New Zealand’s alcohol licensing trusts are social enterprises that operate retail alcohol outlets in their districts and distribute profits back to the community. There have been calls for a similar “social enterprise” approach to legal cannabis sales. However, social enterprises face unique challenges in balancing commercial and social objectives.
To explore mechanisms that support the balancing of commercial, social and public health objectives in alcohol trusts and identify learnings for cannabis reform.
Thematic analysis of interviews with 16 internal and external key informants (trust board members, trust retail managers, community activists, law enforcement) from two alcohol trust districts.
Key informants overwhelmingly conceptualised alcohol trusts as business entities, but commercial success was also seen as a means to help the community. Interviewees’ perceptions of trusts’ social mission ranged from simple “corporate social responsibility” to a “genuine” community orientation. Despite a near-monopolistic market position, forces within and outside the trusts create pressures to conform to standard commercial behaviour, including strategic placement of alcohol outlets. Participants attributed the potential public health benefits of the trusts to reduced density of alcohol retail outlets and ease of enforcement. The pragmatic political goal of maintaining a favourable public image (to secure survival of the trust and re-election of individual trustees) was the key mechanism balancing commercial and social objectives. Ethical dilemmas related to the sale of alcohol and conflicts of interest in allocating community funds were evident. Discord was “negotiated” with the community via the public discussion and voting, providing opportunity to correct mission drift.
The need to maintain a positive public image (to ensure favourable electoral results) was a key mechanism helping to balance the commercial and social goals of alcohol trusts. A community trust model for retail cannabis sales could similarly provide constraints on commercial behaviour while funding community services.
Copyright © 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
- PMID: 32045829
- DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102689