This post originally appeared on CSRwire.
Love Tobacco Companies - Hate Tobacco
Tobacco companies are the obvious headline-hitters in a review of some of the companies we love to hate. While it is hard to find anyone who can say something terribly positive about tobacco companies, except, perhaps, for those who get rich by working for them or investing in them, the global tobacco business continues to make more profit than ever before, equivalent to the GDP of countries like Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Venezuela, according to the Tobacco Atlas.
Despite the fact that 50 million people have died from tobacco in the last decade, and the healthcare costs of smoking-related sickness significantly outweigh government revenues from tobacco taxes, investors continue to encourage these companies to do better and better. Tobacco stocks remain a popular investment, resistant to recession and delivering strong dividends over time.
All the major tobacco players publish Corporate Responsibility Reports. BAT's last report, for example, published in March 2012, explains the company's vision for sustainability, and claims that "by addressing our social, environmental and economic impacts, we build value for the business, for our shareholders and for other stakeholders"; value that is, apparently, very one-dimensional.
Tobacco companies do have other sustainability impacts beyond helping kill people, such as those relating to agriculture, supply chain and employment practices, and it is commendable that the sector attempts to minimize these impacts. However, ultimately, from a CSR standpoint, we love to hate them, while investors hate to love them.
Forbes' World's Most Innovative Companies list, which was shared on Facebook over 11,000 times and tweeted over 2,500 times, includes several more of these companies we love to hate. The methodology for this listing includes an Innovation Premium, described as:
"A measure of how much investors have bid up the stock price of a company above the value of its existing business based on expectations of future innovative results (new products, services and markets)."
In other words, investors love these companies.
They promise better business and better profits. Right up there in the top 10, with Apple and Google, who have also known controversy in recent times, is another big name in this love-hate relationship: Monsanto.