New Report: Signalling Virtue, Promoting Harm

From the NDC Alliance: An important new report by NCD Alliance and Spectrum Research Consortium of preliminary findings and analysis of over 750 examples of how unhealthy commodity industries have been responding to the pandemic around the world. It has been published today to coincide with the Global Week for Action on NCDs, themed on accountability.

The report: Signalling Virtue, Promoting Harm – Unhealthy commodity industries and COVID-19 is now available to downloadable here: https://ncdalliance.org/resources/signalling-virtue-promoting-harm.

Background: This crowdsourcing initiative began in response to demand from people – including members of the WHO Civil Society Working Group on NCDs – raising concerning examples of unhealthy commodity industry practices during the early phase of the pandemic.

These examples are of activities undertaken or presented by businesses as a response to the COVID-19 crisis – including corporate social responsibility initiatives, philanthropy, new marketing campaigns, and engagement in policy development and debates.

The report focuses on unhealthy commodity industries identified by respondents to the survey – tobacco, alcohol, ultra-processed food, sugar sweetened beverages, breast-milk substitutes, fossil fuels, and gambling.

The report is organised around four broad categories of strategic responses evident in multiple countries and across diverse industries, and references almost 200 examples based on the submissions received.

The four chapters are:

  • Adapting marketing and promotions, increasing availability
  • Corporate social responsibility and philanthropy
  • Pursuing partnerships, coveting collaboration
  • Shaping policy environments

Watch this space: This report is necessarily very preliminary – given the tight timescales involved we couldn’t fit all of the examples received into the report, and more analysis is to come. These unhealthy commodity industries are so actively undertaking to infiltrate daily lives and influence policy. With policy responses to the pandemic evolving so rapidly, we felt it important to make this early analysis public to document these activities and illuminate the need for stronger protections for NCD prevention policy today and as part of COVID-19 responses and recovery plans. We are working hard to update the interactive map, and further outputs are also intended, keep an eye out for these to be developed.

Please keep monitoring and contributing: This report may inspire you to continue monitoring these industries and holding them to account, so the researchers invite you to share new examples or developments on previous examples shared via this form: https://bit.ly/NCDA_SPECTRUM_MAPPING_TOOL

Tell the world: If you would like to share the report on social media, a sample message for inspiration is below (together with an image attached if you would like to use it):

Report by @SPECTRUMRes & @ncdalliance details examples of unhealthy commodity industries -like #alcohol, #tobacco, ultra-processed food & drink, are leveraging the #COVID19 #pandemic while their products contribute to #NCDs. Read more: https://ncdalliance.org/resources/signalling-virtue-promoting-harm #ActOnNCDs

Accountability Workstream Webinar on 18 September: Lucy Westerman, from the NCDA team and report co-author, will be presenting on the report during next week’s CS WG Accountability Workstream webinar in 18th September. Please join to hear from Lucy and others discussing industry interference and conflict of interest both in and out of the context of the pandemic, and for the launch of the during which the joint CS WG statement “Protecting the development and implementation of public health policies from undue influence of unhealthy commodity industries”. Details and register here: http://bit.ly/whocswg1

We hope you find the report Signalling Virtue, Promoting Harm enlightening and useful for your advocacy.