17th of September, 2021 by Movendi International.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as obesity, heart disease, lung disease, liver disease and cancer were identified as risk factors for contracting the virus and experiencing more severe COVID-19 progression. 

A new report by NCD Alliance and the SPECTRUM Research Consortium called “signaling virtue, promoting harm: unhealthy commodity industries and COVID-19” analyses how big alcohol and unhealthy companies leveraged the pandemic at marketing and political advantage through unethical strategies. The main point is that although a public health crisis, companies only wanted to achieve profit maximization at cost of human lives.

The four strategies identified were:

  • Pandemic-tailored marketing campaigns and stunts
  • Corporate social responsibility programmes
  • Fostering partnerships with governments, international agencies and NGOs
  • Shaping policy environments

Given that the initiative received a total of 786 submission from over 90 countries around the world, and the majority of examples from the alcohol industry, junk food and sugar-sweetened drink products, the report highlights the following points:

– the consistency with which corporate actions have been selected to advance longstanding strategic priorities through multiple initiatives presented as to support the national or international efforts to combat the pandemic.

– the rapid adaptation of marketing and promotions to address a changing trade context and exploit lockdown at their advantage

– the appropriation of health and social justice causes to prove social corporate responsibility

– unhealthy commodity companies falsely promote themselves as partners in progress for health and sustainable developments with governments, health agencies and NGOs

– the volume and global reach of actions by alcohol and junk food industries demonstrate the need to advance international efforts to manage conflicts of interest.

– it is important to ensure that initiatives to address the pandemic are coherent with related health and development priorities, notably including effectively tackling NCDs

Some examples:

As a pandemic-tailored marketing campaigns and stunts, Heineken Russia, for instance, donated meals to health workers along with their energy and drink (Solar Power) for doctors and nurses on night shift.

For corporate social responsibility programmes, the South African Breweries (SAB) claims to have donated 100,000 face shields made from recycled beer crates to a sub-national health department.

To foster partnerships with international agencies, Heineken announced a donation of €15 million to support the work of the international Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Finally, an example of shaping policy environments the government in Kenya included tobacco, alcohol and processed food and beverages on their official list of essential items and services.

The problem of unhealthy commodity industries exploitation, political influence and science manipulation has been in existence globally from before the pandemic. The pandemic has brought the issue into sharp focus and reveals that these industries would stop at nothing in their relentless push to maximize profits. It’s not for a lack of knowledge that the problem continues to increase but rather a lack of action.

To read the whole article, click on the following link: https://movendi.ngo/news/2020/09/17/exposed-how-big-alcohol-turns-covid-19-into-the-worlds-largest-marketing-campaign/

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