Corporate political activity: Taxonomies and model of corporate influence on public policy

Selda Ulucanlar, Kathrin Lauber, Alice Fabbri, Ben Hawkins, Melissa Mialon, Linda Hancock, Viroj Tangcharoensathien, Anna Gilmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

Background:
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill 41 million people a year. The products and services of unhealthy commodity industries (UCIs) such as tobacco, alcohol, ultra-processed foods and beverages and gambling are responsible for much of this health burden. While effective public health policies are available to address this, UCIs have consistently sought to stop governments and global organisations adopting such policies through what is known as corporate political activity (CPA). We aimed to contribute to the study of CPA and development of effective countermeasures by formulating a model and evidence-informed taxonomies of UCI political activity.

Methods:
We used five complementary methods: critical interpretive synthesis of the conceptual CPA literature; brief interviews; expert co-author knowledge; stakeholder workshops; testing against the literature.

Results:
We found 11 original conceptualisations of CPA; four had been used by other researchers and reported in 24 additional review papers. Combining an interpretive synthesis of all these papers and feedback from users, we developed two taxonomies – one on framing strategies and one on action strategies. The former identified three frames (policy actors, problem, and solutions) and the latter six strategies (access and influence policy-making, use the law, manufacture support for industry, shape evidence to manufacture doubt, displace, and usurp public health, manage reputations to industry’s advantage). We also offer an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of UCI strategies and a model that situates industry CPA in the wider social, political, and economic context.

Conclusion:
Our work confirms the similarity of CPA across UCIs and demonstrates its extensive and multi-faceted nature, the disproportionate power of corporations in policy spaces and the unacceptable conflicts of interest that characterise their engagement with policy-making. We suggest that industry CPA is recognised as a corruption of democracy, not an element of participatory democracy. Our taxonomies and model provide a starting point for developing effective solutions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7292
Pages (from-to)1-22
JournalInternational Journal of Health Policy and Management
Volume12
Issue number1
Early online date6 Jun 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding:
This work was supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Stopping Tobacco
Organisations and Products (STOP) funding (https://www.bloomberg.org/)
and by the UK Prevention Research Partnership (MR/S037519/1), which is
funded by the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Chief Scientist
Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates,
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social
Research Council, Health and Social Care Research and Development Division
(Welsh Government), Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health
Research, Natural Environment Research Council, Public Health Agency
(Northern Ireland), The Health Foundation and Wellcome. The funders had no
role in the design and conduct of the study, data collection, data management,
data analysis and interpretation and preparation, review and approval of the
manuscript.

Keywords

  • commercial determinants of health
  • public health policy
  • tobacco
  • alcohol
  • ultra-processed foods
  • gambling

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