Baby Milk Action Year Report: October 2005 - September 2006
The year began with the announcement that it was launching a new brand of coffee, Partners' Blend, which was being awarded a Fairtrade mark. Our warnings that this would be used as a public relations tool proved correct, with advertisements in the mass media and much made of it in Nestlé's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports. Yet even on the day of the launch, Nestlé was attacking Fairtrade as nothing more than a niche market. That is certainly the case for Nestlé as only 0.1% of coffee farmers dependent on the company are included in the scheme and the remainder suffer from the aggressive trading practices of Nestlé and the other major processors.
However, Nestlé's attempts at using the mark to improve its image soon ran into the ground as our analysis and Nestlé's poor image over baby food marketing was included in media coverage. We complained to the Advertising Standards Authority over a misleading Nestlé advertisement and spoke about this on a BBC Money Programme special on Fairtrade. Though the ASA did not uphold our complaint (and refused to publish in the ruling the figures showing how few farmers benefited from the scheme), Nestlé subsequently changed its advertisements to focus on the coffee rather than its claims to be helping farmers.
A few months later a media storm erupted over the L'Oreal purchase of the Body Shop, a cosmetics manufacturer and retailer widely perceived to be 'ethical'. Early reports made no mention of the fact that Nestlé holds over a quarter of L'Oreal shares and so will profit from Body Shop sales. This was soon put right as we informed the media and attempted to contact Body Shop founder, Dame Anita Roddick, who eventually wrote: "I object to the way Nestlé behaves... you have to have been living in space to not know their reputation." The sale went ahead regardless. In an on-line survey we counducted 99% of boycott supporters said they would add Body Shop to their personal boycott. We produced a leaflet to raise awareness of Nestlé's link and its baby food marketing malpractice.
At the launch of the Nestlé report, Corporate Social Responsibility as practised in Latin America, in March we questioned the misleading nature of the report and its advocacy of voluntary regulation.
The Nestlé Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival finally ended in August. Following demonstrations and protests since 2001 the organisers have now found a new sponsor. Other Nestlé Public Relations initiatives that our leafleting and campaigning has caused to backfire include its sponsorship of a debate on slavery at the Labour Party Conference and the award ceremony of the Nestlé Children's Book Prize - the time and venue of which was kept secret from the media!
The Methodist Conference supported replies criticising Nestlé baby food marketing, calling for changes and recognising the importance of the boycott. Many thousands more people signed the boycott petition, keeping up the pressure on the worst of all the baby food companies.
Members and supporters were essential in raising awareness of the many issues that we tackle. We coordinate the international boycott of Nestlé, the company responsible for more aggressive baby food promotion than any other. Nestlé's attempts to improve its image backfired yet again with its launch of a Fairtrade coffee (involving just 0.1% of coffee farmers dependent on it and 0.00185% of its turnover), the Nestlé/L'Oreal takeover of Body Shop and the decision to end the Nestlé/Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which all drew media attention to the baby food issue (se above)
We assisted supporters at the Methodist Conference in June, which adopted replies to 'memorials' supportive of the campaign and the boycott.
Area contacts and staff held stalls and workshops at events in the UK including: National Childbirth Trust (AGM and health professionals event), Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, Breastfeeding Network, Lactation Consultants of Great Britain, Baby Café, Baby Friendly Initiative, International Women’s Day, UNISON national conference, Little Angels, Birthlight. We ran a stall, seminar and workshop at the European Social Forum in Athens in May.
We presented over 5,000 boycott petition signatures to Nestlé at the annual demonstration in May and organised a parallel day of leafleting at Body Shop outlets, now part-owned by Nestlé. We demonstrated at the Labour Party Conference, where Nestlé sponsored a fringe meeting on slavery in September.
In a project to share exepriences, we organised a seminar on protecting the right to water with ActionAid, Christian Aid, War on Want and World Development Movement and Brazilian campaigners in March. In April trained campaigning groups in Hungary on when and how to run a boycott. We taught BSc students at SUHRS University in Copenhagen about the International Code in April.
We worked with print and broadcast media, including on a major article, Suck on This, in The Ecologist magazine in April. We appeared on several TV reports: on contamination of bottled water in December; on contamination of infant formula in January and on Nestlé and Fairtrade in March.
We are the UK member of IBFAN (the International Baby Food Action Network) which consists of more than 200 groups in over 100 countries. We attended the IBFAN Europe Meeting in Italy in April.
Within IBFAN we have responsibility for company campaigns and share responsibility for Code Advocacy in Europe.
We completed our trade campaign, with updated innformation on the IBFAN website, which we maintained during the year.
We provided support to IBFAN partners in many countries, especially the Philippines, Bulgaria, Armenia and South Africa.
We continued to produce the Campaign for Ethical Marketing
We helped to coordinate a global snapshot of violations of the baby food marketing regulations in October.
We coordinate a UK monitoring project on behalf of the Baby Feeding Law Group. In May we reported on how companies violate international standards and gained cross-party support for an Early Day Motion (a petition for Members of Parliament) tabled by Lynne Jones MP, calling for government action nationally and globally.
In July we trained a team of UK monitors for Save the Children to submit violations alongside our existing team of volunteers.
With IBFAN Luxembourg we coordinated the lobby to improve the European Union Directive on infant formula - a campaign which has been a major focus for us throughout the year. Through the Baby Feeding Law Group, we persuaded the UK Government to support nearly all of our comments. Despite this and support from key European NGOs, several Member States and from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, only a few improvements were made and the Directive passed in July is weak and opens the door for new health and nutrition claims. The UK must now fulfill its promises (made in the Choosing Health White paper) and implement the Directive in the strongest possible way.
The Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG) called on UK Health and Education Ministers to incorporate safeguards contained in WHA Resolutions into the Health and Education Bills to guard against conflicts of interest. The BFLG considers that the baby food industry should not be permitted to provide education advice and resources in schools and health facilities.
We attended the 59th World Health Assembly in May, where a new Resolution on infant feeding was adopted. WHO organised a series of events to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the International Code, including charting government progress in implementation. We again organised pre-Assembly meetings with health and development NGOs and the UK Government.
We represented IBFAN at 12 meetings of the European Commission's Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, and gave a presentation at the WHO Forum in Olso in May ahead of the European Ministerial Conference in Turkey. We raised the profile of breastfeeding, called for a Marketing Code for foods for children, warned of the risks of reliance on self regulation, called for truly independent monitoring and caution regarding sponsorship and partnerships with the food industry.
We continued to lobby for the inclusion of the International Code and Resolutions into the global Codex Alimentarius baby food standards at meetings in Germany in November and Geneva in May. We supported the Thai Government proposal to lower the maximum permitted levels of sugar in the Codex Standard on baby foods.
We are the Secretariat of the Baby Feeding Law Group (UK) whose 17 member organisations include the Royal College of Midwives, the Health Visitors Association and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. The group campaigns to strengthen UK legislation. We are also members of the newly formed Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition which has seven objectives, one of which is Code implementation.
We coordinate the International Nestlé Boycott, launched by groups in 20 countries.
We are members of NGO networks such as Sustain (The Children's Food Bill), the UK Consortium on AIDS, the CASE Privatisation Group, CORE, the Trade Justice Movement, the UK Food Group and we work with trade unions such as UNISON and the National Union of Teachers.
There are over 90,000 page views on our website some months. We respond to many emails coming via the site. Leaflets, posters and briefing papers are downloaded.
In September, the Campaigns and Networking Coordinator began a daily blog, as a resource for campaigners and the media. This has helped generate coverage around the world.
We added to the broadcasts section of the website interviews with partners in IBFAN Europe, campaigners in the Philippines and the US. An earlier recording on the site was used by a Canadian radio station in July.
Baby Milk Action's work this year has been funded by grants from CAFOD, Christian Aid, The Eleanor Rathbone Charitable Trust, Gibbs Charitable Trust, Joffe Charitable Trust, OXFAM, The Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation, The Rowan Charitable Trust, Save the Children, S.E Franklin Deceased Charity and SCIAF.
We are grateful to all our supporters, without whom our work would not be possible.
We would like to acknowledge a generous legacy from long-time supporter and Member No 2, Juliet Clifford who sadly passed away in 2006. Juliet helped Baby Milk Action buy shelving for our resource library many years ago. The Library in our new office has been named in her memory.
Net Profit = £41,086
Charts are based on draft
Council of Directors
Gary Woolley, Chair
Patti Rundall (Policy Director)
Phyll Buchanan, Andy Chetley, Dr Emmanuel Diamond, Prof. G.J. Ebrahim, Chloe Fisher, Peter Greaves, Prof. Raymond Hodgson, Sheila Kitzinger, Dr Tim Lobstein, Prof. David Morley, Gabrielle Palmer, Dr. Peter Poore, Dr. Andrew Porter, Mary Renfrew, Magda Sachs, Dr. Penny Stanway, Dr. Tony Waterston, Kevin Watkins, Dr. A.F. Williams, Dr Pam Zinkin.
Pete Arnold, Sonia de Oliveira Brady, Elaine Heath, Tessa Martyn, Lisa Woodburn.
The following served as area contacts during the year:
Aileen Banks, Xanthe Bevis, Hannah Bird, Barbara Bovington, Anne Bramley, Sharon Breward, Marianne Cowpe, Belinda Cox, Dh. Dharmavandana, Jonathan Dorsett, Anne Dowden, Maria Dowden, Maggie Ellis, Barbara Gleave, Patricia Hamilton, Caroline Hind, Joanna Hindley, Jenifer Inman, Vicky Islam, Liz Lawrence, Steven Lee, Kristie Legg, Sue Malpass, Julia McRae, Adele McGarry- Watson, Annette Ogilvie-Forbes, Mary Paterson, Jan Price, Jane Putsey, Jacqueline Quick, Catherine Reading, Carl Richards, Jenny Richardson, Magda Sachs, Sarah Saunby, Sarah Squires, Harriet Smith, Jane Tapp, Frankie Taylor, Mary Tones, Liz Urwin, Bernadette Walker, Janette Westman, Patricia Wise.
We would like to express our appreciation to all our Area Contacts and wish well to those who stood down during 2005/2006. We would particularly like to thank Jane Putsey, Magda Sachs and ex-Director, Catherine Woodhouse for their contribution to the campaign over the years.
Alison Mortlock and Lisa Woodburn again produced a breastfeeding calendar for the IBFAN network. This is a major fundraiser for Baby Milk Action and provides a corporate-free alternative for health centres and elsewhere.