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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Are alcohol manufacturers exploiting anti-drink driving campaigns or helping them?

15 February, 2008
With the newstest once again full of America's drink driving problems this week and new campaigns forming to reduce the problem, Jim Beam steps in to offer some helpful advice, but not much more.
Anyone involved in the emergency services know the true consequences of drink driving but only the victims and relatives of victims know the full extent of these consequences. With justifiable outrage, victim groups are active in campaigns across America to reduce the levels of drink driving in the country and help to prevent others from a similar fate.

However, although victim groups have inexhaustible stamina, they generally lack the levels of resource to maintain funding over extended campaigns and therefore look towards local authorities and drinks manufacturers to play their part in promoting sober driving.

Jim Beam is one such manufacturer, being a vast conglomerate responsible for such brands as Courvoisier, Teachers and DeKuyper and not short of disposable funds for helping out. They issued a self-congratulatory press release today announcing its support of the National Criminal Enforcement Association and its "Drink Smart" social responsibility program.

On the face of it, this seems to be the right thing to do but in fact its entirely superficial, a tick in the box for "corporate responsibility" with nothing substantial worth any merit. The "Drink Smart" web site lacks bite being full of clichÃęs like "Don't drive drunk" without actually defining what "drunk" means. Each page carries a banner of the company's spirit brands promoting the very thing that the web site is supposed to discourage. Despite some funding for "The Century Council" and the offer of a free taxi at Jim Beam promotional events, the global conglomerate offers nothing more than lip service and self promotion.

Victim groups deserve more than this and there are many outstanding examples of corporate and local authority programs that are achieving tangible results in the reduction of drink driving.

Pernod Ricard is another enormous alcohol conglomerate, but in its case, it is offering substantial programmes that are part of a well-designed corporate responsibility program. Pernord Ricard uses its sales personnel to actively discourage drink driving at promotional events, carry breathalysing equipment and provide branded transport for ensuring its customers get home safely after promotional events. It provided similar transport at nightclubs along the Italian Adriatic coast during the busy summer season of 2007. The company is doing something positive to drive the message home directly to the young people that the campaign is targeted at and it doesn't carry crass advertising of alcoholic products on its corporate responsibility page.

As far as local authorities are concerned, many could follow the example set in Aspen, Colorado where the county has set up a "tipsy taxi", free transportation ordered for you by bar or restaurant staff and funded from court fees levied for drink related offences.

A similar scheme has also been set up for students at Boone in North Carolina, an example of young people responding to the problem of drink driving on their own initiative and something that fully deserves some additional funding from the likes of Jim Beam.
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