Research Guide for Partners - Web of Influence

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The Research Guide for Partners is part of the Web of Influence project.


This brief guide provides information to support the process of gathering data for tasks in WP12, that will ultimatley provide an illustration of the web of influence and provide the content for our analysis. There are many different tactics, strategies and types of organisations that are utilised by various actors in order to shape policy. The data gathered here will enable us to build a picture of who influences policy related to addictions and to compare our findings across the countries we are looking at. The information on individuals, corporations, trade associations and policy circles will be the data for analysis. The range of policy areas and organisations means that there will be numerous organisations and actors. We have given some examples that will hopefully help to illustrate some of the issues you are bound to come up against. Some groups will overlap and fit into more than one category. Government working in partnership with industry is increasingly common in the UK; perhaps that is not the case in Estonia, or Italy, the analysis will help us to identify similarities and differences across member states.

Industrial Sectors

The industrial sectors covered by us in the project are alcohol, gambling, food, tobacco and digital addictions. One of the priorities will be to give a brief description of each industrial sector under consideration in terms of how it is regulated, which corporations dominate the sector and whether local or international companies dominate the sector.


The primary focus of the web of influence is to identify corporations and their links to other organisations and individuals involved in addictions. For example Diageo in Scotland have vast connections with other industrial sectors, governments and research groups here is a list of their involvement from a UK perspective. This list illustrates the type of industry involvement that the multi-national has. Identifying these links across addictive industries is a solid starting place for our investigation. (Diageo Scotland) Often board members of large corporations are also board members on companies within other sectors. This can be significant and is known as a corporate interlock. The ties between individuals are important but we often find that some companies always have corporate interlocks with particular firms regardless of individuals, for commercial reasons. The links and reasons for them are worth exploring.


There are a range of individuals involved in the process of developing addictions policy, shaping the discourse and setting the agenda. In the UK some members of parliament and members of the House of Lords have business links or even shares in alcohol companies. Some senior civil servants go from public office straight into high profile corporations, commonly known as the revolving door. Some academics and many charities receive research funding from industry some of that is noteworthy. Some board members serve on other boards too, and often these are relevant

Trade Associations

Trade associations are almost always engaged in aggressive lobbying and are comprised of corporate and industry members. Some are dominated by the interests of one or more influential corporation, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is dominated by Diageo and other large producers only a few small or independent producers are members. Details like this are important because the SWA provides Diageo with an alternative lobbying vehicle. The activities of the SWA involve lobbying every possible organisation including the World Trade Organisation, The European Union, national governments. They work on a range of issues, intellectual property right, campaign against duty on spirits, (recently they have been very active in challenging some of India’s tax laws on spirit imports and the EU has been helping them with this).

Lobbying, PR & Research Companies

Weinberg Group undertakes research and lobbying for tobacco, alcohol, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. They also work with think tanks like the European Policy Centre (and others) in order to promote corporate interests and undermine public health efforts. This company describes itself as “an international scientific and regulatory consulting firm that helps companies protect their product at every stage of its life. We help our clients improve manufacturing processes, clear regulatory hurdles, and defend products in the courts and the media” (more information on Weinberg here: Weinberg Group The Centre for Economics and Business Research are a research consultancy regularly hired by corporations to look into relevant areas. They have produced research for the chemicals and alcohol industry each time producing findings useful to the industry’s position. ASDA and SABMiller both hired this group to provide research evidence that helped to support the industry view on setting a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland.

Think Tanks, Policy Planning and Discussion Groups

This section refers to a wide range of organisations engaged in policy related debate. Some might be described as think tanks – bodies that engage in producing ideas and hosting events relevant to policy discussions on addictions. Others may involve policy makers and others in discussion for events – perhaps oriented to parliamentary bodies and involving elected representatives. We are interested in any such bodies which are organisationally run or funded by private business. Think tanks may not be solely interested in addictive industries but interested in more general issues. The European Policy Centre is an example of a think tank that has interests in a range of areas, alcohol being one of them. Policy groups are often the platforms whereby policy decisions are made, participation by unelected stakeholders in the development and implementation of policy decisions is an increasingly common feature in many democratic societies. Researching the impact and influence of actors within policy groups is an important aspect of this work package.

Lobbying and PR Companies

Lobbying efforts by corporations and trade associations should be detailed in their profiles. This section is interested in exploring the professional lobbying sector. Professional lobbying firms and lobbyists are the focus of this section, we want to gather data on which addictive industries employ the help of external lobbying organisations. Do any of these lobbying firms specialise in addictive products? In house lobbying should be included in specific organisational profiles.

Self Regulatory Bodies/CSR /Partnership bodies

Information on how and where self regulatory regimes govern addictive substances forms part of a deliverable. This section is concerned with how and why self regulation came in to being and how this fits into wider regulation. If there is no self regulatory system or body in the area you are looking at please explain why. UK examples of self regulatory bodies include: The Portman Group and the Advertising Standards Authority. The Portman Group is an alcohol industry group that is responsible for implementing and monitoring the UK alcohol industry’s voluntary code of practice. The American equivalent is the Century Council. Is there an Italian, Estonian or Dutch equivalent? How close are they to government what is their code. Are there similar organisations overseeing gambling or food?

News and journalism oriented bodies

These are organisations that are predominantly focused on informing or influence the news and/or entertainment media. An obvious example in the UK is the Science Media Centre.

Public oriented/civil society/campaigning bodies

These are organisations which are focused (or at least sau they are focused) on public campaigning and advocacy work. We are intereste in such groups if they are funded or otherwise supported by corporations.One obvious type of such groups is patient groups which campaign on medical conditions. Some are funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

Resources and Sources

  • In the UK politicians are required to log their financial interests which are published on the Parliamentary register of members’ interests. This often unveils interesting relationships with corporations. For example in the UK one MP was a lobbyist before being elected to parliament, he has retain a part time position with his old lobbying firm who represent alcohol industry clients. While an MP he has lobbied for reductions in beer duty.
  • Charitable organisations are required to register details of donations and activities with the UK Charity Commission The alcohol industry provides funding to a number of charities who deal with alcohol, this resource provides evidence of the industry only donating to charities who work on projects that suit alcohol industry interests. Specifically, focusing on individual level measures that do not harm profits e.g. youth, pregnant women and drivers
  • Financial databases provide information on company directors, subsidiaries, the size and scale of the company. Most Universities subscribe to one of these services. We use FAME a subscription is required FAME
  • Trade publications are a useful resource as they are written primarily for commercial purposes and provide a good insight into current trends, industry people and policy positions. Most industries have these, general media coverage is also useful in order to see how the discourse around addictions translates into the mainstream media. These resources are available from media databases, for example Nexis.
  • Company Websites are a rich source of information, you can usually gather information on brands, market share, board members and executive officers. Senior staff with a responsibility for public affairs can often be identified via the company website. Lobbying firms, often but not always, list details of their clients and the work they have undertaken for them. Some lobbying firms are more reluctant to reveal the identity of their clients, in these circumstances information from trade publications and even mainstream media accounts can be useful.
  • Mainstream media sources can be an good way of identifying significant organisations and individuals and is often a useful starting place.

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