Wray & Nephew seeks clarification on donation blacklisting
Beverage company J. Wray & Nephew Limited (JWN) says it feels duty-bound to continue responding positively to appeals for assistance from various sectors of the Jamaican society during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, even after already spending close to $516.7 million on worthy COVID-19 causes. This, in spite of a recent decision from the health ministry to stop accepting donations from the alcohol and tobacco industries, which the entity is now seeking clarification on.
In a statement, the Jamaican alcoholic beverage firm said the expenditure includes 100,000 litres of alcohol valued at $250 million which it has donated to the health sector; the company’s recent contribution of $45 million to 12 hospitals; and $21.7 million allocated to frontline workers in the JWN Heroes Giveback Campaign.
The nearly $517 million COVID-19 assistance by JWN is in addition to contributions by its sister company, the JWN Foundation, which, during the pandemic, has increased its commitment to education support by donating laptops, tablets, projectors, nutrition and infrastructure gifts to schools while installing 61 handwash stations at educational institutions in anticipation of the reopening of schools in September 2021.
The foundation also added to its annual scholarships, awarding 416 bursaries valued at $25.75 million this year, up from 413 bursaries valued at $25.4 million in 2020.
Against the background of its active programme of assistance, JWN says it has written to the Government seeking urgent clarification on the Government’s recent policy concerning members of the alcohol sector contributing to public sector causes.
In an October 11 memorandum, the Health and Wellness Ministry prohibited all agencies, officials or employees of the ministry from accepting donations, sponsorship, gifts, services or assistance in cash or kind from tobacco- or alcohol-producing companies or their subsidiaries with immediate effect. This, it said, formed part of its “draft Harmful Use of Alcohol Policy, which was approved by the Human Resources Committee of Cabinet in June this year”, which the ministry said was supported by the World Health Organization recommendation.
In response, JWN made clear, in its communication with the Government, that the alcohol sector in Jamaica is comprised of producers and distributors of beers, wines and spirits; more than 10,000 community bars, wholesales and supermarkets, hotels and attractions in the tourism sector, restaurants and places of entertainment, among others. The company said the Harmful Use of Alcohol Policy will affect the entire alcohol industry and should be approached with the tenets of good policy development that incorporates consultation with all relevant stakeholders.
“The COVID-19 crisis has been debilitating for Jamaica and has put our healthcare network and hospitals under severe strain. Thus, the private sector has been called on by the Government to assist. J. Wray & Nephew Limited, as Jamaica’s oldest registered company, has responded to the appeal with donations, sponsorships, and other support,” JWN said in its statement signed by the company’s senior director of public affairs and sustainability, Tanikie McClarthy Allen.
It noted, too, that its response is consistent with the global response from the alcohol sector, which has seen spirits companies like Veuve Clicquot in the champagne region of France, Moet Hennessy also in that country, Woodinville Whiskey in Washington in the United States, Chandon in Australia and Belvedere in Poland, among others, joining their countries’ national responses to address the fallout from ongoing crisis.
“For us at J. Wray & Nephew, corporate social responsibility, CSR, is not a tool for lobbying or marketing. Rather, CSR is a mechanism for providing positive social value with measurable and transparent actions,” JWN said.
The company is the number one wine and spirits producer in Jamaica and its history and products are integral features of Jamaican culture.
“This rich history and our inextricable link to Brand Jamaica leaves us duty-bound to respond to whatever challenge Jamaica is facing. Today’s challenge is getting ‘Jamaica, land we love’ on the road to recovery from the extremely debilitating COVID-19 virus,” according to JWN.
It detailed that in the fight against COVID-19, the company, which is a member of the Italy-based Campari Group, was quick to respond with millions of dollars in donations to the National Health Fund, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and the PSOJ Vaccine Initiative. JWN also contributed directly to communities with social intervention programmes in which more than 10,000 food packages were delivered in 2020 and in 2021.
Hand sanitiser was also given persons in communities, infirmaries, children’s homes, the societies for the deaf & blind, other NGOs as well as to volunteers and first responders in the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Jamaica Fire Brigade, media houses, banks and Tax Administration Jamaica.
JWN said it also supported its many customers, facilitated the reopening of community bars providing handwash stations, hand sanitiser and information packages. In this way, it said, the firm assisted its partners and protected jobs and livelihoods.
The spirits producer and marketer added that: “We are proactive in self-regulation and in the absence of a Harmful Use of Alcohol Policy, our sustainability/CSR practices have introduced measures such as: the launch of campaigns on responsible drinking; training of bartenders on responsible pouring of alcohol; the training of JWN Staff on responsible marketing and advertising practices that prohibit marketing to persons under the legal drinking age; and proactively adding warning icons to all our labels addressing pregnancy, drinking and driving, under-age consumption and environmental factors.
JWN said several accountability measures have also been embedded in sponsorship agreements with promoters and that the company is a signatory to many codes of conduct locally and internationally which are strictly adhered to.
“It is our unequivocal position that we do not support the abuse of alcohol and are of the belief that anything in excess will become problematic and lead to social problems. This includes the consumption of food, gambling and the ingestion of pharmaceuticals,” the JWN statement said.