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I object to Nestlé’s behaviour, Dame Anita Roddick claims in advance of demonstrations at Body Shop

Press release 10 May 2006.

In a letter to Baby Milk Action, coordinator of the International Nestlé Boycott over the company’s aggressive marketing of baby foods, Dame Anita Roddick has said:

“I object to the way Nestlé behaves. I am all too aware of their track record on baby milk, GMOs and Ethiopia, you have to have been living in space to not know their reputation.”

She added:

“So if you have to bloody boycott – then boycott. Boycott all the products that Nestlé own 100 per cent… But for goodness sake strengthen the arm of anyone who sees an opportunity of changing the black hole of the corporate world.”

Dame Anita sparked outrage amongst boycott supporters and animal rights campaigners in March when she announced she was selling Body Shop, which she had built into a global brand over 30 years, to L’Oreal, the cosmetics giant. Nestlé owns 26.4% of L’Oreal and its Chief Executive, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, is on the board. While the boycott of Nestlé focuses on Nescafé coffee, its flagship brand, a list of products from which Nestlé profits is publicised to boycott supporters (click here for Baby Milk Action's press release about the takeover announcement).

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, which is arranging demonstrations outside Body Shop outlets and Nestlé’s UK HQ in Croydon at 11:00-12:00 on 20 May, said:

“We cannot ignore the fact that buying Body Shop products will put money in the coffers of Nestlé, the world’s ‘least responsible company’. Our supporters want to know where their money goes, and 99% in an on-line survey we conducted said they would add Body Shop to their personal boycott list and seek ethical alternatives. There is a dilemma and campaigners have to make up their own minds. Wherever Nestlé raises its head we have an opportunity to expose its baby food marketing malpractice, which is why supporters will be leafleting outside Body Shop on 20 May. The boycott has forced some changes from Nestlé and we must keep up the pressure. Nestlé could end the boycott by accepting and fulfilling our four-point plan, but has rejected this out of hand.”

In a reversal of Body Shop’s stated support for consumer action, Dame Anita says in her letter: “Boycotts rarely work and the people you hurt are primarily the weak and frail.” The Body Shop website states: “ Whether it's signing a petition, using our purchase power to boycott a company, or lobbying governments, we all have the power to effect change.”

Dame Anita said on 23 March that she would provide a response on the Nestlé aspect of the takeover on her website but nothing has yet been posted. Having consulted with her, Baby Milk Action is releasing her letter, dated 24 April, as the statement along with its response.

Click here for Dame Anita's letter.

Click here for Baby Milk Action's response which corrects some misconceptions about the role of the boycott. Although we suggested a meeting, Dame Anita's PA responded that she has nothing to add at this stage.

For further information contact Tel: 01223 464420 Mobile: 07986 736179.

Notes for editors

  1. The demonstrations on 20 May mark the 25 anniversary of the adoption of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes by the World Health Assembly. Nestlé is the target of the boycott as independent monitoring finds it is responsible for more violations of the Code and subsequnet, relevant Resolutions than any other company.

  2. Baby Milk Action is a not-for-profit organisation and the UK member of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN). It is funded by membership fees, merchandise sales and donations, along with grants from development organisations and charitable trusts.

  3. The boycott of Nestlé focuses on Nescafé, its flagship product, but Baby Milk Action lists the brands from which Nestlé profits so boycott supporters can avoid them all. Guardian reported on 1 September 2005: "What do Nike, Coca Cola, McDonald's and Nestlé have in common? Apart from being among the world's most well-known brands, they happen to be the most boycotted brands on the planet. That finding came from this week's global GMIPoll, an online opinion poll that surveyed 15,500 consumers in 17 countries. Nestlé emerges as the most the most boycotted brand in the UK because of what respondents consider its "unethical use and promotion of formula feed for babies in third world countries."

  4. Nestlé won a global internet poll for the world's 'least responsible company' coinciding with the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2005. Nestlé received 29% of the votes. This was more than twice that of joint second Monsanto and Dow Chemicals (of Bhopal infamy), each on 14% ( click here for details ).

  5. For information on baby food marketing malpractice see the codewatch and boycott sections of this website. The Corporate Watch website has a detailed report on Nestlé.

  6. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed. See the Your Questions Answered section.

  7. Nestlé's 49% stake in holding company Gesperal, which controlled L'Oreal, became a direct holding of 26.4% in L'Oreal in 2004.

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