Saturday, September 23, 2006

Another day in the office

So what do I do all day?

Well there is too much to be done, so sometimes it is the deadlines that dictate.

First off was sending a funding proposal to try to obtain a grant. Organisations such as ours usually can expect to receive a few thousand pounds from a charitable trust for a successful application. But there is a lot of competition, which means sending out a lot of proposals. Yesterday we had a directors meeting and looking at the budget we will have to cut back staff hours again from October if some of these dont bite.

Emails are popping into the inbox continuously so I keep an eye on those in case there is anything urgent or quick and easy to answer. So a few exchanges with colleagues in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) on pressing business. One of our key partners is the International Code Documentation Centre in Penang, Malaysia, which coordinates global monitoring projects, training of legislators and is an all round expert on the marketing requirements.

A boycotter in Belgium wants to know if Nestea is a Nestlé product. It is.

There was a deadline for nominating Nestlé for an award for being an irresponsible company, so that was drafted a few days ago, bounced around the network and submitted today. These awards can be valuable for putting the spotlight on corporate malpractice. Last year Nestlé won a global internet vote for worlds least responsible company by a large margin. The media have picked up on this. A few months back we had a lot of coverage in the press when LOreal was taking over Body Shop. Nestlé owns 28% of LOreal so will profit from people shopping at Body Shop. We conducted a quick survey of boycott supporters through the website and 99% of 500 respondents said they would add Body Shop to their personal boycott. So articles on changes in the cosmetic industry flagged up the boycott, Nestlés baby food marketing malpractice and sometimes quoted Nestlés status as least responsible company. When we have no money for advertising, such publicity is invaluable for keeping the issue in the public eye and the pressure on Nestlé.

Then one of those issues that comes along and disrupts the best laid work plans. Nestlé is due to sponsor a meeting at the Labour Party Conference on Monday. It is being organised by the Christian Socialist Movement and apparently the decision to work with Nestlé was very controversial - quite rightly. It is one thing to share a platform with Nestlé to raise concerns about its business practices - we push for Nestlé to debate with us - but quite another to take its money and then publicise it as sponnsor and speaker at a meeting. Nestlé crops up a meetings like this with reputable organisations and people who see the publicity sometimes assume it means it has changed its unethical behaviour. Even if campaigners can attend the event and put it on the spot from the floor that does not undo the PR (public relations) impact of the event publicity and the fact Nestlé will use its 'partnership' long after the event has passed. So we have to make sure the message gets out that there are still concerns to try to limit the damage.

The controversy in this case has already been picked up by a religious news agency, which included a long quote from me about our disappointment. See Ekklesia

Were concerned because of the event undermining our work on the baby milk issue. But the meeting is about slavery and I know that Nestlé has been taken to court in the US for failing to act over child slavery in its cocoa supply chain. So I contacted the organisers of that campaign and it turned out US Senator Horkins had called a meeting for chocolate companies to explain why they hadnt acted on the Horkins-Engel protocol introduced in 2001 to end child slavery. Campaigners have heard Nestlé and the other companies were refusing to attend the meeting, claiming no-one is available. So no-one from Nestlé is apparently available for a meeting where they will be put on the spot on 18 September, but the Head of Corporate Affairs is going on the 25 September to the fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference to explain all the wonderful work the company is doing to end forced labour. In a spirit of solidarity with the trafficked and abused children in Ivory Coast I recorded an interview with the International Labour Rights Fund to put on our website, which you can hear by clicking It was nice to see The Independent newspaper picked up on this news story with an article on 18 September.

Around the time I heard the Christian Socialist Movement had teamed up with Nestlé a press release arrived from the trade union in the Philippines where Nestlé workers have been on strike for nearly five years because the company refuses to negotiate over retirement benefits despite a Supreme Court ruling that it should do so. So last weekend I interviewed the General Secretary of the union in the Philippines to find out more. You can hear that interview by clicking

We have a bit of funding specifically to share our experiences of holding corporations to account with other campaigns and giving a voice to those campaigning in developing countries is part of the strategy. But we have to come back to the baby milk issue which is Baby Milk Actions reason for targeting Nestlé with the boycott. While the company is obviously hoping to gain good PR from the meeting at the Labour Party Conference (while avoiding the bad PR of being put on the spot at the meeting in the US) it is an opportunity to raise the boycott and its baby food marketing practices.

Which means today I have been updating our 10 facts leaflet which gives information on Nestlés marketing activities and photocopying and slicing them. It can be downloaded from the resources section of our website Also drafting some questions to ask on Monday.

We have a network with thousands of campaign supporters who have signed up to receive information by email (you can do this in the contact section of ). In a recent alert people were asked if they could turn out to leaflet in Manchester, where the Conference is being held, so now we have a small team in place who have been sent leaflets. We are still debating in the office who will trek up to Manchester to attend the meeting and raise the questions Nestlé is trying to avoid and if we can find a floor to sleep on to save money.

Also today a media enquiry about the UK situation. We have a UK monitoring project and during World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August) submitted examples of aggressive marketing to a global snapshot. So I can direct the journalist to the UK website the global site

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