Engagement with Stakeholders
Altria and its companies inform stakeholders -- including retailers, wholesalers, growers, suppliers, adult consumers, and employees -- of our public policy positions to protect and promote shared interests. We often provide our stakeholders with materials that describe our positions on issues, and when appropriate, may ask our stakeholders to share their views with government officials.
For example, Altria's tobacco operating companies support two websites — Tobacco Issues (for tobacco retailers and trade members) and Citizens for Tobacco Rights (for adult tobacco consumers) — to provide our stakeholders with information on proposed legislation and to facilitate their communications with their elected officials.
Prior to elections, we may sponsor non-partisan voter education and awareness campaigns for adult tobacco consumers. These campaigns stress the importance of voting and encourage adult tobacco consumers to make their voices heard on election day. These efforts are designed to help adult consumers register to vote and participate in the electoral process by providing information about voter registration, polling locations and candidates for state and federal offices.
Membership in Policy-Oriented Organizations
Like most major corporations, Altria and its companies are members of policy-oriented organizations focused on issues that affect our business. These organizations, which include trade associations and other membership organizations, engage in activities such as educational initiatives, professional development and training, public policy research and outreach, and direct or grassroots lobbying.
We develop and maintain partnerships with third-party organizations that share our views on issues important to our companies and that effectively and responsibly research, communicate and advocate on those issues.
Our support for these groups includes financial contributions. In some cases, our employees serve in volunteer leadership roles in these organizations. For example, they serve on the board of directors, key committees, or advisory councils for a number of national and state trade associations and policy-oriented membership organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Virginia Chamber of Commerce, New England Convenience Stores and Energy Marketers Association, Texas Association of Business, National Association of Tobacco Outlets, National Association of Convenience Stores, Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council's Private Enterprise Advisory Council, California Retailers Association, and National Association of Manufacturers.
While we may not necessarily agree with every position taken by each organization we support, we do assess whether the intended use of a contribution is consistent with Altria's Mission & Values before making it. If an organization we support adopts a public policy position that we do not agree with, we may voice our objection to it and choose to not participate in advocacy related to that subject. In some cases, we may actively lobby against the position of an organization of which we are a member.
Additionally, we regularly evaluate our support of such organizations to determine their ability to effectively address the issues of concern to our businesses, and on balance, serve the long-term interests of our companies and shareholders. This means assessing that:
- the organizations are effectively advancing positions important to our businesses;
- their involvement on other issues is not inconsistent with our interests; and
- they hold themselves to high standards of conduct.
Our participation in an organization can positively influence how it operates.
Altria and its companies participate in formal and informal coalitions and committees to help communicate our views on public policy issues that affect our business. Coalition engagement is another way we work with external organizations that share similar views on public policy issues. Examples of this engagement include coalitions on tobacco tax issues, tobacco trade issues, corporate taxation policy, dividends tax policy and efforts to combat tobacco smuggling. When we participate in these coalitions, we expect, at a minimum, that the coalition will disclose our support in the same way it would for any other company. However, in some situations, company policies may require additional disclosures that go beyond what the recipients ordinarily provide for other donors. Additionally, we disclose our coalition involvement as may be required by federal, state or local lobbying laws and regulations.
Because political participation is vital to our democracy, we encourage employees of Altria and its companies to participate as individual citizens in civic affairs. For example, we encourage employees to actively engage in the political process and support the political candidates and parties of their choice. However, employees must do so on their own time and with their own resources. Company funds or resources may not be used for personal political activities.