A big shout out to VB’s owner and multinational corporation, SABMiller, for lecturing the rest of us on patriotism and civic duty. I have a great respect for the, oftentimes needless, suffering of previous generations without having to have this corporate entity tell me, and everyone else, how to behave on ANZAC Day. I felt quite upset at seeing an image of a wounded soldier being exploited as part of a sophisticated promotional campaign for VB.
Make no mistake, this ad is about positioning the VB brand as uniquely patriotic – creating neurological linkages between the mythology of the ‘ANZAC’, a respected public military figure in the form of Peter Cosgrove, those institutions charitably supporting veterans in the form of the RSL and Legacy, and the beer VB. This is done in the guise of the Raise a Glass Appeal, which conveniently sounds like you can’t respect war dead without drinking VB. After all, if you’re not raising a glass of VB aren’t you basically pissing on the war memorial? Seriously though, according to the promotional website for the appeal the campaign itself has raised $5 million AUD since 2009. That’s seriously small peanuts for a global entity who’s group revenue for 2012 was US$31, 388 million or if you look at it another way it’s 0.004% of annual group revenue in any given year (assuming dollar parity). Overall, a great investment for brand recognition. It’s even better if you guilt regular Australians to donate for you, while you spend the money on advertising. Cha-ching.
You might just say, isn’t that run of the mill corporate behaviour? So what if a global corporation decides on a promotional strategy that involves a bit of money going to those who need it most? Well, the primary way veterans and their families are assisted is through the State paying for the associated physical, mental and social costs of serving in armed combat. To do that requires a healthy tax-intake. And SABMiller is a notorious global tax cheat. It doesn’t pay its fair share of the profits it makes globally.
VB’s parent company avoids millions in taxes each year in taxes in India and Africa by routing profits through a network of tax-havens around the world. Sure, it’s not like governments in developing nations require tax revenue to properly fund services that do stuff like provide basic healthcare or primary school education. Check out the full ActionAid report here.
The kicker to all of this is that SABMiller, a company originally of South African origin, learned this tax avoidance strategy as a way of avoiding apartheid sanctions. Yep, you read that right – SABMiller relocated its intangible assets to the Netherlands to both avoid apartheid sanctions and expand into foreign markets.
Despite it being a few years since the release of the ActionAid report, SABMiller hasn’t changed its ways. It has its own list of excuses, such as;
- claiming the sales taxes ordinary people pay off their own bat as part of SABMiller’s own tax contribution
- we’re not breaking the law, we’re following the regulations and guidelines in the countries we operate in
- it depends on what you mean by ‘avoid’ – we’re just doing what other corporations do
SABMiller; get out of my face, get over your excuses and pay your taxes.