“At Imperial Tobacco Group we encourage graduates to take charge of their own career development,” says Paul Siaens, Global Graduate Recruitment Manager at Imperial Tobacco. “That’s why we offer graduates roles with real responsibilities.” The Bristol-based tobacco giant recruits graduates across its many business functions. They might work in corporate affairs, sales, marketing, finance, HR, information services, or manufacturing, supply and R&D, depending on the current needs of the business, and are given the chance to explore different sides of the company in the first two years. “After two years you will really have the knowledge to decide where your future is,” says Siaens. “You take ownership of your own learning and development. It’s really about what you put into it that influences your career opportunities and informs you about where you want to go. You may even have aspirations to be a future director or function lead.”


A global giant

Founded in 1901, Imperial Tobacco is one of the world’s largest tobacco firms, its core business built around a portfolio that offers adult consumers a comprehensive brand choice. As well as cigarettes, Imperial is a world-leader in fine-cut tobacco, premium cigars, rolling papers and tubes. Brands include the likes of Golden Virginia, Montecristo, Rizla, John Player Special, Gitanes and Davidoff. The company is also creating new consumer experiences through its non-tobacco subsidiary Fontem Ventures. The global tobacco market is broadly stable, and the group has around 35,000 employees and offers its brands in more than 160 countries worldwide. Its 44 manufacturing sites contribute to the industry’s supply of around six trillion cigarettes sold each year to around a billion adult smokers.

“We operate in a controversial industry,” says Siaens, “but, as a responsible business, we support tobacco regulation that is reasonable, proportionate and evidence-based. However, we protect our business and defend the rights of the millions of adults who choose to enjoy the quality products we produce.”

Imperial Tobacco’s responsibility strategy reflects this. It focuses on four key areas: making and selling products responsibly; ensuring that the company is a rewarding place for employees to work; respecting natural resources; and reinvesting in society. “We’re not fazed by the challenges posed by a heavily regulated and highly competitive industry,” says Siaens. “Instead we square up to them: we focus on the opportunities and ensure our product portfolio remains relevant, reflecting the evolving preferences of adult smokers. Hence our rallying call of ‘Bring it on’. There might be tough or complex tasks ahead, but we will relish the chance of overcoming them.” It’s an attitude that makes Imperial a particularly creative place to work. “We’re investing in our graduates to be future leaders,” says Siaens, “equipping them with a holistic understanding of our industry.”

The company is also expanding. In 2003, it took over the German giant Reemtsma Cigarettenfabriken GmbH; in 2007, it entered the US market by acquiring Commonwealth Brands Inc.; a year later it bought the world’s fifth largest tobacco company, Altadis, gaining the Fortuna, Gauloises and Gitanes brands. In June 2015, following the acquisition of Lorillard by Reynolds American, Imperial added certain US brands and assets from both organisations to its portfolio, giving it a 10 per cent share of the world’s most profitable tobacco market outside of China. Imperial’s strategy has refocused to improve the quality of organic growth and strengthen the business’s sustainability. In particular it seeks to expand “consumer experiences”, by internationalising the blu e-cigarette brand and, through Fontem Ventures, launching Reon caffeine strips.

For all the challenges faced by the tobacco industry, Imperial remains a positive and dynamic place to work. “We’re proud of our success and excited about the future,” says Siaens. “The strength of our brands, our geographic diversity and the talents of our dynamic people are a winning combination for generating high-quality growth in the years ahead.”