Strategies to Expand Corporate Autonomy by the Tobacco, Alcohol and Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Industry: A Scoping Review of Reviews
Noncommunicable diseases contribute to over 70% of global deaths each year. Efforts to address this epidemic are complicated by the presence of powerful corporate actors. Despite this, few attempts have been made to synthesize existing evidence of the strategies used to advance corporate interests across industries. Given this, our study seeks to answer the questions:
- Is there an emergent taxonomy of strategies used by the tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) industries to expand corporate autonomy?
- How are these strategies similar and how are they different?
Under the guidance of a framework developed by Arksey and O’Malley, a scoping review was carried out whereby six databases were searched in June 2021 to identify relevant peer-reviewed literature. To be included in this review, studies had to explicitly discuss the strategies used by the tobacco, alcohol, and/or sugar-sweetened beverage multinational corporations and be considered review articles aimed to synthesize existing evidence from at least one of the three industries. Eight hundred and fifty-eight articles were selected for full review and 59 articles were retained for extraction, analysis, and categorization.
Results identified six key strategies the industries used:
- Influencing government policy making and implementation.
- Challenging unfavorable science.
- Creating a positive image.
- Manipulating markets.
- Mounting legal challenges.
- Anticipating future scenarios.
Despite these similarities, there are few but important differences. Under the strategy of influencing government policy making and implementation, for example, the literature showed that the alcohol and SSB industries have been “privileged with high levels of participation” within international public health organizations.
Understanding how industries resist efforts to control them is important for public health advocates working to reduce consumption of and death and diseases resulting from harmful commodities.
Moreover, there is a greater need for the public health community to generate consensus about how to ethically engage or not engage with industries that produce unhealthy commodities.
More studies are also needed to build the evidence base of industry tactics to resist regulation, particularly in the case of SSB, and in low-and middle-income countries.