defined business priorities as the three Es’: education, environment and enterprise. Judging by the recent Accenture / UN Global Compact CEO Study 2010, those three Es may still be where most businesses would focus their input to the ‘big society’.
“In particular, business should be explicit that it wants the ‘big society’ to be the big sustainable society; and that the major business contribution will be to speed up making businesses themselves as sustainable as possible.
“The ‘big society’ is also the opportunity to advance ideas for collective self-regulation and co-regulation, where leading businesses work with government and civil society to define and implement ‘responsibility deals’, or what the previous prime minister’s Council on Social Action called ‘collaborative commitments’ — ‘agreements made voluntarily between individuals and organisations from business, public sector and civil society, to achieve positive social impacts which would not be possible for one sector acting alone, to obtain.’
“Responsibility deals were proposed by a Tory working party whilst in opposition and were included in the Conservative election manifesto: ‘‘We will introduce a Responsibility Deal on waste — a voluntary arrangement among producers to cut back on the production of waste and improve its disposal — as we move towards our goal of a zero-waste society.’ (p. 97). The environment secretary Caroline Spellman is proposing to move ahead with this pilot responsibility deal …
“In general, business should concentrate its contribution to the ‘big society’ where business has expertise and where it is in the long-term interests of business. One distinctive contribution is expertise in service re-design since, effectively, we are talking about a ‘re-imagined state.’…
“Critical to engaging businesses effectively will be a willingness on the part of politicians genuinely to share responsibility. Previous governments have repeatedly exhorted companies to get involved but predetermined what they wanted. This time around, business should expect a real say, with clarity about funding commitments and a common determination genuinely to learn from previous experience.
“Nevertheless, there is a window of opportunity as ministers, officials and advisers start to give substance to the high-level concept of the ‘big society’ for business, alongside other players, to help shape a more engaged and active society…”
In a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, Asda chief executive Andy Clarke asked for a “real partnership” with the Government to include issues such as pricing, education and improving alcohol labelling. Clarke also confirmed the introduction of a “floor price” for beer, wine and spirits to ban alcohol being sold “below the cost of duty plus VAT” in its stores.
David Poley, chief executive of alcohol producers body The Portman Group, says it welcomes a responsibility agreement in “principle”.
Julian Hunt, Director of Communications, Food and Drink Federation says:
“[Andrew Lansley's] Responsibility Deal will provide a clearer framework in which industry will be challenged to work in partnership with his department to deliver even more progress.”
He went on to add in early September:
“…the blistering pace at which the Coalition has set about delivering a programme for government… has provided plenty of challenges for our industry: from country of origin labelling to a pledge to introduce an ‘adjudicator’ to monitor the grocery supply chain.
“Arguably, the most significant (and controversial) developments are in public health. But now that the dust has settled, it is clear that the new Health Secretary Andrew Lansley was actually articulating a pragmatic approach to tackling complex issues such as obesity, centred around a new Responsibility Deal with business that is built on shared social responsibility and not state regulation…Lansley has made it clear he wants a new relationship with business. We need to seize that opportunity and rise to the challenge.”
Mike Webster, spokesperson for Waste Watch, said:
“As far as responsibility deals, there are good examples. Responsibility deals can be a very good way of getting a certain industry or sector to get their house in order – as long as it triggers action then it can be a very useful tool in the box.”
“There are various well known barriers to small and medium-sized businesses recycling, such as time and space. Incentives such as landfill tax which makes it more expensive to throw stuff away won’t work unless businesses have access to a reasonably priced recycling service.”
He cited the Courtauld Commitment – a voluntary agreement aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing the carbon and wider environmental impact of the grocery retail sector – as being one such case. This represents a move away from solely weight-based targets and aims to achieve more sustainable use of resources over the entire lifecycle of products, throughout the whole supply chain. He added that there is always room for legislation at a later date if particular sectors prove incapable of self-governing.
Source: http://www.microsoft.com/en/gb/mediumbusiness/newsarchive/Business-sectors-urged-to-embrace-responsibility-deals-800034157.aspx and http://www.aviva.co.uk/risksolutions/news/2010/08/20/voluntary-recycling-deals-must-trigger-action/
Jeremy Beadles, Chief Executive of The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), said nothing was confirmed but the government had ‘indicated’ it would allow voluntary health labelling, rather than force the alcohol industry to put health warnings on its wine labels:
“[It is] indicating it will allow the industry to voluntarily label its wines because 81% of suppliers have committed to the scheme.”
The government, which will announce the outcome of its consultation on alcohol labelling shortly, wants wine bottles to include unit content, the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines on daily limits and advice on alcohol and pregnancy.
Half of all wine bottles should contain the information by 2012 with the rest completed by 2014.
The move is part of the Coalition government’s ‘Responsibility Deal’ initiative by which it aims to work with industry to improve public health.
David Stalker Executive Director of the Fitness Industry Association (FIA) at the Leisure Industry Week event in Birmingham (21 September 2010) said that the industry should strive to meet the opportunities posed by the government’s Responsibility Deal and the current public health strategy’s focus on increasing the nation’s physical activity levels:
“Working together as an industry, we can improve the lives of the whole nation and with it reduce that £100bn price tag for ill health.
“The government has recognised this and so must we – and in that realisation we must review what we do and how we do it and not be afraid to, where necessary, enhance and/or evolve it.
“The strategy couldn’t have come at a more significant time as it supports the government’s Responsibility Deal – an invitation to business to be part of three working groups designed to address the nation’s major public health issues: poor diet, alcohol abuse and lack of exercise.”
Professor Philip James, who was the lead adviser to the government on the setting up of the Food Standards Agency, and until recently chair of the International Obesity Task Force, said he was “scandalised” by the government inviting industry to help draft public health policy. He said:
“It is a major setback for the health of the nation. The sabotaging of public health by the food industry is universally recognised.”
Diane Abbott MP accused the government of putting business interests ahead of public health:
“I was shocked to discover that the health secretary is involving companies like McDonald’s and PepsiCo and big manufacturers in shaping policy on nutrition. There is a wealth of literature that shows that junk food and fast food is the worst kind of diet and rather than taking advice from people who peddle it we should be helping people avoid it. This government has already in just a few months sold out the interests of the nation to the interests of big business.”
Professor Simon Capewell heart disease prevention expert at Liverpool University said the responsibility deals with business were a “cynical public relations smokescreen for industry interests”. Capewell was on the public health commission Lansley set up before the election to make recommendations to the Conservatives on diet-related diseases and alcohol abuse, but said that he now believes the commission was set up to suit business interests.
Capewell is gagged by a confidentiality undertaking from describing the detailed discussions of the commission. However, he said that “after calm reflection” he felt the process had been “carefully stage-managed” – the health representatives on the group were always in a minority, and those individuals were put under intense pressure to support the party line when it came to the wording of the final report.
Specifically, he says, describing foods high in fat, salt or sugar as junk food was brusquely ruled out. The strong scientific evidence that traffic light food labelling was much more effective than industry’s Guideline Daily Amount scheme that Lansley has supported was repeatedly ignored. Commenting on Lansley’s new responsibility deals with business, he said:
“This sort of talking shop is essentially a waste of time. It’s a cynical public relations smokescreen for industry interests. It flies in the face of extensive scientific evidence about the most effective and cost-effective interventions to promote public health. Consistent lessons from the UK and internationally demonstrate that the most powerful policy levers are: legislation, regulation, and taxation of harmful substances, plus subidies for healthy options.”
“We are …encouraged to see the government’s continued commitment to working with business and the voluntary sector through the public health responsibility deal. It is important that the responsibility deal is given the opportunity to deliver, although it is also vital that outcomes are carefully measured so that the responsibility deal ‘carrot’ is balanced with a time-limited regulatory ‘stick’.
“We also, however, welcome the recognition that a ‘ladder of interventions’ is necessary to fully address the problem. The ‘nudge’ approach does not imply a disregard for education, the adequate provision of education or the use of well thought-through legislation.”
Andrew Opie, Food Director at the British Retail Consortium, said:
“A less top-down approach that works constructively with food businesses and other organisations is sensible. Too often in the past every ill has been laid at the door of retailers. The new emphasis on personal responsibility and helping people to make healthier choices is welcome. This is exactly what retailers have been doing for years — reducing fat, sugar and salt, offering affordable, nutritious food, providing clear information and backing lifestyle campaigns.
“Retailers removed artificially added trans-fats from all their own brand products three years ago.
“We are already actively involved with the Government in developing the public health ‘responsibility deal’. If these ‘deals’ are to play a part in delivering social policy objectives, they need to be supported by the facts, capable of engaging customers and not burdensome for businesses.
“They could can be an opportunity to showcase the good work we’re already doing but the Government must sign up all parts of the supply chain not just the usual list of retail good guys.”
The BRC is continuing to work with the Health Department as it finalises its ?responsibility deal’ with retailers and other food businesses.
Dr Tony Sheehy of the Department of Food & Nutritional Sciences at University College Cork, Ireland:
“If this is the way things are going in the UK it surely can’t be long before we see chocolate (“with heart-healthy flavonoids”), cola (“with brain-boosting polyphenols”) and crisps (“they’re, like, potatoes, right?”) sitting proudly in there in the bottom two shelves of the Food Guide Pyramid among the grains, vegetables and fruits.”
Professor Tim Lang, expert adviser on the government’s obesity committee, says:
“What’s clearly happening is that the government has dealt with some sore points for industry. It’s already tamed the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, responding to the drugs industry not wanting curbs on its powers. The diet and health responsibility deals fit with the rest of the approach.
“The strong message is ‘work with business’. But the idea that we can solve these huge systemic problems with slight small changes makes me very nervous. It completely misunderstands how obesity reflects a whole drift of economy and culture in the last 40-50 years.”
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, leading liver specialist, who is on the alcohol responsibility deal:
“I am very supportive of the secretary of state taking a position of strength on public health. But I am very concerned with the emphasis on voluntary partnerships with industry. We have to understand that their agenda is very different.”
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, the leading liver specialist and until recently president of the Royal College of Physicians and member of the alcohol responsibility deal network, said he had decided to co-operate, but he doubted whether there could be “a meaningful convergence between the interests of industry and public health since the priority of the drinks industry was to make money for shareholders while public health demanded a cut in consumption”.
“On alcohol there is undoubtedly a need for regulation on price, availability and marketing and there is a risk that discussions will be deflected away from regulation that is likely to be effective but would affect sales. On food labelling we have listened too much to the supermarkets rather than going for traffic lights [warnings] which health experts recommend.”
Professor Lindsey Davies, President of The Faculty of Public Health, said:
“We are hopeful that engaging with the food industry will lead to changes in the quality and healthiness of the products we and our children eat. It is possible to make progress on issues such as salt reduction through voluntary agreements, and we’re keeping an open mind until we see what comes out of the meetings, but we do think that there is still a role for regulation.”
Professor Tim Lang, a member of the government’s advisory committee on obesity, said:
“In public health, the track record of industry has not been good. Obesity is a systemic problem, and industry is locked into thinking of its own narrow interests. I am deeply troubled to be sent signals from the secretary of state about working ‘with business’ and that any action has got to be soft ‘nudge’ action.”
Jeanette Longfield, head of the food campaign group Sustain, said:
“This is the equivalent of putting the tobacco industry in charge of smoke-free spaces. We know this ‘let’s all get round the table approach’ doesn’t work, because we’ve all tried it before, including the last Conservative government. This isn’t ‘big society’, it’s big business.”
Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, speaking at The Environment Agency said:
“we will also work with business – expanding the scope of voluntary responsibility deals, building on the achievements delivered so far by agreements such as Courtauld and the construction commitment.”