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Issue number 27, May 2000

Boycott Summary

The International Nestlé Boycott is in effect in 19 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.


Many thanks to Area Contact, Magda Sachs, for spotting this Nestlé advertisement in a 1936 book aimed at mothers and nurses. It is a useful reminder of how bottle-feeding cultures have been created. The text reads "Nestlé's Milk is the safest milk for Baby. Full of cream and germ-free - it is purified and made ready for you in thewhitest and cleanest of condenseries in the West of England country. You cannot be too careful with Baby's Milk - and you can depend absolutely on Nestlé's." Remember, Nestlé promoted its sweetened condensed milk for infant feeding until 1977, when the boycott began.

Students unimpressed by Nestlé

The Ethics Committee of the UK National Union of Students Services division engages in "dialogue" with problem companies to encourage them to change. However, it judged such meetings with Nestlé as a futile exercise and called a halt in December 1999 after the personal intervention of Nestlé Vice-President, Niels Chritiansen, who flew in from Switzerland specially.

David Boyle of the Ethics Committee told the student paper Warwick Boar: "The meeting [with Christiansen] saw a complete refusal by Nestlé to accept any wrong doing or the opinions or beliefs of anyone but themselves. The way in which Nestlé whitewashed any issue that arose and shot down any intellectual discussion of an issue was quite frankly insulting to myself, to the NUSSL and to the student body as a whole."

The company reacted by sending its new public relations book: Nestlé implementation of the WHO Code to all Student Unions, in a direct attempt to undermine the boycotts supported by many colleges. The National Secretary of NUS sent a mailing in response with a briefing paper from the Ethics Committee on its meetings with Nestlé and Baby Milk Action's analysis of Nestlé's book Don't Judge a Book by its Cover. The issue was to be debated at the NUS national conference in April, but has been postponed due to lack of time.

If your college is not yet supporting the boycott, contact Baby Milk Action for resources to raise awareness.

Nestlé accused of "ethnic cleansing" by Zimbabwe Minister of Health

Dr. Timothy Stamps, Minister of Health, Zimbabwe, was interviewed by Mark Thomas for a programme broadcast on 13th January 2000 (see Mark asked: "If Mr. Brabeck, the Chief Executive of Nestlé was here, what would you say to him?"

Dr. Stamps: "Why do you want to destroy my children? Are you interested in ethnic cleansing to the extent of eliminating all African children? That's what I would ask him."

Nestlé responed to Mark Thomas: "If Dr. Stamps feels this way, he should talk to us about it." Mark Thomas explained that he then began to receive faxes from Mr. Brabeck promising that all products would have labels including the "primary language" of the country where they are sold. This has been a requirement for 19 years.

  • The Programme also featured Mark at the News World Conference in Barcelona. The Director of TV and Visual of Reuters and the Head of Newsgathering at the BBC questioned Nestlé about its labels on the telephone in front of 250 journalists.

Nestlé 16 go free

Legal proceedings against 16 people demonstrating at a Nestlé factory were dropped in February as protests were being arranged across the UK. The 16 had been protesting against Nestlé for the role it is playing in pushing for deregulated trade through the World Trade Organisation. The demonstrators unfurled a banner saying "People and Planet before Profit" on the roof of a Nestlé factory in Halifax. They were charged with conspiracy to burgle.

  • Accoring to a report in the Warwick Boar newsletter unknown persons posed as Baby Milk Action staff at a demonstration at a Nestlé recruitment event in November 1999 and were seen to leave with Nestlé staff afterwards. Nestlé told Baby Milk Action that this did not happen.

Mr. Brabeck's "Search for Trust" - we give ten tips

On 30th November 1999 Nestlé's Chief Executive, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, made a presentation to 20 students at the Oxford University European Affairs Society. This has now been published as the booklet Beyond Corporate Image: The Search for Trust and distributed around the world. These ten tips Nestlé could follow to help Mr. Brabek in his search.

1. Don't ignore reports of violations

Baby Milk Action reports violations to Nestlé, but generally does not receive any response, which is why we also ask members of the public to write. Monitoring reports produced by IBFAN and by other organisations such as the Interagency Group on Breastfeeding Monitoring have been dismissed out of hand as "biased" and "flawed".

2. Don't launch labels onto the market when they have been rejected by Governments


Malawi labels still inadequate

Nestlé's CEO, Peter Brabeck, ordered the label shown here in a Nestlé Code "Action" report to be launched in Malawi - just before the second Mark Thomas television programme - without Government approval. The Government told Baby Milk Action that it rejected the label because the warning about the hazards of inappropriate preparation is not in Chichewa, the national language, and there is no graphic showing cup feeding. The Government has been calling on Nestlé to respect its requirements since at least 1994.


- also see Nestlé fined in Costa Rica.

3. Don't defame people behind their backs

Nestlé is telling journalists that former employee and whistle blower Syed Aamar Raza (see Milking Profits - Update 27) attempted to blackmail the company but has ignored Mr. Raza's request for a copy of the evidence. Baby Milk Action has written many times over the past year without receiving any substantiation for the blackmail allegation.

In a similar vein, Mr. Brabeck attacked Nestlé's critics at a press conference in the UK in May 1999 "singling out Carol Bellamy, the New York-based executive director of UNICEF, for particular scorn," according to the Independent on Sunday (9th May 1999).

4. Don't go back on your promises

Nestlé breaks big promises, such as its undertaking to follow the Code, and also small ones. For example, in Nestlé's January Code "Action" report Nestlé's Vice President Niels Christiansen said in an open letter to Baby Milk Action about Mr. Raza's allegations: "We investigated them in detail, and took action on the small number which had merit, which we would be glad to share with you." Baby Milk Action immediately wrote accepting the offer, but still has not received the information.

5. Don't waste your shareholders money

Nestlé has spent what must be a substantial amount of money distributing a 180-page hard-bound book around the world. This attempt to divert criticism has turned into a public relations disaster (see Update 27)

6. Don't mis-lead your shareholders

Mr. Brabeck did just this in 1999 to hide the company's embarassment at losing to Baby Milk Action before the UK Advertising Standards Authority (see Boycott News 25).

7. Don't sack people for joining trade unions

The Union of Filipro Emploees reports that 65 people were sacked from Nestlé's Magnolia factory in the Philippines in January for being members of the trade union.

8. Don't keep your audits secret

Mr. Brabeck claims that Nestlé has conducted over 130 audits of the marketing activities of its subsidiary companies and claims that he "personally reviews any hint of a violation." Nestlé won't even reveal which countries have been audited, let alone the results of the audits.

9. Pay your tax

It was reported in The Times of India on 6th March that the tax department "has unearthed income tax evasion by the company and will issue orders directing the company to pay up the arrears after calculating the total evaded amount."

10. Don't put company profits before infant health

Mr. Brabeck became Chief Executive because of his expertise in marketing and he has promised shareholders he will deliver 4% growth in turnover year after year after year. This puts him under great pressure to perform and to expand markets. Mr. Brabeck must accept that sometimes it is better not to push to be market leader - such as when this contibutes to death and suffering.

Charities caught up in Nestlé's cause-related marketing plan

Nestlé has launched a public relations offensive on the baby milk issue (Marketing Week, 2 December 1999 - cutting shown).

In 1999 Nestlé lost its battle before the UK Advertising Standards Authority last year after it claimed to market infant formula "ethically and responsibly".

Advice was offered by Saatchi and Saatchi that bad publicity could be countered by aggressive advertising of links with charities and good causes (Marketing Week, 11 February 1999). In the last year Nestlé has offered substantial sums of money to UK charities. It is also stepping up its approach to charities in Southern Africa. While some UK charities have turned down the money on principle, others have accepted. Four did so as part of Nescafé promotions (Nescafé is the main target of the boycott).


British Red Cross

Amount received: £250,000.
British Red Cross says:
Nestlé has given its assurance that it follows the Code and WHO confirms Nestlé is complying. Will review if the situation changes.
Baby Milk Action's response: WHO has said it has not given any charity such an assurance. In the light of this, the British Red Cross has been asked by Baby Milk Action to review its arrangement with Nestlé.

Kid Club Network

Amount received: £250,000.
KCN says:
Nestlé has assured KCN that it follows the Code. KCN will review its arrangements if it receives information to the contrary.
Baby Milk Action's response: KCN, like other charities taking Nestlé money, has been sent evidence of Nestlé malpractice by Baby Milk Action and invited to meet.


Amount received: £250,000.
Shelter says:
Shelter needs the money and while aware of the allegations against Nestlé the terms of the partnership meet its fundraising criteria.
Baby Milk Action's response: We are pleased that Shelter acknowledges the allegations against Nestlé, but we regret that Nestlé is attempting to polish its image and boost Nescafé sales through the link - Sheleter's name will appear on Nescafé jars.

MacMillan Cancer Relief

Amount received: £250,000.
Macmillan says:
Nestlé has given its assurance that it follows the Code and Baby Milk Action has also put its case. MacMillan has legal responsibilities under charity law and can only refuse the money if: a) it comes from illegal activities, b) it brings the charity into disrepute, or c) it compromises the aims of the charity.
Baby Milk Action's response: After meeting several years ago Baby Milk Action and MacMillan agreed not to undermine each others campaigns.

Nestlé and the Ethical Trading Initiative

Nestlé has approached the UK development agencies (NGOs) involved in the Ethical Trading Initiative - a UK Government sponsored intiative involving Trade Unions, businesses and NGOs, which seeks to improve workersÕ rights. Baby Milk Action and former Nestlé employee Syed Aamar Raza, were invited to give a presentation in April, just before NestléÕs Vice President, Niels Christiansen, Nestlé (UK) Chief Executive, Peter Blackburn and other Nestlé staff.

The proceedings of ETI meetings are confidential but it seems that Nestlé will not be joining ETI at this time.

Nestlé pulls its Junior foods

Following widespread criticism from health advocates, (see Update 26 and Boycott News 26) and "disappointing sales" Nestlé has decided to stop selling its new Junior foods in the UK. The foods contained the known allergen, sesame, and the sugar content of the Fruit Bar was over 50% - a higher percentage than Kitkat.

Nestlé says it will honour its contractual obligations to the playgroup network, TumbleTots (TTs) which entered a sponsorship deal to promote Junior foods. Baby Milk Action met TT staff to discuss our concerns.

Trade Unions

Baby Milk Action has strong links with trade unions such as UNISON and MSF, which support the boycott. Area Contact, Jane Putsey, was recently invited to present our case at several meetings of the PCS union, including its AGM.

NIPSA (Northern Ireland Public Servants Alliance) held a meeting on the impact of globalisation in April and Campaigns Coordinator, Mike Brady ran a workshop on lessons learned from the baby milk campaign.

If you would like to involve your union more in supporting the campaign, contact us for information and materials or to arrange a speaker.

Brighton traders say no to Nestlé

Nestlé attempted to sponsor a world street theatre event taking place on 12th and 13th May at the Brighton Festival. For its £2,000 outlay Nestlé required its advertising banners to be suspended over the streets for the whole of May, June and July.

The North Lane Traders Association canvassed its members and the plans were defeated by 51% to 31%.

Millenium Stadium deal blasted

Nestlé's sponsorship of the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff and the Welsh Rugby Union generated a national debate on Nestlé's baby food marketing malpractice.

Glenys Kinnock, a Member of the European Parliament for South Wales, publicly condemned the deal, telling the Western Mail (15th Feb 2000): "There are a lot of young men in the team with young children. I am absolutely shocked at the announcement. I would like them to reconsider their position. Maybe they are not aware of the kind of opposition there is in Wales to this."

Rugby supporters were surveyed by an Internet magazine and over 50% said the deal should not have gone ahead.

New endorsers

Aquaid, Cardiff Univeristy Students' Union and Ann Miller's Speciality Mushrooms have recently endorsed the boycott.