bat biodiversity partnership - The business case for British American Tobacco

British American Tobacco obtains most of its tobacco from about 200,000 directly contracted farmers – mostly small-scale farmers in developing countries.The company’s long-term success therefore relies on sustainable sources of tobacco and other natural resources; these, in turn, depend on healthy ecosystems for water, fertile soil, reliable climates, crop pollination, pest control and genetic diversity. Protecting biodiversity and ecosystems is therefore critical to maintaining British American Tobacco’s commercial sustainability and reputation.

All forms of agriculture can affect biodiversity, through the clearance of natural habitats, soil loss and degradation, water use and pollution. The impacts of tobacco farming are broadly similar to those of other seasonal crops.  Most tobacco growing also relies on fuel that farmers use to cure tobacco, often in the form of wood. British American Tobacco works with farmers to ensure such fuel is sustainably sourced.

"Our products’ main raw material is produced by agricultural supply chains. Our vertically integrated approach has led us to work directly with farmers for decades. It is obvious to us that resilient agricultural landscapes depend on biodiversity and therefore our role is to work in partnership to better manage biodiversity. This is crucially important to business sustainability - the business case is clear."
Mike Stevens, Head of Product, British American Tobacco

Tobacco farming occurs predominantly in biodiversity-rich areas, and often where there is significant conflict between agricultural land use and biodiversity conservation. These countries suffer from high rates of deforestation and ecosystem degradation, which threaten the long-term sustainability of agriculture. British American Tobacco believes it has a responsibility to help to mitigate the potential threats to biodiversity from tobacco farming in the areas where it operates.

"The Partnership has brought competence, credibility and balance to our leaf-growing operations. It brought biodiversity and conservation to its rightful, relevant place in our daily field activities. It helped British American Tobacco as a whole to share its work and experience externally, and engage with key stakeholders to seek responsible solutions to fundamental issues of business sustainability."
Pedro Seambelar, Principal Blender, British American Tobacco