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Nestlé barred from Italian Eurochocolate Festival (March 2003)

Posted: 29 April 2003

The following press release has been received from an Italian group which works closely with the Italian Nestlé Boycott Network (which is a member of the International Nestlé Boycott Committee).

In the UK Nestlé claims (in typically dishonest fashion) that the boycott is only a concern here and nowhere else. In reality the boycott has been launched by groups in 20 countries and individuals and organisations in many others support it. To show something of the reality in other countries Baby Milk Action occasionally reproduces materials from other campaigns.

As in the UK, boycott supporters use Nestlé's sponsorship of cultural and other events to highlight the baby milk issue and other human rights abuses perpetrated by Nestlé. Last year the Italian Nestlé Boycott Network persuaded organisers of the Fano Carnival to stop sourcing chocolates from Nestlé (see press release). Now in Rome the Eurochocolate Festival (1st-9th March 2003) was Nestlé free after the city Mayor was reminded of past promises to work only with ethical businesses. The issue of sponsorship in schools is also a concern to Italian campaigners.

The translation of this press release was done by the Italian group.

COCS, Coordinamento Cambia lo Sponsor (Change the Sponsor Coordination)
c/o: Casale Podere Rosa, via Diego Fabbri snc, 00100 Roma
phone/fax: +003968271545

Course of Change the Sponsor Campaign

March 2nd 2003

On the tide of the successful event in Perugia (800.000 attendants), Eurochocolate arrives in Rome, with its "sweet" appearence and the "bittersweet" reality of the pain and misery hallmarking the cocoa market, an ideal ground for the corporative exploitation.

Four companies run for the cocoa market and they all obviously attended Eurochocolate with their pavillons: the american Philip Morris and Mars, the italian Ferrero and the swiss Nestlé.

The troublesome presence of Nestlé, one of the event sponsors, raised the main criticism from those realities which, after Genoa, are trying to relaunch also in Rome the international boycotting campaign.
These are the newborn Roma Nord-Est Social Forum (North-easter Rome Social Forum) and the Rete Italiana per il Boicottaggio Nestlé (Boycott Nestlé Italian Network) , who are already taking action to organize a wide coordination of associations and individuals to affect the swiss company in the weakest side: the company image, attending as a sponsoring and supporting company careful to social issues.

The Cambia lo Sponsor (Change the Sponsor) coordination (COCS) was born on february 23th, supported by more than thirty associations and immediately taking action at Eurochocolate: creatively handing out flyers in front of the Nestlé-Perugina pavillon (until the police asked the activists to move outside, because of not specified reasons of public order) and writing a protest letter to the Mayor, guilty of not fulfilling the engagement undertaken in 1998, under the pressure of the roman critical consumption realities.

On that occasion, the City Council issued an administrative act by which they agreed "not to accept manufacturers of dried milk, infancy food and other products covered by the World Health Organization international codes, for the sponsoring and advertising of cultural, sports and educational activities, as well as public works within the municipal area.

The breach is plain: Eurochocolate is sponsored by Rome City Council and Nestlé, the company with the highest records of the Code infringments in any corner of the planet.

There are other breaches such as patchwork decorations in the Rome subway, donated from Nestlé and the Children Museum Explora, sponsored by the City Council and Nestlé as well.

Eurochocolate went on and we didn’t get any response from the Mayor, but the question was raised and the citizens’ response has been definitely positive.

When Eurochocolate was over, COCS kept on boycotting the swiss company through a campaign towards the Children Museum, asking "not to dirt its own image to clean the Nestlé’s one", either involving the City Council, which sponsors the Museum granting the municipal area as free bailment.

On July 18th 2002 the first COCS’s achievement comes: after 5 months of pressure, the Children Museum decides to endorse a sponsoring self-regulation code and to give up the Nestlè 450 millions liras sponsor.

In October Eurochocolate has been questioned also in Perugia.

Even this time the police defended the companies’ interests.

A large number of associations organized Equochocolate, an alternative event dedicated to the cocoa market exploitation.

The turning point of Eurochocolate campaign comes on december 14th 2002, during the Altraeconomia Exhibition, organized by Rome City Council about the topics brought up by the Movement of all Movements for the building of another possible world. The Mayor came to take the event opening speech and COCS, attending with its critical consumption promotional pavillon, has taken the chance to make the Mayor take a public clear stand about many open questions, from Eurochocolate to the football fields donated by Nike to 20 roman schools.

Particularly, COCS gave Veltroni, the Rome Mayor, one report about the current exploiting conditions in the Nike indonesian factories, and organized a meeting between the Mayor and combonian missionary Alex Zanotelli, who had already asked several times the Mayor to take a clear stand for the "depleted ones" of the world, always receiving inadequate responses.

Zanotelli met Veltroni and gave him a letter asking his support for the COCS campaign and particularly asking not to sponsor Eurochocolate with the presence of Nestlé, not to accept the Nike football fields, a real "Trojan horse" used by the company to bring its logo into the public school, and to solve the filthy sponsoring question once and for all through the establishment of an Ethical Commission of the City Council, to evaluate the companies ethicality asking to sponsor events or municipal public works each time.

The Mayor, surprised and cross-questioned in front of the audience and reporters, could nothing but accept all the requests, apologizing for the thoughtless way they had dealt the Nike question and promising to encourage the establishment of the Ethical Commission.

When on January 26th 2003 word came that Eurochocolate would have taken in Rome again with the presence of Nestlé, COCS sent the nth protest letter to Veltroni, requesting to fulfill the engagements undertaken just one month earlier at Altraeconomia Exhibition, and could get a Repubblica article published, announcing protest actions during the event.

Even the other manufacturers attending Eurochocolate asked the Mayor to intervene, fearing that the "chocolate party" would turn in a "fault mark not belonging to us", since Nestlé has never officially denied by documents any of the allegations charged (and how could it???).

At this point, Veltroni wrote to the organizers, asking to bar Nestlé.

January 30th 2003, accepting the Mayor’s request, the Eurochocolate management issued a press statement declaring to withdraw the invitation for Nestlè Italia to attend Eurochocolate Roma 2003, which took place at Pincio from March 1st to March 9th.

COCS sent a statement out announcing great satisfaction for the positive settlement of the dispute.
The day after, all the main newspaper spread the news.

For the corporate image of the most boycotted company in the world it’s a real bad blow, so much so that the public relations executive Magnoni hurried to declare that Nestlé had not been barred from Eurochocolate, but that they decided not to attend the event themselves because of not specified commercial choices.

If you think that Eurochocolate was born in Perugia to promote the local confectionery industry products, and first of all the Perugina’s ones (the actual Nestlé), you can gather all the unintentional funny side of Magnoni’s statement. In fact, none believed in it...

The final step of the campaign is the high circulation to the public of the reasons for the barring of Nestlé: march 1st 2003, at the opening of Eurochocolate, COCS attended handing out flyers and inviting the citizens to a meeting about "juvenile exploitation and infant mortality in the southern countries of the world: the responsabilities of cocoa and dried milk corporations", with the presence of Christoph Baker, UNICEF expert, Gino Barsella, ex-manager of "Sdebitarsi" campaign, Walter Vidori, cambonian missionary operating in Uganda, and Martina Carabetta, La Leche League operator
This time the Nestlé pavillon wasn’t there and the police didn’t come.Obviously, it is just a small victory, not an end but a new beginning: the boycotting goes on until Nestlé decides to respect human rights.

COCS wish to particularly thank all the friends and fellows who organized the protest in Rome, the associations which fight since years against Nestlé crimes and all the citizens supporting the campaign.


N.B. An interactive and multimedia version of this report, supplied with all the most important related documents, is available on COCS website

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