Thursday, January 29, 2009

When to trust and when to anti-trust?

In the past the baby food industry has claimed that companies are unable to cooperate to stop violations of the baby food marketing requirements due to anti-trust legislation. This is an excuse as these measures are basically intended to stop companies forming cartels to protect their financial interests.

As I've noted here a few times, Nestlé has been accused of price-fixing in its confectionery business on three continents. While those investigations are running, let me flag up another example of the double standard, where cooperation between companies is taking place for gain.

The two leading forces in the baby food industry, Nestlé and Danone (which bought NUMICO, owner of Nutricia, Milupa and Cow & Gate brands over a year ago), are working together to defend their bottled water interests.

PR Week reported last September:

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Nestle Waters, Danone and Highland Spring have joined together to launch a new association to lobby on behalf of the bottled water industry.

The Natural Hydration Council (NHC) was launched this week to research and promote the environmental, health and other sustainable benefits of natural bottled water.

The new group aims to provide information and advice for the Government, researchers, the industry, media and the public about the economic and social value and impact of bottled water. This will include lobbying politicians and the Government about the benefits of drinking bottled water. The NHC will also be looking for a PR agency to help support its 2009 activity.

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Nestlé, in particular, wishes to be seen environmentally friendly when it comes to water use. While it claims it has cut back on consumption at factories, it is also criticised for the harmful effect of its water bottling activities. Information can be found on the Nestlé Critics website:

So the fact is that companies do work together to protect business interests. So why not in agreeing to abide by World Health Assembly marketing requirements for baby foods? There the opposite is the case, with competition between companies - led by Nestlé - driving down standards:

In a properly functioning market, surely things should work the other way around? Companies agree to uphold minimum standards, while competing on other aspects of business.

One of the aims of the United Nations Global Compact, which Nestlé claims to support, is to do business in accordance with Global Compact principles, which means respecting human rights. As we will be explaining at a meeting in Zurich tomorrow, Nestlé uses the Global Compact for public relations purposes, while breaching the principles.

We are speaking alongside other experts on Nestlé malpractice, such as its trade union busting and spying activities. Find out more at:

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