Issue number 23, October 1998
The International Nestlé Boycott is in effect in 18 countries. The boycott will continue until Nestlé ends its irresponsible marketing of breastmilk substitutes world-wide and abides by the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent Resolutions in policy and practice. The Boycott is supported in the UK by over 100 church, health and consumer groups, over 90 businesses, 80 student unions, 17 local authorities, 12 trade unions, 74 politicians and political parties and many celebrities.
- World Development Movement joins Nestlé demonstration
- Nestlé awarded for bad behaviour
- Advertising Standards Authority delayed from ruling - we cannot tell you why
- UNICEF censored at the Labour Party Conference
- Nestlé Attempts to stop LibDem debate
- Maucher's master plan
- New boycott endorsers
World Development Movement joins Nestlé demonstration
WDM actively supports the Nestlé Boycott, which an Ethical Consumer Magazine survey has shown to be the UK's most popular consumer boycott (see Boycott News 22) WDM joined Baby Milk Action and supporters at this year's demonstration at Nestlé UK Headquarters in Croydon and brought along a mug-full of baby dolls and a banner calling on passers-by to Wake up to the Facts.
As usual the event was organised by the Baby Milk Action London Group. Patricia Wise, Croydon Area Contact, wrote to Nestlé and invited a representative to attend a public meeting to answer the criticisms made in the latest monitoring report published by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 1998. Nestlé declined the offer to attend the meeting to put Nestlé's side of the story. A Nestlé spokesman did speak to the Croydon Guardian, however, and described the monitoring report as "misconceived and biased."
Nestlé awarded for bad behaviour
On 16th October, World Food Day, Nestlé received a certificate in the UK Food Awards. The Awards, taking place for the first time, were organised by the UK Food Group, a network of UK NGOs working for global food security. Baby Milk Action sponsored the award for shameful violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. This rather cumbersome title was reduced to "The Lot of Bottle Award." Nestlé took first prize for its "Health Educators" in the Philippines. The "Health Educators" are nurses employed by Nestlé to visit new mothers in the community to promote Nestogen infant formula. This practice harks back to the bad-old days before the International Code when Nestlé employed "milk nurses" - sales reps dressed as nurses who promoted artificial infant feeding in hospitals.
Complaints were made about the "Health Educators" at Nestlé's 1996 shareholder AGM by a Philippines doctor, Imelda Ben - but no satisfactory response was given. The practice was exposed on Philippines TV in July 1997 and Nestlé threatened to pull its advertising from the television station. Baby Milk Action has featured this violation on the Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet. Nestlé responded by saying: "A direct contact of these persons with pregnant women or mothers is explicitly forbidden - because it does not conform to the Code and Nestlé verifies that these restrictions are strictly followed." Well, Baby Milk Action says Nestlé has a "Lot of Bottle" and wins the prize. A Nestlé Health Educator is pictured at work below.
The Government of India received the "Hopeful Baby Award" for imaginative implementation of the International Code and Resolutions. Its Infant Milk Substitutes Act 1992 is an important tool for protecting infant health. It empowers NGOs to take companies to court and has brought about changes to marketing practices. Nestlé is continuing in its bid to have key sections of the law scrapped.
Advertising Standards Authority delayed from ruling - we cannot tell you why
In Boycott News 20 we reported that Nestlé placed an advertisement in the Oxford Independent newspaper in October 1996 in an attempt to counter the boycott. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the self-regulatory body for the advertising industry and is "recognised by the Office of Fair Trading as an established means of consumer protection". While the ASA describes itself as "independent" it is funded by a levy on advertising. The ASA claims that its "complaints procedure is designed to ensure a balance between speed and fairness."
We complained about three claims made by Nestlé on the grounds they are inaccurate and misleading. They are:
- Even before the World Health Organisation International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was introduced in 1981, Nestlé marketed infant formula ethically and responsibly, and has done so ever since.
- Nestlé's Charter concerns Nestlé's commitment to the WHO International Code in developing countries.
- Naturally they [Nestlé employees] do not provide free supplies [of infant formula] to hospital for use with healthy infants.
We provided a wealth of information to support our complaints. Under the ASA rules an advertiser must "not only have evidence of the truth of their claims but also make it available without delay." Yet over eighteen months have passed since we lodged our complaint without a ruling being made. Draft recommendations have been sent to us by the ASA investigator responsible for the case, but we are not at liberty to reveal the text of the recommendations as they remain confidential until approved by the ASA Council. As the promised deadlines for a final ruling keep slipping by the ASA has agreed that we can at least inform our supporters that the case is still in hand.
We did wish to report on why the case has been delayed, but we have been requested by the ASA to keep the details confidential until the ASA Council has ruled. We hope the ASA will soon cry "enough" and allow the recommendations to go forward so we and the media can report what they say.
In July 1996 the ASA rejected complaints made about a Baby Milk Action advertisement which encouraged people to boycott Nestlé.
UNICEF censored at the Labour Party Conference
Nestlé paid for a stall at the Labour Party Conference in October 1998. It was upset with the Labour Party because Nescafé has been removed from the House of Commons in favour of Fair Trade coffee. UNICEF won a ballot for a free conference stall for the voluntary sector and was attacked by Nestlé for UNICEF's position on the baby milk campaign. UNICEF staff produced Baby Milk Action literature and posters in response and Nestlé "went ballistic" according to an eyewitness. Conference organisers had posters taken down, which was reported in the national press (See: The Guardian and The Independent 3rd October and The Observer 4th October).
Nestlé attempts to stop LibDem debate
Nestlé's Communications and Corporate Affairs Director, David Hudson, wrote to the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Paul Tyler MP, in an attempt to stop the LibDem Conference debating the Nestlé boycott. We applaud the LibDems for refusing to bow down before big business and going ahead with the debate. Delegates were prevented from voting on the motion, however, by the intervention of the LibDem International Development Spokesperson, Dr. Jenny Tonge, who suggested that a boycott call could prevent meetings taking place between WHO and Nestlé. This seems a sadly misinformed argument as meetings between UN bodies, including WHO, and Nestlé have occurred many times during the history of the boycott. Dr. Tonge did promise to support the motion at the next conference if Nestlé does not change its ways and we trust that concerned Liberal Democrats will remind her of this pledge when the time comes.
Maucher's master plan
Helmut Maucher was the Chief Executive Officer of Nestlé until Peter Brabeck stepped into his shoes. But Mr. Maucher has not settled into quiet retirement. He remains Chairman of Nestlé and has taken over as President of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). His ambition is to make ICC an influential body within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the United Nations and he is pushing for a framework of global rules which the ICC wishes to help draft. In September 1998 the ICC held a conference in Geneva attended by senior executives and UN personnel to discuss the globalisation agenda. One item up for discussion was how to deal with pressure from civil society. The Managing Directors of Shell and McDonalds were key speakers (Corporate Europe Observer, April 1998 et al).
See the booklet Towards a Transnationals' Organisation? by Myriam Vander Stichele for an excellent analysis to the WTO. Available from The Transnationals Institute, Tel: +31 20 662 66 08, Fax: +31 20 675 71 76 email@example.com
Nestlé is reportedly launching a chocolate bar in Germany containing cornflakes made from genetically modified maize. According to a report in Die Welt the bar will be targeted at children and young people. Greenpeace claims that Nestlé has ignored thousands of letters of complaint about the bar.
Last year Nestlé put pressure on Swiss Air to pulp leaflets promoting its Healthy Fare airline meals because the leaflet boasted they were free from genetically modified organisms. Nestlé promoted genetic engineering as an answer to world hunger at its AGM this year (see Update 23.)
New additions to the list of boycott endorsers are:
- Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare
- Farmer Giles Wholefood Shop, Cambridge
- Barleycorn Wholefood, Barsham, Eccles
- Planet Organic, London
- The Cat Survival Trust, The Earth and the Mission Rainforest Foundation
- Hatters Restaurant, Hitchin
- Hilton Dawson MP
- Ann Keen MP
- Tom Pendry MP
- David Borrow MP