Health body slams booze retailer BWS and Dry July partnership

Not-for-profit organisation the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) has called for an “ill-conceived” partnership between Australian alcohol chain BWS and cancer charity Dry July Foundation to be terminated.

The partnership between Woolsworth Group-owned retailer BWS and cancer charity Dry July Foundation was announced last week through a press release.

Public health organisation FARE, which tackles alcohol harm in Australia, has branded the partnership as a “shocking and ill-conceived sobriety stunt” and warned that it is “dangerous”.

Dry July raises funds for people with cancer by encouraging consumers to go alcohol-free. FARE chief executive Michael Thorn says the collaboration “undermines its purpose and reputation”.

“It is inappropriate to have one group that sells cancer-causing alcoholic beverages 365 days a year partnering with the other group that fundraises to support the victims of alcohol harm,” said Thorn.

“To be raising money to help people suffering cancer in a way that causes more cancer cases in the future is completely futile.”

FARE has written to Dry July’s beneficiary bodies, including many cancer groups, asking them to “intervene immediately and to ensure that Dry July repels the influence of the alcohol industry in the future”.

Thorn also said that BWS’s claims to care about those affected by cancer is “abhorrent”.

He continued: “Unless every BWS outlet shuts up shop for the month, this stunt will do nothing to reduce alcohol harm.

“This is a cynical marketing exercise by BWS designed to push the Woolworths’ alcohol brand and normalise alcohol.

“Cosying up to well-intended public health campaigns is just one of the ways in which Woolworths collects quasi ‘social licence’ credits, while contributing to the burden of harm in Australia by being the biggest seller of toxic, addictive commodities.

“Cancer is a disease, and the risk factors are propagated by Woolworths flogging alcohol and tobacco to Australia’s most vulnerable people, which makes a sham of their mantra of doing no harm in society.”

‘Manipulative window dressing’ 

Thorn also claimed that the collaboration “is a paradox that exposes Woolworths’ corporate social responsibility efforts to be cynical and manipulative window dressing by a company increasingly under fire as Australia’s number one purveyor of addictive products”.

In addition, FARE said that the “stunt” has attracted “worldwide” criticism from public health organisations including the founder of #DontPinkMyDrink, professor Carol Emslie from the Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland.

“This partnership seems to be a similarly cynical attempt to extend marketing reach by associating a large alcohol retailer with a well-known charitable cause,” said Emslie.

In response, BWS CEO Guy Brent commented: “We’re proud to be working with the Dry July Foundation to raise funds for people affected by cancer.

“Unfortunately many of our team members have been affected by cancer and the partnership with Dry July Foundation gives them an opportunity to raise funds for a cause close to their heart. There are 1,340 BWS stores across Australia and more than 8000 team members.”

“By encouraging our staff and customers to participate in Dry July and donate to the Foundation, we’re hoping to increase funding to the charity which raised more than AU$7.7 million last year.

“BWS believes in giving consumers choice, which is why in recent years it has increased its range of low- and no-alcohol drinks for those reducing their alcohol intake, taking part in Dry July, or choosing to abstain entirely.”

Dry July CEO Brett MacDonald said: “We have partnered with BWS as they recognise the shift in attitudes and behaviours to alcohol consumption in Australia, and stock many non-alcoholic options in their stores for our participants.

He added that the charity is “very selective” when it comes to choosing a partner.

“We are pleased that BWS is going to help us raise awareness and funds to support the work we do,” said MacDonald.

“Prior to the partnership being confirmed, we consulted with our major cancer charity beneficiaries and informed them of the partnership with BWS.

“Over the last few years there has been an increase in the amount of non-alcoholic options on the market, with plenty of non-alcoholic options in store, this has allowed BWS to get on board in a genuine way.”

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