Q. Can my local Council
support the Nestlé boycott?
A. (14 October 2003) Yes,
if the procurement team abides by best value regulations.
Several councils support
the Nescafé and wider Nestlé boycott (see the Endorsers
List in the downloads section).
The issue of water coolers
has recently become a hot issue, with staff refusing to drink AquaCool
water or other Nestlé owned brands. This has prompted council
procurement teams to become involved in seeking alternative suppliers.
While this is not intended as a definitive legal position, Baby Milk
Action is aware that procurement managers have been able to switch suppliers
within the terms of the best value regulations because they
have been able to negotiate agreements with alternative suppliers which
provide better value and/or quality products.
The issue of Nestlé
vending machines has also been controversial. It is possible to use
alternative suppliers within the best value criteria. As
an alternative strategy, procurement managers have provided alternative
products in vending machines to give those who support the boycott an
A Council can adopt a Resolution
supporting the baby milk campaign in general and Baby Milk Actions
four-point plan, aimed at saving infant lives and ultimately ending
the boycott. See the draft Resolution in the boycott
section. Baby Milk Action can arrange to make a presentation on
the campaign and will gladly debate with Nestlé before the Council
(we will have to ask for our costs to be covered). Alternatively we
can provide a video of a past debate (contact
us for details).
Opposing the aggressive promotion
of artificial feeding and working for safeguards to protect mothers
and infants is related to sustainable development. There can be no more
locally produced and non-polluting food product than breastmilk. It
is actually UK Government policy for local authorities to support sustainability.
The following is taken from the Oxfam paper Global Partners Fairtrade
and local authorities How to support Global Sustainable Development
in your locality, available on the Fairtrade Foundation website
[page 35] "Best
value was placed into statute by the Local Government Act 1999,
replacing Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) in April 2000. It
places a duty on all local authorities except some smaller town or
parish councils to make arrangements to continuously improve services.
It will offer major new opportunities to local authorities in their
support of sustainable development. Local Agenda 21 is not a separate
initiative that can be implemented in isolation from other local government
policies. Best value can deliver a policy framework through which
councils can exercise requirements, qualities, values and practice.
Sustainable development will only be achieved if it is woven into
the heart of local government policy and crucially into Best Value.
Best Value encompasses
a duty to deliver services to clear standards, covering both cost
and quality. Achieving best value is therefore not just about economy
and efficiency, but also about effectiveness and the quality of local
services. It will also help councils to address the cross-cutting
issues facing their citizens and communities, such as community safety
or sustainable development, which are beyond the reach of a single
service or service provider. Sustainable development touches
on all aspects of a local authoritys activities. It is not just
about environmental issues but is, in essence, about ensuring a better
quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come. It
encompasses social, economic and environmental goals. (Source:
Best value and sustainable development, preliminary
guidance main report, LGMB, 1998.)
[page 37] The
Government should actively promote sustainable development policies
through its procurement policies and practices and require other public
bodies to do likewise
that the Government should join with other
countries in the EU and the OECD to promote initiatives on green procurement.
(Source, "The third annual report of the Government's panel
on sustainable development", January 1997.)
European Union (EU) procurement
rules form the basis of the current regulatory framework. The resultant
guidelines set out in conjunction with the Department of Trade and
Industry and the Procurement Policy Division of HM Treasury specify
procedures that apply when public authorities acquire goods or services
when contracts exceed certain threshold monetary values. However,
all procurement contracts are subject to the treaties of the European
Union. Contract rules state that equality of treatment must ensure
no discrimination on national origin and that transparent criteria
be used in the selection of tenderers. In general these state that
procurement decisions should be based on value for money through competition
via open or restricted (when only selected persons can tender) award
Objective criteria standards
(like Fairtrade marking [**Baby Milk Action note: or evaluation of
a companys baby food marketing practices against the international
standards adopted by the World Health Assembly as achieved by the
monitoring conducted by the International Baby Food Action Network**])
applied to contracts must therefore be internationally applicable
or at least EU-based rather then just discriminating in favour of
UK goods. Under EC procedures, local authorities are not bound
to accept the lowest priced bid. Value for money (the economically
most advantageous tender) is the optimum combination of whole life
costs and quality (or fitness for purpose) to meet the users
requirements. The users requirements on quality or standard
of service should be specified by reference to recognised standards.
The reference to ' quality' to meet the customers requirements enables
authorities to specify what they need to meet their own operational
and policy objectives while contributing to local, national, european,
and international objectives on sustainable development.
Therefore, if a local authority
were to adopt specific policies based on the adoption of a core value
of Sustainable Development or a fair trade motion [**Baby Milk Action
comment: and the requirement that suppliers are not violating the
Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant
Resolution of th eWorld Health Assembly according to the monitoring
conducted by the International Baby Food Action Network (similar to
the criteria used by ethical investment funds)**], this would enable
the formulation of a precise specification on what is required in
contracts placed by that local authority. It is then the task of the
procurement officer to obtain the best value for money in meeting
that particular requirement.
The Prime Minister, when
speaking at the UN in July 1997 (quoted by R Caborn) said, Environmental
considerations must be integrated into all our decisions regardless
of the sector. They must be in at the start, not bolted on later.
If you are a Councillor or
Council officer and would like to share your experiences, please contact
If you are campaigning for
support for the Nestlé boycott, you may also be interested in
the campaign for Fair Trade Towns, promoted by the Fairtrade
Foundation. See the website www.fairtrade.org.uk
for further details.