by Nestlés boycott trouble shooter?
Nestlé Vice President and cover star of Update
31 provoked incredulity at several recent public meetings,
such as the UN Civil Society Forum in Geneva in July and the Hay
on Wye Festival in June. On stage Niels claims that he joined
Nestlé to improve nutrition and lift people out of poverty.
We examine this in the light of a few examples from his files.
Ending the first boycott
Mr. Christiansen is
credited within Nestlé for ending the first Nestlé
boycott in 1984. His strategy was to make promises to boycott
coordinators, which were not delivered, prompting the relaunch
of the boycott in 1989.
Betraying Syed Aamar
Former employee from
Pakistan, Syed Aamar Raza, has been targeted by senior Nestlé
management since exposing malpractice, including the bribing of
doctors. Mr. Christiansen commissioned an external
audit which was then used to attack Aamar. The auditors were forbidden
from contacting Mr. Raza or investigating his documentary evidence
Mr. Christiansen is
understood to be the brains behind a 180-page book, Nestlé
implementation of the WHO Code, sent out around the world
in 1999. The company had to apologise when it became apparent
that some of the letters presented as official government
verification of compliance with the Code were not.
Censoring public meetings
sponsorship of the Foreign Policy Centre fringe meetings at the
Labour Party Conference in October gained Mr. Christiansen a seat
on one of the panels. Niels also attempted to stop the recording
of the event.
An expert on Colombia?
Professing to know
about Colombia, Niels has no answer to questions about Nestlés
record of oppressing trade union members in that country (see
has launched a campaign to try to get a fairer deal for 25 million
coffee growers (see www.oxfam.org).
While Nestlé receives 26% profit on a jar of Nescafé,
growers are not receiving enough to cover the production costs
of the coffee beans as prices are at a 30-year low. At an Oxfam
public meeting on 29 October 2002, Fatima Ismael Espinoza, who
works with small coffee producers in northern Nicaragua, spoke
of the suffering this causes and how buying Fair Trade brands,
such as CafeDirect, benefits growers in cooperatives which she
helps to set up. Nestlés Hilary Parsons blamed
the low prices paid to growers on over-supply. Oxfams
Phil Bloomer explained that, in part, over-supply is due to
coffee processors purchasing coffee that does not meet quality
standards. Nestlé claims to support the campaign, but
does not want independent monitoring of its activities. Processors
are also being asked to pay a fair price to growers and to source
at least 2% of coffee beans from Fair Trade schemes.
attempted to convince the meeting that it is improving the life
of growers, but had no answer when questioned on Nestlés
union-busting activities in Colombia.
Higginbottom of the Colombian Soiidarity Campaign wrote in the
September 2002 issue of Corporate Watch:
the Colombian Foodworkers Union, reports widespread practices
and policies contradicting Nestlés claims to fully
support and ensure labour and human rights. Ever since Nestlé
arrived in Colombia 50 years ago the workers have battled to
form a union... According to SINALTRAINAL seven of its members
working at Nestlé have been assassinated... Although
there is no evidence connecting Nestlé with these murders,
the logic of the human rights violations, to remove trade unions
and other social movements, corresponds with the companys
own aggressive stance. There are at least three cases that indicate
a policy drive direct from Nestlé itself to liquidate
the unions presence from its Colombia operation. For example,
in the final weeks of 2001, management at Nestlé subsidiary
Comestibles La Rosa threatened workers that they
must either renounce union membership or lose their jobs. Nestlé
subsidiary Cicolac also tried to break a collective agreement
covering 400 workers...
provokes new campaigning initiatives
1999 Nestlé was named and shamed by the UK Advertising
Standards Authority for falsely claiming to market infant formula
ethically and responsibly. Nestlé took the
advice of Saatchi and Saatchi and went on the offensive, attempting
to portray itself as a good corporate citizen. It
has offered ever more funding to good causes and spends a fortune
on glossy booklets. But without the necessary changes to its baby
food marketing malpractice, Nestlé is only drawing more
attention to the issue and presenting new opportunities for campaigners
to keep up the pressure.
Milk Action student network
Beth Brockett, Baby Milk Actions new student campaigns
With over eighty student unions across the UK boycotting
Nestlé products and hundreds of student groups campaigning
for corporate responsibility, students are a big thorn in Nestlés
Our new Student Network, launched at the Shared Planet Conference
in Warwick, will help co-ordinate and support student groups.
It will provide campaigning ideas, strengthen coalitions with
other like-minded groups (e.g. fair trade promoters) and build
on the cohesion that student campaigning is excellent at promoting.
Student union boycotts are usually subject to a referendum every
couple of years and it is important that Baby Milk Actions
voice is heard on campus. Although Nestlé dropped its opposition
to debating with Baby Milk Action last March, it attempts to set
up presentations on campus without Baby Milk Action being there,
so keep alert. As well as a product boycott we will aim to have
a protest group at the graduate recruitment fairs that Nestlé
attends, so graduates know the truth about Nestlés
The Student Network will be offering speaker tours, campaign packs
and resources and the opportunity to learn from other student
groups directly and through a newsletter. It doesnt stop
at universities either; we will also be looking for contacts from
sixth forms and from other higher education establishments.
For details about the Student Network and how you can get involved
please contact Beth Brockett via the Cambridge office, or email
her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wooing 6th formers
Nestlé is offering to renovate Sixth Form common rooms
in schools. We have been told of three cases where this has been
refused. Many more schools are refusing Nestlés Box
Top fundraising scheme.
sponsorship on the web
The Take Action section on
Baby Milk Actions website now has a special section on Nestlé
sponsorship, giving information on the deals, contact information,
and appeals to organisations to reconsider.
out of hospitals
Following the launch in August of Nestlé Nan formula
in the UK, Nescafé vending machines have started to appear
in hospitals. Several contracts have been stopped or lost because
of complaints from boycotters, causing a storm at Nestlé
HQ. Janette Westman got one removed from her maternity ward:
The very next day I was contacted by Nestlés
Beverley Mirando (see Boycott News 31), who said she is from Sri
Lanka and speaks as a mother and a person with knowledge of feeding
practices in a developing country. She tried very hard to persuade
me that Nestlé uses the Code as a minimum standard in countries
where they do not have legislation in place and legislation in
countries where they do. For over half an hour we debated umpteen
reasons why I disagreed with her about Nestlés conduct.
Wow, was I ever so pleased to have Update sat on my
desk! Beverley is a very persuasive woman, who is obviously used
to defending Nestlé and it was great to be able to use
the articles to back up my argument for instance Nestlés
dumping of free supplies in Bangkok (Boycott
I feel shocked, because if I hadnt been prepared this sort
of contact could have been quite intimidating. I have written
this to make others aware that even a relatively small gesture,
such as removing this vending machine, has an impact on Nestlé
and to prepare others for this sort of response.
- Ms Mirando used to work for Nestlé Lanka and is employed
by Nestlé (UK) specifically to try to undermine the boycott.
She makes many untrue claims in her presentations in attempting
to do so. See the "Your
Questions Answered" section for more information.
with cigarette & arms manufacturers) was profiled by Friends
of the Earth in its booklet, Who are the 10 worst corporations
at the Labour Party Conference 2002 and why? Nestlé
claims that its stalls at the Labour Party and Trade Union Congress
are evidence of good reputation.