Jean Coussins

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Jean Coussins

Jean Coussins, former chief executive of The Portman Group was appointed to the Alcohol Education and Research Council in a blaze of controversy, many alcohol researchers and public health campaigners objected at the decision to appoint her.

Alcohol badge.jpg This article is part of the Spinwatch public health oriented Alcohol Portal project.

They argue that The Portman Group is a lobby group for the alcohol industry and the research undertaken by the Alcohol Education and Research Council could be undermined by the inclusion of an industry insider onto the board. [1] Coussins strongly denies being a lobbyist for the alcohol industry, during her time at The Portman Group she told the Telegraph:

"When I was appointed, I was told that my job was to have a bloody good row with the drinks companies on a regular basis and after one year, at my appraisal, they told me I was doing very well! I took that as a compliment...My job is to have a go at them when they put their foot in it, and to do that publicly, as long as I am able to come up with constructive solutions to help them get it right. We criticise in public. I have no problems biting the hand that feeds me...A lot of people said when I came here, 'What a crazy move. What's a nice equal-opportunities girl like you doing in the murky waters of the private-sector world? But for me it was a perfectly logical move. I had done a lot of work with the private sector on corporate citizenship, as it was called then. But the fact that this was an industry initiative appealed to me. It avoids the legislative route. [2]

Jean Coussins is also a member of the "independent" Better Regulation Commission, which was untill 2006 known as The Better Regulation Task Force. It has a role to ensure that regulation and its enforcement are proportionate, accountable, consistent, transparent and targeted. The body advises the Government on better regulation and the reduction of unnecessary regulatory burdens. Commission's expertise lies in the regulation affecting business, the voluntary and community sector, and in European matters [3]

Jean Coussins was one of six new non-party political peers, selected by the independent House of Lords Appointments Commission, approved by Tony Blair. Coussins was also a prominent lobbiest for industry in supporting 24 hour drinking. Coussins insists that she did not lobby for the drinks industry and has said that The Portman Group exists solely to promote responsible drinking and is not a lobby group [4] [5]

Coussins was among four individuals hounered by the George Washington Spirits Society. Coussins was one of four new members inducted by the society in 2007, the others included: U.S. Representative James Clyburn (D-S.C., Majority Whip); Thomas Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and Robert Epstein, President of Horizon Beverage Group and Chairman of Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America. The Distilled Spirit Council of the U.S. said of Coussins in their press release

Baroness Jean Coussins, former Chief Executive of the Portman Group, has distinguished herself as an outstanding leader of the beverage alcohol industry throughout the United Kingdom and the world commu-nity. During her tenure as CEO of the Portman Group, Lady Coussins effectively advocated for a reduction in the misuse of beverage alcohol by the consumer and for responsible marketing and advertising by industry. [6]

In her youth Coussins was linked to the Communist Party, and in the Seventies and Eighties she was identified with a series of causes associated with the Labour Left including time at the former Inner London Education Authority. [7]


Former Posts

Coussins career began at the United Nations, followed by a spell at the National Council for Civil Liberties and Child Poverty Action Group.[8]

Current Posts


  1. Susan Mayor, British Medical Journal 10th July 2004“Researcher objects to drinks industry representative sitting on alcohol research body” Accessed March 2007
  2. Stefan Stern, The Daily Telegraph April 6, 2006, A watchdog that can handle its drink The Portman Group's work making drinks companies accountable shows that self-regulation can be to everybody's benefit accessed from Nexis May 23rd 2008
  3. Cabinet Office 06/02007Press Release Accessed April 2007
  4. Advertising Standards Agency Our Members Accessed April 2007
  5. Johnathan Oliver The Mail on Sunday (London, England)February 18, 2007 Accessed Via Lexis Nexis April 2007
  6. Distilled Spirit Council of the U.S. News Release October 4, 2007, George Washington Spirits Society Honors Four Inductees At Mount Vernon Celebration, accessed via Nexis UK May 18th 2008
  7. Johnathan Oliver The Mail on Sunday (London, England)February 18, 2007 Accessed Via Lexis Nexis April 2007
  8. Marketing Week July 13, 2006 Drinks body chief exec Jean Coussins to move on accessed via Nexis UK 23rd May 2008