boycott has no effect.
admits that the boycott acts as a "catalyst" to raise awareness
of the issues. For example, there was national media coverage
following calls by celebrities for a boycott of the Nestlé
sponsored Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2001 (see
report in Boycott News 30).
produces many glossy booklets and leaflets attempting to deflect
the calls for change coming from members of the public. It employs
Public Relations staff to counter the campaign. This
indicates the level of its preoccupation.
Chairman, Helmut Maucher, led a conference on setting the globalisation
agenda organised by the International Chamber of Commerce (of
which he is President) in September 1998. One session was on
The business of business in the global economy and posed
the question, "How should business react to a new phenomenon:
the growing pressure imposed by 'civil society' groups on intergovernmental
organisations and on business?" The Managing Directors of
McDonald's and Shell also took part in the discussion.
first opposing the International Code Nestlé now
claims to support it in a narrow set of circumstances (applying
it to infant formula only and in developing countries only).
While there is still much cause for concern, the boycott has
been instrumental in bringing about important changes that have
been made. It should be remembered that Nestlé marketed
sweetened condensed milk as infant food up until 1977, when
the boycott first began.
After years of refusing to debate the issue with Baby Milk
Action, Nestlé has now given ground. Apparently this
is because Nestlé is having difficulty in recruiting
graduates, such is the company's bad image amongst students.
Unfortunately for Nestlé's strategy, the debates are
strengthening rather than weakening support for the boycott
(see report in Boycott News 30).
Church of England and the Royal College of Midwives dropped their
attempts to undermine the boycott by targeting endorsers. For
example, it lobbied the Church of England hard in 1994 and as
a result the Church decided to suspend its support for the boycott
while conducting its own investigation. The Interagency Group
on Breastfeeding Monitoring (IGBM) was formed, consisting of a
total of 27 church, development and academic organisations. Research
was conducted in Bangladesh, Poland, South Africa and Thailand
and published as the report Cracking
the Code in 1997 (See summary in Update
20). The report concluded that companies are systematically
violating the International Code and Resolutions. UNICEF
stated that "the findings of IBFAN are clearly vindicated by
this report." 10
Nestlé and the industry went to great lengths to discredit
this research (See briefing paper How
the baby food industry is orchestrating the attack on Cracking
the Code). However, it has been peer reviewed and was published
by the British Medical Journal in 1998 11.
the Church of England Synod met in York in 1997 it affirmed
the conclusions of Cracking the Code. Nestlé was
concerned that the Church would resume its support for the boycott
and issued a public statement supporting the motion debated
by Synod which included a call for companies to abide by the
International Code and relevant, subsequent Resolutions
adopted by the World Health Assembly. The subsequent Resolutions
are important because they clarify interpretation of the International
Code and address new marketing strategies and changes in
scientific knowledge. Nestlé had attacked Cracking
the Code on the grounds that it referred to the subsequent
Resolutions. Its statement at Synod was the first time that
Nestlé had indicated that it would abide by the subsequent
Resolutions and some delegates may have decided against reinstating
the Church's boycott because of this. Nestlé's statement
was an empty Public Relations tactic, however. Nestlé
continues to attack
the Resolutions and to violate these and the International
It was suggested at Synod that, instead of applying pressure
through the boycott, the Church would use its investments in
Nestlé to enter into "dialogue" with the company
to encourage it to change its ways. We continue to provide the
Church of England's Board of Social Responsibility with evidence
of Nestlé's malpractice, but have yet to be informed of
any progress emerging from the Church's strategy of engaging
Nestlé in "dialogue". In a disturbing move the
York Council of Churches announced some months after the Synod
meeting that it had accepted a donation of 100,000 pounds from
the Church of England Synod in York in July 1997 Nestlé
Public Relations staff trumpeted the company's support of
the Church in York. Nestlé was concerned that the
Church would resume its boycott following the exposure of
"systematic" violations of the marketing code in the report
Cracking the Code.
Synod affirmed the conclusions of the report Cracking
the Code, and called for companies to abide by the International
Code and Resolutions, but stopped short of calling on
churches to reinstate the boycott.
March 1998 the York Council of Churches announced that it
had accepted 100,000 pounds from Nestlé 12.
1997 Conference of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) responded
to Cracking the Code by adopting a motion noting the "widespread
abuses" and suggesting that the RCM Council "reconsider
its hypocritical position of boycotting Nestlé whilst continuing
to accept sponsorship from other infant feeding manufacturers."
Many midwives expected the RCM Council to stop taking money from
the companies named in the report. Instead the Council opted to
drop the Nestlé boycott, continue to accept funds and to
work from "the inside".
boycott belongs to the people and is a living and dynamic movement.
While the Church of England and RCM have dropped their boycotts,
neither did so because they believed Nestlé had changed
its marketing practices. And while some organisations drop
the boycott and take money from Nestlé or work more closely
with the industry, others wake up to the facts and join the boycott.
A list of boycott endorsers is available from Baby Milk Action.
World Development Movement joined in with the 1998 demonstration,
which takes place at Nestlé (UK) HQ in Croydon. The
event is organised by the Baby Milk Action London Group.
findings of Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules
1998 were presented at a public meeting. Nestlé
was invited to send a representative to put its case,
but refused to do so.
speaks for Nestlé?
technique employed by Nestlé is to cite so-called "independent"
experts who endorse its activities. For example, when dismissing
the evidence in the report Cracking the Code it quoted
the eminent French pediatrician, Professor Jean Rey. Nestlé
failed to reveal that Professor Rey works for the Nestlé
Research and Development Centre, Perrier Vittel Water Institute.
Neither did it mention that since at least 1987 Professor Rey
has edited books in the Nestlé Nutrition Workshop Series.
Professor Rey was a member of the EU Scientific Committee for
Food which advises on food standards and we had long been concerned
that he did not reveal his connections with the baby food industry
when advising on infant food standards. Glenys Kinnock MEP raised
this matter in the European Parliament following Nestlé
use of his name and position.
its latest booklet, Nestlé: Complying with the WHO Code,
illustrated above, Nestlé attempts to divert criticism
of its baby food marketing activities. In the booklet Nestlé
pictures the flags of 17 countries and implies that each country
endorses Nestlé's marketing activities. However, closer
inspection reveals that the statements alongside each flag come
from one individual or organisation within the country. We have
been examining these claims in greater detail on the Campaign
for Ethical Marketing action sheet to expose the truth about
for example, Bolivia. Nestlé's booklet quotes the Sociedad
Boliviana de Pediatra, Bolivia as follows: "At the same time,
we emphasise that Nestlé has kept within the norms established
by the Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, with a high
level of ethics and in a very appropriate manner... It should
also be mentioned that Nestlé has always respected the
laws which govern the feeding of children in our country and has
always encouraged and respected the principle that breastfeeding
is the best way of feeding infants."
Sociedad Boliviana de Pediatra has had a long-running relationship
with Nestlé. Its periodical bulletin is produced and printed
using Nestlé sponsorship. Nestlé is also the main
sponsor of events organised by the Sociedad. So is the statement
of support accurate? IBFAN Bolivia recently conducted a monitoring
exercise and found that Nestlé violated the International
Code in Bolivia by:
free samples of infant formula to mothers
posters promoting Nestlé infant formula to health facilities
gifts to health workers bearing the Nestlé logo and complementary
food brand names
information materials on infant formula, follow-on formula and
complementary foods which are not limited to scientific and
follow-on formula and complementary foods at the point of sale
infant formula labels without all the required information
also violates the World Health Assembly Resolution 47.5 in Bolivia
by labelling complementary foods as suitable for use before the
age of 6 months.
reveals similar stories behind other endorsements in Nestlé's
booklet (See the Campaign for
Ethical Marketing action sheets, especially the series of
cases: Nestlé's PR booklet exposed).
the boycott affect jobs?
boycott puts pressure on Nestlé to change its marketing
practices. It is difficult to measure how much the boycott is
costing Nestlé, but we do know that in 1992, the year after
the Church of England joined the boycott, Nescafésales
fell by 3%. Not a single worker lost their job as a result of
this fall. In 1993 Nestlé increased its Nescaféadvertising
spend by 75% to 14 million pounds, which may have created jobs
in advertising. (Figures from MEAL and A.C. Neilson)
boycott has brought about significant changes
boycott was instrumental in bringing about the International
Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in 1981. In 1984
it led to Nestlé agreeing to abide by the Code. It continues
to exert pressure on the company and the rest of the industry.
Order information on Baby Milk Action's Campaign for Ethical Marketing
for examples of violations which have been stopped as a result
of public pressure. The glossy brochures Nestlé produces
and the Public Relations staff it employs to try and counter the
boycott demonstrate how seriously it is concerned about the effect
on its image.
encourage everyone to join the boycott and to write and tell Nestlé
that they will no longer buy its products until it abides by the
International Code and Resolutions. If boycotting all Nestlé
products is too difficult, why not focus on Nescafé coffee,
Nestlé's flagship product.
to: Mr. Alastair Sykes, Nestlé (UK), St George's House,
Croydon, Surrey, CR9 1NR.
Baby Milk Action
and support the campaign.
Ethical Consumer Magazine December 1997. (return)
Breaking the Rules reports, IBFAN. The latest report is Breaking
the Rules, Stretching the Rules, 2001. (Return)
Numerous occurrences. Baby Milk Action successfully defended this
statistic before the UK Advertising Standards Authority (see above).
Facts for Life UNICEF, WHO, UNESCO, 1989. (return)
Engineering of Consent: Uncovering Corporate PR - Judith Richter,
Cornerhouse, 1998 - Contact
us for a copy. (return)
Tribune de Geneve, 17 October 1997. (return)
World Development Report 1997 - The following countries: Mozambique,
Burundi, Malawi, Chad, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Niger, Burkina Faso,
Togo, Gambia, Madagascar, Gunea-Bissau, Haiti, Mali, Cambodia,
Central African Republic, Benin, Nicaragua, Georgia, Mauritania,
Guinea, Albania, Congo, Kyrgyz Republic, Armenia, Lesotho, Macedonia
and Moldova. The combined GDP of these nations is only slightly
more that Nestlé's turnover. The combined total Government
expenditure is US$6.8 billion for a combined population of 168
million, less than Nestlé's US$7.2 billion annual promotional
Typically our income is made up as follows: European Commission
grant 31%, Charitable grants 30%, Membership 16%, Publications
and Merchandise 11%, Donations 9%, Other 3%. We are not permitted
to use the grant income for promoting the Nestlé boycott.
Statement on Infant and Young Child Nutrition by WHO Executive
Director of Family and Reproductive Health to the 1998 World Health
UNICEF press release, 14 January 1997. Contact UNICEF Communication
Section (Tel. +41 22 909 55 23 for a copy). (return)
Violations of the international code of marketing of breastmilk
substitutes: prevalence in four countries. British Medical Journal
Volume 316, 11 April 1998. (return)
Church Times 27 March 1998. (return)