I’ve been thinking a lot recently about momentum. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about how collective endeavors can build the momentum needed to make real change in the world.
These thoughts have largely been driven by the growing sense that in different parts of the world we are finally getting the upper hand on the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been truly moving to see the unprecedented acts of scientific research, corporate innovation, and international cooperation coming together in recent months.
Closer to home, and a source of great personal pride, this week Philip Morris International (PMI) announced PMI IMPACT’s third funding round. In 2016, we launched PMI IMPACT as a means to provide funding and support for projects focused on tackling illegal trade. So far, a total of USD 48 million has been provided to 60 projects across 30 countries. PMI IMPACT’s new round of funding will focus on projects that reduce or prevent illegal trade and counter its negative consequences for individuals, their families, and communities.
Fighting the illicit tobacco trade is a top priority for PMI, as it undermines all our efforts toward delivering a smoke-free future—a future where one day cigarettes will no longer exist. But I am the first one to acknowledge that the fight does not end in eradicating illicit tobacco. We must do everything in our capacity to target illegal trade in all its forms.
Now in its third funding round, PMI IMPACT once more welcomes applications for funding new projects that can enable sustainable solutions in this grand battle against illegal trade. More than ever, we need programs like PMI IMPACT that exchange expertise and bring together organizations, ideas, and solutions to eradicate illegal trade.
To me, it feels very much like we have momentum on our side—something that is crucially important.
Our founding vision was that no single company, government, or organization can eliminate illegal trade alone. In helping to support these 60 projects that are spread across the world, we have built an ecosystem of innovators all singularly focused on addressing, raising awareness, and/or ending an issue that affects us all.
The projects span an incredible range of areas and specialties. Training for law enforcement and border control officials, innovative technologies to fight criminals dealing with illicit products, communications initiatives to improve links between the public and private sectors, academic research aimed at uncovering the true depths of illicit trade—an issue that has too often been allowed to remain in the dark.
They look at every form of illegal trade—from the smuggling of tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceutical products to the broader web of related crimes such as drug trafficking, money laundering, organized crime, and modern-day slavery. Within one cohort we had:
- Hellenic Coast Guard: Procuring high-speed boats to patrol the national waters of Greece to prevent illegal trade.
- The Mekong Club: Engaging the banking, manufacturing, retail, and hospitality sectors in tackling the issue of modern slavery by developing tools, data collection techniques, and trainings.
- Sao Paulo University Support Foundation: Creating courses for police officers from Brazil-Paraguay-Argentina tri-border area, exploring issues such as the organization of crime, transnationalization of illicit markets and crime, and operational structure of the main illicit markets.
This gives just a small sense of the range and depth of expertise in the projects that PMI IMPACT has helped support to date.
Overseeing all of this has been the incredible PMI IMPACT Expert Council. This group reviews and selects the projects that are given funding. With over a century of experience between them, it is in large part thanks to the Expert Council that we have achieved so much over the past five years.
The commitment and consistent energy of so many within the PMI IMPACT ecosystem since 2016 has laid the groundwork for this upcoming generation of grantees.
To win the fight against illegal trade, we have always known that it will take true collaboration. As we have built a network of projects, businesses, government agencies, it feels like we might finally be gaining the momentum to make it a reality.
For more information about PMI IMPACT’s third founding round, click here.
Written by Alvise Giustiniani