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Nestlé Children's Book Prize winner refuses Nestlé money - Sean Taylor rejects cheque

Press release 12 December 2007

Media coverage: The Bookseller - The Book Standard

Children's author, Sean Taylor, was announced today as the Gold Medal Winner of the Nestlé Children's Book Prize, under-5 category, for his book When a Monster is Born illustrated by Nick Sharratt (Orchard Books). In an open letter Mr. Taylor indicated that he would not accept the prize money for the award which is sponsored by Nestlé. He commented:

Being on the short list for the 2007 Nestlé Children’s book Prize is a significant honour for me, especially since so many children around the country have been involved in choosing the winning books. And I am delighted to accept the award offered to me.

However, because of questions surrounding Nestlé’s marketing of breast-milk substitutes, I do not feel able to accept the prize money.

This has not been a decision I have taken lightly. It has involved conversations with Baby Milk Action (a campaign group against Nestlé), Nestlé themselves, and an authoritative third party with experience in the field (who wishes to remain nameless).

Baby Milk Action is concerned by Nestlé’s record of aggressive marketing of baby foods, which contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants around the world. Companies should be abiding by international marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly, but Nestlé, the market leader, continues to produce systematic and widespreadviolations of the marketing requirements. These are defended at the most senior levels of the company.

According to Nestlé Global Public Affairs Manager, Dr. Gayle Crozier Willi, Nestlé is 'widely boycotted'.

Nestlé is also accused of failing to act on reports of child slavery in its cocoa supply chain.

In his letter, Mr. Taylor commented: "In the light of these conversations, it is apparent to me that many of Nestlé’s controversial activities took place in the past and that the company has taken steps to improve its practice."

However, a new global monitoring report launched this month shows on-going aggressive practices. Nestlé defended the pictured practice of branding babies in China from birth shown above just yesterday.

Nestle profile detail 2007


Mr. Taylor concluded:

Nevertheless, it is my view that their interpretation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes sets up the risk that profit is put before infant health. And, in addition, it seems that the actions of some of their employees on the ground are inconsistent with company policy as set out in the Head Office.

For these reasons I do not feel that Nestlé are the most appropriate sponsors for this major children’s book prize.

For the full text of the letter and further comment see Baby Milk Action Campaigns Coordinators blog.

Nestlé is sponsoring the children's book prize organised by the Booktrust. The book prize is a scheme where short-listed books are distributed to a number of schools, whose students vote for their favourites. Campaigners say Nestlé involvement is an attempt to divert criticism from its activities, improve its image amongst students and reposition itself as a responsible company.

The main element of the sponsorship appears to be providing public relations services to the prize through the PR company, Spreckley's.

Spreckley is a specialist in:

"CRISIS AND ISSUES MANAGEMENT – All businesses face problems at some point and the best strategy is to be prepared. We can help clients devise a crisis and issues strategy plan, as well as providing counsel and advice when incidents arises."

In addition to its aggressive marketing of baby foods, Nestlé has been taken to court in the United States by the International Labour Rights Fund (ILRF) for failing to act to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain in the Ivory Coast (click here for details). Nestlé has also refused to support moves to bring farmers within the Fairtrade scheme in Ivory Coast, meaning registered farmers are unable to sell all of their produce within the scheme. Nestlé buys the surplus on the open market at lesser prices, according to ILRF. If cocoa is bought within the Fairtrade scheme the farmers are guaranteed a fair prize and are paid a community surplus used to ensure children go to school.

Mike Brady , Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:

The global monitoring report just launched by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) shows that Nestlé's claim to have changed only goes as far as tactics - the strategy of undermining breastfeeding to increase sales of formula remains unchanged.

I appreciate the difficult situation Mr. Taylor was put in by the choice of Nestlé as a sponsor for this prize and applaud him speaking out publicly about his concerns. Let us hope the organisers and the public take notice and Nestlé will again appreciate that its cheque book does not buy it a good image. It must abide by internationally-agreed standards."

In 2003 the Booktrust scrapped plans for a Nestlé teenage book prize after leading authors said they would refuse to accept it. This has gone ahead with a charitable trust backing it instead.

For further information contact:

Email: Tel: Patti Rundall on 07786 523493 or Mike Brady on 020 3239 9222.

Notes for editors

  • You can see a news report about the controversy of the Nestlé children's book prize in 2006 and wider issues of campaigning groups and companies targeting schools in the Teachers' TV news of 10 November 2006. Click here to view the programme.

  • Nestlé said in a statement to Teachers’ TV:

    "Nestlé is a socially responsible company. It is regrettable that a UK campaign group is attempting to undermine a unique and well-regarded book prize, aimed at rewarding high standards in children's literature."

See Baby Milk Action’s Campaign Coordinator’s response to this on his daily-updated blog at:

  • Nestlé is the target of the boycott as independent monitoring finds it is responsible for more violations the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions than any other company.

  • 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.

  • 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."

  • 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 ).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Nestlé is found to be responsible for on-going systematic violations of the World Health Assembly marketing requirements in the report Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2007.

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