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Charities benefit from Nestlé's Public Relations disaster

5th November 1999

Nestlé has announced it is entering into "partnerships" worth £1 million with four UK charities: Kids Club Network, Macmillan Cancer Relief, British Red Cross and Shelter.

Without wishing to undermine the work of these charities, Baby Milk Action notes that Nestlé appears to be acting on advice from Saatchi and Saatchi following a "damning" ruling against it by the UK Advertising Standards Authority. In May this year, after one of its longest ever investigations, the ASA upheld all of Baby Milk Action's complaints against a Nestlé anti-boycott advertisement in which Nestlé claimed to market infant formula "ethically and responsibly" (see Press Release 12th May 1999). Nestlé's Chief Executive, Peter Brabeck, flew into London the week before the publication of the ruling to take personal charge of the damage limitation exercise (see Boycott News 25). Nestlé is the target of a boycott in 19 countries because of its continued violations of the marketing requirements for breastmilk substitutes. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has stated that reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save the lives of 1.5 million infants around the world every year.

Marketing Week (11th February 1999) described the ASA ruling against Nestlé as: "a first-class public relations disaster" and asked Marjorie Thompson of Saatchi and Saatch what Nestlé should do:

"She suggests the way to counteract the bad publicity is to go on the offensive by using advertising showing the benefits of Nestlé's financial contributions to charities, such as Kids Club Network which provides after-school care for children."

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

"While we value the work of the beneficiaries of Nestlé's Public Relations strategy, we would much prefer that Nestlé responded by putting infant health before its own profits and ended all baby food marketing malpractice."

(Examples of Nestlé's malpractice can be seen in the Campaign for Ethical Marketing section of this website).

Nestlé appears to react to each wave of bad publicity arising from the baby milk issue by handing out more money to worthy causes. Churches in York have recieved substantial donations following the Church of England Synod's examination of this issue (see publications Nestlé's Public Relations Machine Exposed, Boycott News 25 and Boycott News 24).

From 1993 to 1994 Nestlé donations to charities increased from £847,000 to £1.035 million. Peter Anderson, Nestlé UK Community Relations Manager, was asked by Corporate Citizen magazine to explain the increase and said it was "because a lot of people think we're killing babies in the third world."

Nestlé is also promoting cereals in school through its box-top scheme (see Boycott News 25). Nestlé's Junior Range baby foods are sponsoring Tumble Tots children's clubs (see Campaign for Ethical Marketing September 1999).

Mike Brady said: "However worthy the recipients, these tie-ins are ultimately self-serving promotions for Nestlé and its products.


  1. For further information contact: Mike Brady, Baby Milk Action, 23 St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX. Tel: (01223) 464420 Fax: (01223) 464417 E-mail:

  2. Marketing Week (11th February 1999) said: "The Advertising Standards Authority appears poised to publish a damning verdict on Nestlé, which effectively brands the global corporation a liar, insofar as it claimed to have marketed infant formula products ethically." Nestlé appealed against the ruling. Its appeal was rejected and the ruling was published on 12th May 1999.

  3. See high resolution pictures of Nestlé violations in the Baby Milk Action Photo Library One and Nestlé in Hungary - Violations Library on this Baby Milk Action website.

  4. Where water is unsafe an artificially fed child is up to 25 times more likely to die as a result of diarrhoea than a breastfed child.

  5. The risk of HIV transmission through breastfeeding requires further independent research and careful consideration of risk. Mothers require accurate and indpendent information. While replacement feeding may be advisable in some instances, the World Health Organisation has stressed that the International Code and Resolutions must be respected. These measures aim to ensure safe use of breastmilk substitutes as well as to protect breastfeeding.

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