Friday, August 29, 2008
For more on the spy story and how this impacted on Baby Milk Action see:
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NESTLE INFILTRATES AN NGO IN SWITZERLAND
On 12 June 2008, the very serious Swiss investigative reporters tv revealed that Nestlé paid Securitas,one of Switzerland's largest security firms, to plant a woman in a group of attac switzerland (my group) from the summer of 2003 until the summer of 2004. We were making conference and editing a book about Nestlé.
As a co-author she had complete access to the group's documentation and to all Attac's email contacts around the world, including information on union members in Colombia fighting for workers-rights in Nestle plants. Such information is potentially dangerous in the wrong hands; in the past people have been killed just for being active organizers especially in Colombia. Her regular reports and memos (physical descriptions, (political orientations, job.) about us and our activities, contacts were handed over to Nestlé, especially to the head of security of Nestle. The infiltrator met him at least one time. The name of the head of security of Nestlé is John Hedley, who in the past was working in the British secret services, the MI6.
We had a first audience in tribunal last week.
More of 150 newspapers (in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and France) have been writing papers on the matter.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The week is an opportunity to change our own behaviour and influence those around us, with the aim of changing Nestlé. Nestlé is the worst of the companies when it comes to pushing baby milk. It uses tactics that break standards agreed collectively by Health Ministries at the World Health Assembly and which undermine breastfeeding, so increasing the risk of sickness in babies, which, in poor settings, mean those babies are more likely to die.
According to the World Health Organisation, 1.5 million babies die around the world every year because they are not breastfed. Nestlé is the worst of the baby food companies and drives down standards for other companies. For example, when Nestlé ran a campaign advertising its formula in South African supermarkets at the end of 2007, the other baby food companies complained and the Department of Health said it was against such strategies. Yet Nestlé says it will continue to advertise its formula with claims that it 'protects' babies, even though it knows babies fed on it are more likely to become ill than babies who are breastfed. See:
Nestlé is a very big and powerful company. It cares more about making money for its shareholders than it cares about the lives of babies and their families. So what can we do?
One hundred years ago, Mahatma Gandhi, a young Indian lawyer, travelled to South Africa where he found that Indians were discriminated against. Even though he had a ticket for the first class compartment of the train he took on arriving, he was forced to move to third class just because he was Indian. He decided to oppose this type of treatment through non-violent action which demands that authorities respect the rights of every human to dignity and life. When he returned to India, he worked in the same way for independence, eventually succeeding in this goal. His birthday is 2 October, which is marked as the International Day of Non-Violence. Find out more about Gandhi at:
Gandhi famously said: "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."
There are many things that you can do in the lead up to International Nestlé-Free Week, during the week and beyond. One of the reasons for having this week is to encourage people who don't currently boycott Nestlé to do so at least for one week. People who just boycott Nescafé coffee - which is the main target of the boycott - can boycott all Nestlé products during this week. We are free to choose how we spend our money. Deciding not to give our money to Nestlé is an easy and non-violent way to show the company we think it should change the way it markets its baby milk.
Here are some ideas for things you can do:
Find out the facts. You can find links to useful information on Baby Milk Action's Nestlé-Free Zone page at:
You can find out about other concerns about Nestlé (things like child slavery on the farms that provide cocoa for its chocolate, the damaging environmental impact of its bottled water, poor treatment of workers) and what Nestlé has to say about these things at:
You can ask Baby Milk Action for its latest information pack on Nestlé by going to:
You can order our campaign pack, which includes a DVD from UNICEF Philippines showing the reality for mothers and babies there as Nestlé and other companies encourage them to bottle feed instead of breastfeed. See:
Learn how the campaign is helping to save lives. In the Philippines, the World Health Organisation said 16,000 babies die every year because in inappropriate feeding. After a long campaign, with help from people like you, just last year people in the Philippines succeeded in bringing in stronger rules to stop Nestlé and other companies pushing baby milk, so protecting mothers and babies. See:
The boycott puts pressure on Nestlé to change, because Nestlé's main concern is money. It's Chief Executive has promised that the company will become ever bigger, doubling the size of its sales about every 12 years. By deciding to buy products from other companies rather than Nestlé until Nestlé abides by the rules for selling baby milk - and telling Nestlé you are doing this - shows Nestlé that its bad behaviour costs it money. You can find a list of Nestlé products in the UK here:
Because of people supporting the boycott, Nestlé can no longer ignore the campaign. It will send you letters and books about what it says it is doing - costing it even more money. Sometimes it will change what it is doing if the pressure is enough. You can send letters to Nestlé about some of the cases that Baby Milk Action is targeting, with the help of partners around the world. See:
On the Baby Milk Action website you will find lots more ideas and resources. In the Nestlé-Free Zone you will find links to leaflets and posters, talks and powerpoint presentations, newspaper articles, letter-writing campaigns and much more. See:
You can also make your own suggestions and Baby Milk Action will try to help. If you want to design and poster, write an article, make a clip for youtube, anything at all, you can contact Baby Milk Action. We can check the facts are correct if you wish. We can also share your ideas with other people to help them. Just contact us.
Tell your friends about this message so they can also 'be the change'.
You will find updates on this blog as International Nestlé-Free Week approaches. Please do send us your ideas and news of what your are doing.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Friday, August 08, 2008
Alison is very generously donating profits from the book to support the work of Baby Milk Action.
The book can be ordered through our on-line Virtual Shop and we are running special promotion for the first people to order the book together with our 2009 breastfeeding calendar, both of which will be available for despatch in September. The first people to order both items will receive a free pack of our humorous breastfeeding postcards. This offer will last as long as it is displayed in our shop.
All you have to do is add both items to your shopping cart and, if the offer was on display at the time, we'll include the postcards absolutely free.
Here is the calendar cover:
You can see the 12 full-colour pictures on our website at:
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Right to feed a child in public - youtube clip of London celebration and Mother Magazine's petition presentation
The clip opens with a song with lyrics by Alison Blenkinsop, a long-time Baby Milk Action supporter who has independently produced a book of songs and other humour to help raise funds for the campaign. More on that tomorrow.
This and other celebrations of the right to feed a child in public were prompted by the UK's planned Single Equality Bill. See:
While politicians have highlighted the added protection they say this gives to a mother's right to breastfeed a child in public, health advocates are concerned that in the Bill the protection extends only to baby of up to 6 months of age. While other protection exists, we argue that this law confuses the issue as some may assume that breastfeeding beyond 6 months is not recommended or that it is fine to stop a mother breastfeeding in public if her baby is 6 months and one day old. Scotland has a clear law explicitly protecting a mothers right to feed her child in public (whether breastfeeding or formula feeding). This too has an unnecessary age specification, but at two years is showing greater respect to the recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding to six months, followed by continued breastfeeding with complementary foods to two years of age and beyond.
Veronika Robinson, Editor of Mother Magazine, explains more in the clip.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Professor Latham, like the rest of us who contributed chapters to Global Obligations for the Right to Food, makes the case that governments have obligations under existing human rights conventions to take collective action to deliver and protect the right to food. Promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding is part of the measures he highlights for improving child short and long-term health.
He also argues that relieving hunger, encompasses relieving malnutrition and that is not only achieved by providing more food, but ending endemic parasites and illnesses that compromise nutrition.
I don't want to reiterate everything that is in his chapter - you really should buy the book - but the three principal concerns (worms, measles and malaria) are embarrassingly cheap to address. Embarrassing, because governments with the resources are failing to do so. They are not only failing in their human rights and moral obligations, they are, in some respects costing themselves unnecessary expenditure.
Worms, parasites in the intestines that may affect organs such as the lungs, infect probably 2 billion people. Cambodia's de-worming programme cost US$ 0.06 per child.
There are about 50 million cases of measles every year, with about 1 million deaths. Immunization can have significant impact. "Six southern African countries that recorded 60,000 measles cases in 1996 reduced this to 117 cases in 2000". While national governments should be taking this action, where they cannot, the support of the international community is vital, argues Professor Latham, and will save them money if a concerted global campaign wipes out measles.
He writes: "It cost the United States US$ 124 million a year to keep itself free of smallpox for the twenty-five years prior to when smallpox was eradicated in 1978. Thus the US$32 million that the United States invested in the global Smallpox Eradication Program was recouped in about three months once smallpox vaccinations could be discontinued."
It is estimated that there are 1200 million cases of malaria every year, resulting in 1.5 million deaths annually. Impregnated bed nets are seen as an effective way to greatly reduce this toll. A net costs typically just US$ 3, but many people in poor countries cannot afford them. Malaria is so widespread that its impact is far greater than counted in deaths. Lost schools days, days of work and unmet potential can also be counted.
Governments have signed up to the human rights instruments, that include the right to health as well as the right to food, and the Millennium Development Goals, but are failing to meet the obligations that arise from these.
Find out more by buying Global Obligations for the Right to Food from Baby Milk Action's on-line Virtual Shop.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
I have posted the following comment to their news item on it (Nestlé has a confirmed speaker at the event, though this is not specifically mentioned in the above link):
Participants would do well to look at how CSR is abused and brought into disrepute by some of its leading proponents, such as Nestlé.
Nestlé produces many reports on its activities, particularly those that are subject to most criticism, such as its marketing of baby foods and exploitation of water resources. Analysis shows they do not stand up to the evidence.
So-called independent audits of them, by Bureau Veritas for example, are similarly shown to be flawed. On baby food, Bureau Veritas uses Nestlé's much criticised, restricted interpretation of international marketing standards and when it investigated Nestlé's water exploitation in Brazil was apparently unaware that the company had been taken to court by the Public Prosecutor.
It is hardly surprising that many question whether CSR is anything more than Public Relations to divert criticism. See:
Monday, August 04, 2008
On Sunday the Observer newspaper in the UK ran a piece about letters sent to George Clooney by campaigners (including Baby Milk Action) wanting to inform him about Nestlé's dodgy business practices. Mr. Clooney had been tetchy when questioned at the Venice Film Festival (the boycott is big in Italy) about the conflict between his campaigning on behalf of Darfur and film roles exposing corporate malpractice on the one hand and his appearance in Nestlé advertisements for Nespresso on the other. See:
We have still had no response from Mr. Clooney, but his office did send a standard Nestlé briefing with misinformation about its practices, citing GES and the Methodist Church.
For the Observer report, which also refers to actress Emma Thompson raising the issue, see:
Meanwhile over in the Times, Olympic Gold Medallist was being asked about his decision to appear in advertisements for Nestlé. See:
Here is an extract:
Thompson is being unveiled as the ambassador for Nestlé's Go Free scheme, in which you can swap empty cereal boxes and sweet wrappers for sports-activity vouchers. Aside from the odd health paradox of encouraging kids to munch sugar in order to get fit, there's also the open-sore question of Nestlé's long opposed practice of pushing baby-milk powder at mothers in developing nations. But more of that later.
His involvement with Nestlé surely won't assist his rehabilitation with the British Olympic regime. Doesn't he fear being vilified by protesters such as the Baby Milk Action Group? “That's a good question,” he says, looking rather uninterested. “I don't know anything about that.” Well. So I explain how a broad alliance of global groups has spent the past decade publicly protesting at Nestlé's marketing of baby-milk formula in developing countries, flouting a World Health Organisation ban on the practice. “It sounds like her department,” says Thompson, glancing to the Nestlé PR woman sitting at his elbow.
She explains that the baby-milk arm of Nestlé is a “separate corporate entity” from the food part of Nestlé (including Rowntree's sweets, Nesquik and Golden Nuggets), which runs the sports awards, so that people really shouldn't mix up issues affecting the two. During this exchange, Thompson nervously scoffs a complimentary tube of Fruit Pastilles. “Well, I'm with Rowntree's anyway,” he laughs.
I'm not sure if it is more shameful for Nestlé PR to try to argue that its baby-milk arm is separate corporate entity than trying to divert attention by citing the fact the Methodist Church is an investor without revealing that the Church bought shares to (so it believes) better put pressure on Nestlé to stop its aggressive marketing practices (the Methodist Conference took the view that 'engagement' and the boycott could be seen as complementary strategies).
The Chief Executive of Nestlé, Mr. Paul Bulcke, is responsible for the junk food and sweets as well as the baby milk - they are parts of the same corporation. Nestlé shareholders pocket the profits from all sectors, with little question.
As Mr. Thompson doesn't know anything about the baby milk issue, we hope he will investigate now and consider whether he really does not want to be associated with such a company.
For other aspects of Nestlé malpractice, see:
Saturday, August 02, 2008
This is how ECOFACT describes itself: "ECOFACT is a consulting boutique specialized in the management of environmental, social and reputational risks, mainly in the financial sector. ECOFACT is based in Zurich and leverages a global network of sector and issue specialists."
So it is coming from an industry perspective of how a company's image and, hence, value, is harmed by criticism. This shows the importance of campaigning, because company executives and investors take notice when a financial cost is put on their malpractice.
Nestlé is, of course, the target of an international boycott because independent monitoring finds it to be responsible for more violations of World Health Assembly baby food marketing standards than any other company. It is the largest company in the market and sets trends that drive down standards, as a recent case in South Africa demonstrates.
But Nestlé is not only criticised for its baby food marketing. There are many groups concerned about its business activities, informed by their experience of monitoring its impact on the ground.
To help bring this information together and provide a portal to the various campaigns, we have developed a new website with the theme: "Nestlé's Actions speak louder than its words". Nestlé is a leading exponent of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which highlights voluntary action as a 'good corporate citizen'. Nestlé brings the concept into disrepute by using 'good works' and bogus claims about its impact in an attempt to divert criticism and undermine calls for binding regulations.
If you are interested in being an author for this website, please contact me. We will be launching it officially later in the year. You can find a preview - and a link to the ECOFACT press announcement - at:
Friday, August 01, 2008
Take a look at the site for news of what is happening in your country. If you are organising an event you can join in a virtual torch run, picking up on the Olympics taking place this month. A torch will appear on the WABA world map for every event. You can see the map here:
The week is starting to gain more attention in the UK, where our national month is May because August is holiday time. One group in Leeds, Breast Buddies, is inviting people to help it promote breastfeeding by contributing their stories of breastfeeding around the world. See: