New report: Signalling Virtue, Promoting Harm Share

September 10, 2020

A report published this week by the NCD Alliance and Spectrum Research Consortium documents hundreds of examples of how unhealthy commodity industries are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic, while undermining efforts to protect and promote health. 

signalling virtue, promoting harm promotion card

A new report by NCD Alliance and the Spectrum Research Consortium includes preliminary findings and analysis of over 750 examples of how unhealthy commodity industries have been responding to the the pandemic around the world.

The report, Signalling Virtue, Promoting Harm – Unhealthy commodity industries and COVID-19, began with a crowdsourcing initiative in response to demand from people in the NCD and wider health communities 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



The report notes that to build back better from the pandemic, and to protect people from preventable NCDs and make our societies healthier and more resilient to future health threats, these industries need to be monitored, held to account and better regulated, and public policy which promotes health must be safeguarded.

Examples included in the report and shared by contributors are being regularly mapped here:

Map of unhealthy commodity industry responses to COVID-19


If you have seen similar examples you would like to contribute to this initiative, please share via this survey

Download Signalling Virtue, Promoting Harm – Unhealthy commodity industries and COVID-19