Friday, May 11, 2007

Netmums are delighted to welcome Nescafé

Well I'm staggered.

There has been a lot of controversy over the planned link between Nestlé and Netmums to promote Nescafé, the principal target of the boycott over Nestlé aggressive marketing of baby foods. Some have said how disappointed they would be if the link goes ahead. Some have resigned. Checking this evening, I see over 1,000 postings to the thread and over 27,000 views.

The advertisement has now gone live and we have posted our response on our website with links to supporting information. We hope that Netmums will include it on their website, with the same prominence as a Nestlé statement that has been publicised to members.

It is more than an advertisement for Nescafé that has appeared on the site. It seems to be a message to everyone who voiced their concerns about a link with the worst of the baby food companies. It says: "Netmums are delighted to welcome Nescafé". No second thoughts there then it appears, or wish to portray the Nescafé promotion as just another banner advertisement.

Here it is. I've had to subvertise it a little as I have no wish to promote Nescafé myself.

You can see the actual advertisement at

It is possible to view the forum there and registered users can comment. Having seen how the thread is going, I am not encouraging supporters who are not already Netmums members to become involved. There seems to be a core of Netmums users who object to any postings from boycott supporters and some members have said on the thread they are leaving because of the unpleasantness. At the same time, some have been upset by postings from boycott supporters.

This campaign aims to protect all mothers, regardless of how they feed their infants and Baby Milk Action tries to make this point as clearly as we can. The wider aspects of the campaign, such as the way companies promote breastmilk substitutes as the same or almost the same as breastfeeding, have to be presented sensitively and in appropriate settings because this information can be upsetting for mothers who have not breastfed. I have written on this topic here previously. See:

I am not entering into the discussion on Netmums myself for two reasons. Firstly, because people have been invited to leave comments on this blog and I see the link to it has been posted several times. Secondly, there is too much else going on. We are in daily contact with partners around the world who know only too well what Nestlé and other companies are doing on the ground to push their products and the misleading claims they make about them. We are working to strengthen implementation of the marketing requirements for baby foods adopted by the World Health Assembly, while the industry lobbies to weaken them. The boycott is part and parcel of the campaign, but it is probably more productive to comment and respond here than enter into discussion on a quick-fire thread on Netmums.

An irony that will likely be lost on those posting comments suggesting Nestlé's assurances should be accepted or suggesting we are 'biased' and people should look elsewhere for evidence, is that when experts are looking for evidence, they often come to us. We provide briefings to the ethical investment sector, for example, and no reputable listing includes Nestlé. (Nestlé makes much of the one listing that does include it – an organisation that refuses to consider monitoring evidence, instead looking to a company's own reports - details of that here).

We often brief journalists, providing documentary evidence of malpractice, such as company materials. Many go on to conduct their own investigations, finding substantiation for themselves.

While Nestlé claims our interpretation of the marketing requirements is incorrect, we seek clarification from UNICEF (which is mandated to advise governments) if necessary, to check. And we and our partners in IBFAN are invited to train policy makers on the marketing requirements by governments and United Nations organisations. I, myself, organised training in Moscow a few years ago for health workers and consumer protection campaigners from the former Soviet Union. The baby food industry was rushing in and using marketing tactics that it knew it couldn't get away with in other countries. We, alongside UNICEF, conducted a training for UK policy makers more recently thanks to funding from the King's Fund.

So when I see people new to the issue rubbishing our information I try to be philosophical. They think we are as Nestlé labels us: just a bunch of activists.

That said, I am always happy to respond to comments and questions, within the limits of time and midnight oil. There have been 5 comments left on my blog so far and I will respond to them here. All have been left anonymously.

---First comment
I'm a netmums user and don't give two hoots where the sponsoship comes from.The world isn't perfecet and boycotting Nestle is hardly gonna give them an itch!
Instead of boycotting nestle how about doing something productive and that will actually make a difference.....give money to provide wells and clean water.Some of you seem like nothing but a bunch of breastfeeding vigilantes who only care about the fact that people actually feed via bottle-pathetic.
Have you even thought for one second how many lives are saved due to bottle feeding.I can't imagine you have.In this world everything has to be balanced and I suggest you remember that
---comment one ends

As I have said above and in many other places, the campaign aims to protect all mothers, regardless of how they feed their infants and I do not believe anyone should try to make a mother feel guilty over the way she has fed her child.

The boycott targets Nestlé with good reason: it puts its own profits before infant health and mothers rights by aggressively marketing baby foods. Mothers have a right to accurate information free from commercial interests. Nestlé aims to increase sales of formula by promoting its products in breach of marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly. Our demand is simple: for Nestlé to follow the rules. If it did so, then the boycott would be called off. A plan for this has been put to Nestlé and it has rejected it. The boycott keeps up the pressure for changes and, though Nestlé is still the worst of the baby food companies, it has forced some changes. The campaign saves lives.

Nestlé links to good causes to try to divert criticism so that it can carry on with business as usual. That is something that many people do give a hoot about. Organisations have turned down hundreds of thousands of pounds from Nestlé, even £1 million.

I am not particularly familiar with Netmums, but I think it is essential that mothers have access to support networks that are independent of the baby food companies. I understand Netmums has a policy of not accepting advertising for infant feeding products and I think that is excellent. Baby food companies try to get mothers to go to their sites and there need to be independent alternatives. The government should give more support to such initiatives so they do not feel compelled to take inappropriate funding.

Calling for independence from baby food companies is not the same as saying formula should be banned or mothers who formula-feed are bad. On past blogs I have told people where they can obtain independent information. If you check the UNICEF leaflets on mixing up a feeding bottle you will see these give information that companies continue to refuse to give, about the risk of powdered formula being contaminated and how to mix up the formula to counter any possible contamination.

Much of our work is concerned with making formula safer, both in the way it is labelled and in its composition. Why? Because we care about all mothers and infants. That is why we do what we do.

As it says on my profile, I lived and worked in Africa for four years. What I continue to do to support communities there is of no relevance so I will not respond to the suggestion I should be 'doing something productive' instead of boycotting Nestlé. I feel privileged to be able to do this work, which I think is critically important.

---Second comment (same person?)
Out of interest Mike, why is netmums sponsorship concerning you so greatly ? Are you one of the fantastic people that uses the site for support, advice,friendships and having a laugh? You say you are posting on the thread regarding nescafe in your blog, but having an avid interst in the thread myself i see no posts by mike !!! and there is only one non regular member thats been posting, but i find it hard to believe that is you, as this lady claims she helps mothers breastfeed, something you dont mention in your blog profile ?
So who exactly are you and what is it you are trying to gain from all of this, because im a tad confused as to why you have seemingly registered as a lady, on a site with plenty of other men to leave messages accusing people who formula feed of feeding their babys junk food, so on and so forth !
Some impression youve left me with, and what right does any man who can never possibly experience breast feeding to judge women who choose or are forced not to?
---Comment two ends

The suggestion that I am posting on the thread is simply wrong. What I said in the blog was: "As this is already being discussed on the public forum on the Netmums site, I am responding publicly, but will also contact Netmums directly to raise these issues." I responded publicly on my blog, not on Netmums. And in contacting Netmums, I contacted the organisers of the website, using the 'Report it' button on the website.

I have not posted on Netmums and do not intend to. I have asked Netmums organisers to post our statement. The comments attributed to me have nothing to do with me.

---Comment three
As a long term Netmums user I have decided to cancel my membership. I am disgusted and disappointed that a site, which used to be all about caring for women and babies can suddenly do such a u-turn faced with the temptation of big corporation money. Nestle must be laughing in their boardrooms. What mugs Netmums are being. What a shame it has come to this.
---Comment three ends.

As I said on my first blog, I understand the problems of funding a not-for-profit organisation. It is a constant struggle for us to keep going. We refuse to take corporate money, being funded by members, charitable trusts and development organisations. Many of the people we provide information and support to do not pay for it, however, and we do our best to meet the need.

Netmums has claimed they would have not been able to keep going without the 7-month deal with Nestlé to promote Nescafé and says that taking the money justifies any upset that it causes. Whether Netmums appreciates the coup it is to Nestlé is another question. Netmums have already got drawn into publicising a Nestlé statement to members and encouraging them to contact Nestlé for further information. As I say, I hope our statement will be given equal prominence. We will monitor how and where Nestlé makes use of the link more widely to try to improve its image and undermine our work and will have to take action to counter any kudos it gains from it.

---Comment four
I'm a netmum too. I tried to start a new thread yesterday for netmums boycotting Nestle but it was removed! While netmums owners claim not to be endorsing Nestle by accepting sponsorship I don't think they would have censored such debate before accepting their money would they.
---Comment four ends


---Comment five
---Comment five ends

There is the long-running thread on the Nescafé promotion still running.

Anyway do continue to leave me comments.


Anonymous said...

To be honest I think it's appalling that you are flaming a website that has proven time and time again that it helps mothers.

I think this time your boycott has gone too far, you seem to have become blinkered in your work and see only this *big bad* company, it's as if you've forgotten the women you're meant to be campaigning for - and by the way did they ever ask for your support or did you just in your arrogance decide what was best for them, being in that case no better than nestle?

Netmums are actively supporting women every day, these are real mums forming a community that offers support and friendship yet asks for nothing - netmums has never asked me for a penny and yet it has given me so much.

I think you are doing your own campaign a dis-service not to recognise that netmums are the ones actually helping mums while you sit in your ivory tower and do nothing but name and shame.

And the members who have left - if they actually have - then shame on them for not putting their friends above all. I hope they can live with themselves if a mum comes on the coffeehouse who could really have done with their help and support and yet they weren't there to give it purely because of a banner ad - pathetic.

Mike Brady said...

I will respond in detail to all comments in a future blog. But please also see my past blog "The Nescafé and Netmums equation" which gives some of the background requested in the above comment:

As I said there, we were contacted by people concerned about the sponsorship deal. We had no knowledge of this at all until concerned Netmums members came to us asking for support after seeing the preview and announcement of the deal on the Netmums site.

Anonymous said...

In reply to first post

The Nestle/Netmums thing has been shameful. Netmums does provide a lot of support and help to parents in this country, however, I think the way in which several members absolutely refused to consider any anti-nestle information, going so far as to insinuate that all anti nestle information was somehow biased propaganda and holding up the comments of a couple of people brought up in S. Africa who said they'd never heard of problems with Nestle, as the 'real truth'. It was odd, how heated the debate became from those who claimed not to be at all interested in Nestle's activities.
I was a Netmum's member who chose to leave, not because Nestle now sponsored the site (though that was a bad decision, I think) but because I was shocked at the lack of support shown (in fact personal attacks and bullying tactics used) by some members during the Nestle 'debate'. Other members who left have said they felt the same. What support could be offered by those people? I've been boycotting Nestle for a long time and the issues involved are important to me, I'm hardly likely to want to post about anything else that's important to me if that's going to be the reaction, am I?

(I'd like to be clear that it was only a few, very vocal, members who made personal attacks)

Anonymous said...

Some netmums who claimed to be leaving and have said they have left haven' is that because they don't really mind or the weight of evidence against all this nonsense.
I think you are the ones who need to look at other information.
and there's one member we're disgusted know who you are...who just can't stop and isn't interested in anyone or anything but her own dumb opinion and can't even get her own info right from links she posts


Anonymous said...

I am a netmums member and i was/am undecided on the whole Nescafe issue as i do not know enough about it from both sides to make a decision. However i feel that one of your campaigners upset and offended alot of women on their including myself by turning the debate into a breast feeding against bottle feeding debate, which for one reason or another can get alot womens backs up and make them feel as though they have to justify themselves. I must say it is impressive how strongly the campaigner supports her campaign but i feel she did it more harm than good on the netmums site. If perhaps she had come across a little less preaching more of the members would have listened to her case. Its a shame on your behalf i think.

Anonymous said...

No members have actually left. The member you say have left only joined netmums to post on the nestle thread. Some members said they left but came back as they realised that Netmums had to accept this sponsorship.
You have quoted that Netmums called this site "biased".
I called this site biased. That was a comment from me and not a representation of Netmums. I am disgusted that you would quote me out of context to make netmums look bad.
The comments on your blogs which CLAIM to be from a member of Netmums are actually from a woman who only joined the site to post on the nestle thread.
The comments from her which were removed were absolutely disgusting. They were hateful and completely untrue. She hurt a lot of people with her comments. She has shown you all up for what you are.

Mike Brady said...

In the same way I replied to comments left on my first blog above, I'll respond to the comments left here on a future blog.

However, Lesley's comment needs correcting now. People can read for themselves what was said in the above blog. I said: "An irony that will likely be lost on those posting comments suggesting Nestlé's assurances should be accepted or suggesting we are 'biased'..."

Lesley presents this as: "You have quoted that Netmums called this site "biased"." No, I referred to those posting comments suggesting we are 'biased'.

I do hope people read what I have written, not just what people say I have written.

Anonymous said...

I have been a member of netmums for over 2 years and a regularly user of the coffeehouse. Sadly I decided to leave over this sponsorhip deal and I haven't been back (except to clear my desk so to speak). I think the endorsment for such an unethical company is both disappointing and hypocritical. Netmums is a site that campaigns for "clearer labelling with less false claims" of food aimed at children, but seemingly babymilk is not included in this. Having said that, for the most part it is a fantastic site that offers great support to parents. It is a shame that certain members used an important issue like this just to argue for the sake of it without thinking of the consequences to others or to the site as a whole.

Anonymous said...

The thread that is currently going on Netmums makes a mockerey of the Nestle Boycott. I myself boycott Nestle and have put what information I have on the matter on the thread. Unfortunately members from both sides have made unnecessary and inflamitory comments which have nothing to do with the Nestle issue and as a result have made people who boycott look like breastfeeding crusaders intent on badmouthing a formula company.
This blog seems to have added fuel to the fire and now BabyMilkAction seems like the big bad wolf. :(
A lot of people (myself included) have a lot of respect for the moderators on Netmums and I do think it was a little unfair to quote one of them. This also seems to have damaged what I am trying to point out on the Nescafe thread.
I hope you don't mind me making these comments.
Kind Regards
Marita Duff

Mike Brady said...

Dear Marita (comment above), no problem with your comment. My policy is to post anything people wish to say here (unless it is 'great site, check out mine on loans/viagra/diplomas' - which is why comments are moderated).

The comment to which you refer was posted by someone on my first blog on Nescafé and Netmums and I let it go through. As promised, I responded to those comments on this blog entry.

If there was any breach of a privacy agreement about the moderators email - posted here by the person who received it - then I apologise. It was not intentional.

I take from your message that this is being discussed on Netmums. If the moderator in question wants the comment removed, I will do so, indicating this was done at the request of the originator and that, I hope, will be the end of it.

It is worth recalling that someone posted on the first blog (after I had written this one): "And while we're on the subject of potential censorship people posting on the netmums thread weren't required to meet owner approval before their comments went live!!!!"

So if I don't post comments people leave on my blog there is the possibility people will suggest I am censoring the comments. If I do, then in this case I hear from a third party that it was inappropriate.

Someone will think I am wrong whatever I do. No doubt someone will attack me for this response too!

No problem. I have to be pretty thick skinned to take all the flack from Nestlé. Which is the real issue, of course. My two blog entries and Baby Milk Action's statement are SOLELY intended to ensure that Nestlé does not gain kudos from its link to Netmums. Nestlé is the target of the boycott with good reason and we do have to defend our campaign in the interests of infants and mothers around the world.

In doing so, I have brought Netmums justification to people's attention and commented that I understand the difficulty of their funding situation. I have commended Netmums on having a funding policy - even if we disagree on the appropriateness of Nestlé - and welcomed the fact that Netmums does not take advertising for infant feeding products.

In addition I have stated that the government should improve funding to independent sources of support to mothers. This is something for which Baby Milk Action is actively campaigning.

I have not entered into the discussion on Netmums or even encouraged people to go to the thread (which is PUBLIC after all) as the way the discussion is going does nobody any favours, least of all the mothers and infants who are at the sharp end of Nestlé malpractice.

Today The Guardian has published its investigation of Nestlé in Bangladesh. That is the real issue I hope we can all get on to discussing.

Anonymous said...

As a former Netmums member, I would like to say that many members certainly have chosen to leave. They have done so discreetly which seems to have given certain people the impression that none have left. Those that have gone have, in the main, done so because of their principles. Sometimes its worth standing up for what you believe in. Other Netmums members may not share these principles, and some think its worth remaining Netmums members because they can do more good by staying. Personally I respect everyones views. I hope those involved in the debate, whatever their opinion, make sure they remain well informed and do not let the issue be clouded by childish playground bickering.

Anonymous said...

There's always for support and ethical advertising.

And I've left netmums over this debacle - so to say nobody's left isn't true.

Anonymous said...

People leaving comments seem to be making a big thing about how supportive Netmums is and appear to think this means they should be exempt from criticism. Those people should maybe take a look at which is equally supportive to parents yet has an ethical advertising policy decided upon with consultation with its members. It does not accept advertising from Nestle and several other companies or product types.

BabyLongLegs said...

I am not a user of Netmums, but this whole thing has opened the eyes of so many new people to the Nestle Boycott...which can only be a good thing! is also a good site for bringing all us Mums together :)
Read your blog regularly, Mike.....its fab...
Sarah xXx

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike, i have followed your blog and your work for some time. I think what you do is amazing and i continue to support the Nestle Boycott and BabyMilkAction.

I cannot believe the rudeness of some of the comments posted on your blog. PLease do not take them to heart (not that i think you will, you must deal with this kind of ignorance on a daily basis).

Keep on keeping on Mike, you do an amazing job!!


tracy said...

Interestingly Netmums will not allow forum members to post links to possibly one of the best websites out there for breastfeeding information, Kellymom.
I believe they say it's to do with the fact Kellymom has a forum but to be honest I know many don't look at that. They look for the good evidence based information the site contains.

Mike Brady said...

For an update see:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for interesting article.

Anonymous said...

Glad to read articles like this. Thanks to author!

Anonymous said...

Excellent website. Good work. Very useful. I will bookmark!

Andy said...

Doing a quick google, I came across your blog and about the Nestlé boycott in which our community is listed as a good place for anti-Nestle.

This comment is first, a thank you for bringing the evils of Nestle to the forefront, secondly a thank you for mentioning us in your blog, and lastly to provide more evidence of the lengths that Nestlé will go to to protect their brand.

Namely, they purchased the .com version of our site and redirected to it nestleDOTcom.

Read more here: