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Corporate redemption for Big Tobacco?

Redemption comes along regularly in Hollywood – or, at least, in the output of Hollywood’s major industry – rather less so in real life and perhaps not at all in that branch of real life we call ‘business’.

Not that it’s for want of trying. Go to the website of almost any listed company – and certainly those of the FTSE 350 index – and you will find an outpouring of confected virtue. Words such as ‘sustainable’, ‘stakeholders’ and ‘responsible’ figure prominently, while information about what the company does will be harder to find. It’s as though companies are too often ashamed of how they make money.

In the case of tobacco companies, that would be understandable even if not completely fair. After all, in a tally of human misery, arguably drinks and gambling companies do more harm than smoking. Despite that, tobacco companies are judged the business world’s pariahs – what they do is legitimate, but just wait until tax revenues from smoking shrink to marginal significance.

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