Poll shows Nestlé is “widely boycotted” says company executive
Press release 6 July 2007
International Nestlé-Free Week (2-8 July) is drawing to an end and has served to raise awareness of Nestlé’s aggressive marketing of baby foods in breach of standards adopted by the World Health Assembly. As it does so, Baby Milk Action can reveal that the company’s Public Affairs Manager has admitted that an independent survey has found Nestlé is widely boycotted, stating in a letter:
“The GMI Poll showed that along with Nestlé, several brands were widely boycotted. The most boycotted were generally the largest companies with the greatest visibility of which Nestlé is one.”
The three other companies named alongside Nestlé in the 2005 GMIPoll survey are Nike, Coca Cola and McDonald’s. Nestlé emerged as the most boycotted company in the UK. Though Nestlé is clearly aware the poll found Nestlé is 'widely boycotted', Nestlé's Chief Executive, Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, continues to claim support for the boycott is small (see, for example, a 2006 interview).
Nestlé is the target of a boycott as monitoring conducted by Baby Milk Action and its partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) finds it to be responsible for more violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly than any other company. 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed. Nestlé prefers to refer to its own survey (conducted by Globescan) which it claims shows it has a positive rating for 'coprorate social responsibility'.
The admission by the Public Affairs Manager, Dr. Gayle Crozier Willi, made in a letter in April 2007 is particularly relevant now as it is International Nestlé-Free Week and Nestlé is likely to claim publicly that the boycott has little support, despite being aware of the poll findings.
Right: Baby Milk Action launched a range of reusable Fairtrade-cotton shopping bags at the start of Nestlé-Free Week. Events are taking place in other countries. For example, demonstrations are scheduled to take place in Rome and Modena on 7 July.
The background to the letter is Nestlé Philippines wrote to Baby Milk Action in November 2006 objecting to a Baby Milk Action campaign against aggressive baby food marketing there, which exposed Nestlé practices such as gifts to health workers and promotion of infant formula with claims it contains ‘Brain Building Blocks’. According to the World Health Organisation, 16,000 infants die in the Philippines every year due to inappropriate infant feeding. Baby Milk Action copied its response to Nestlé S. A. and others who had received the Nestlé Philippines letter, prompting Dr. Willi to respond to the points raised. Baby Milk Action has obtained a copy of the response.
Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:
“For years Mr. Brabeck has tried to deny the support for the boycott, despite the findings of independent polls showing Nestlé is one of the world's most boycotted companies. It is welcome that Dr. Willi is now acknowledging that Nestlé is widely boycotted. Surely Nestlé should tell its shareholders this important information? The boycott continues to be necessary to hold Nestlé to account in those countries where independently monitored and enforced legislation for the marketing of baby foods has not yet been achieved. Though the boycott does force some changes, Nestlé continues to defend much of its aggressive marketing, indicating it is still not prepared to bring policies and practices into line with international standards. Nestlé-Free Week is helping to increase the pressure on Nestlé to accept our four-point plan aimed at saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott. Let us hope Nestlé will drop its denials and deception and accept the plan soon.”
For further information contact Mike Brady on (UK) 01223 464420 or 07986 736179.
Notes for editors
A photo archive is available at:
The letter from Dr Willi, Public Affairs Manager at Nestlé S. A. is a detailed response to the points raised by Baby Milk Action when replying to Nestlé Philippines complaint about our campaign in support of the Philippines. For background correspondence, click here. Both Nestlé letters were circulated by Nestlé in an attempt to undermine Baby Milk Action's campaign, but also contain important admissions. For the relevant part of Dr. Willi's letter, click here. The other claims in the letter also require scrutiny. In the extract given here, Nestlé refers to the tribunal we are asking it to attend for an in-depth investigation of the issues and to a report from the One World Trust. For the full letter, which requires detailed explanation and referral to documentary evidence supporting Baby Milk Action's original claims regarding the Philippines and other issues, you can try approaching Dr. Willi at Nestlé and contact Baby Milk Action.
Baby Milk Action launched Fairtrade cotton, reusable shopping bags with Nestlé-boycott messages at the start of Nestlé-Free Week. Available in the on-line Virtual Shop.
Nestlé is the target of the boycott as independent monitoring finds it is responsible for more violations of 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 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 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 one of the companies targeted by Baby Milk Action November 2006 Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet, over its attempts to undermine legislation introduced in the Philippines to regulate the marketing of baby foods.