Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Nestlé's year in the spotlight

Baby Milk Action had its Annual General Meeting last Saturday (31 March 2007). We are a not-for-profit company and a membership organisation. The Chair presented our year report and accounts and directors were elected. Staff gave more information on the past financial year, current activities and future plans. We also had a special guest speaker, Dana MacCleod, from the Tap Water Awards, the ethical alternative to Nestlé's Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe.

One of the developments during the year (which ran from October 2005 to September 2006) was Nestlé pulling out of the Perrier Award after it had been targeted by boycott campaigners.

In our Year Report, our overview of the year was on the them 'Nestlé's year in the spotlight'. This is included below. You can find the full report on line and download it as a pdf at:

---Year Report extract

Nestlé is the most boycotted company in the UK and one of the four most boycotted on the planet.

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.

---extract ends

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've just discovered that Amazon sells Partners Blend, so I have left this review.
If it's the Fairtrade label that attracts you, I suggest you think a bit harder before buying Nestle.

This corporate giant may be trading fairly with a teeny-weeny proportion of coffee farmers, but for the other 3 million growers dependent on it, it continues to trade not-so-fairly. So, thinking about those left out of Nestle's good-will gesture, I would buy my coffee from another producer.

I see that Amazon sells the Clipper and Percol brands.