Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Call for Nestlé to be expelled from UN initiative

As you may recall, Nestlé attempted to hi-jack the Nestlé Critics site shortly before its launch. The site serves as a portal for information on various aspects of Nestlé malpractice. See:
http://www.nestlecritics.org/

Nestlé not only tries to silence critics and to spy on them (see the report on the site), it uses a UN initiative called the UN Global Compact as cover so its abuses of human rights and the environment can continue. Nestlé produces glossy reports which are published on the UN Global Compact and have even been launched at joint events.

Unfortunately the UN Global Compact has no procedure for confirming if the reports are accurate and complete. Indeed, it stresses it is not intended to be an enforcement or verification agency. Its aim is to encourage corporate responsibility through voluntary means and by holding up good examples of 'Communications on Progress' - Nestlé has been honoured in this way.

So the initiative is fundamentally flawed and much criticised. I wrote a chapter in the book 'Global Obligations for the Right to Food' analysing these issues and calling for a regulatory system that could stop malpractice.

The Global Compact does have integrity measures, under which complaints can be filed if it is thought that a company is bringing the initiative into disrepute by systematic abuses of the principles it claims to support. Nestlé does this and more: it uses the initiative as cover so abuses can continue.

So the Nestlé Critics have filed a complaint and Nestlé has 3 months to respond. We and our partners have raised our various concerns with Nestlé repeatedly without success, so if they are dismissed again, will the Global Compact act to remove Nestlé's reports and strike it from the list of partners? We shall see.

There is a rather nice report of our own to go with our complaint, which I have put together. You can download this from our website, via the press release issued today at:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/press/press17june09.html

1 comment:

Chris said...

After learning about the babies in the U.S.A. who have suffered irreversible brain damage, or died, as a result of contaminated powdered milk, - this raises the "moral" question of whether a mother is entitled (from an ethical point of view) to REFUSE to even attempt to breast feed, purely out of personal choice and convenience, et.
I've always felt that, from a parental responsibility point of view, there is an enormous difference between mothers who feel they have to give up breast feeding due to terrible difficulties and problems, and mothers who "choose not to", despite being able to breast feed, and, despite having plenty of milk, which they endeavour to "get rid of".
My argument is that BECAUSE babies are the ones who can suffer the long term health consequences through inappropriate feeding, that THEY have rights too, with regards to breast milk. From a health point of view, also, the mother's and baby's rights do not "clash", as breast feeding has important health benefits for the mother, also.
I realise that it is considered an "old fashioned" point of view to speak of breast feeding, as "baby's birthright" but, I believe that our attitude towards breast feeding should be the same as our attitude towards smoking, and other health advice. For instance, we are constantly reading that breast feeding is important for the babies' sake, but "don't feel guilty if you don't want to do it", - whereas, you would NEVER read an article about smoking in pregnancy which stated, "It is bad for your baby, but don't feel guilty if you do". I knew a teacher who wasn't allowed to teach her class about the importance of breast feeding, in case this upset parents who had bottle fed!
It seems really unethical that the importance of breast feeding is almost "hushed up" due to this OBSESSION about fear of "making mothers feel guilty", - while the attitude, when it comes to giving other health advice, is entirely different. For example, would a teacher be prevented from teaching about the dangers of smoking or unhealthy eating, in case this upset smoking parents, or unhealthy eaters?
I think its important to have a debate about whether parents have a right to "Choose not to" breast feed, (morally), when its BABIES who can suffer the consequences if they are not. I've personally known people who have suffered permanent damage from infections contracted in the first weeks of life, which could almost certainly have been prevented through breast milk, with its vital antibodies. Surely all Mums should be asked to give breast feeding a try at the very least? Babies who are bottle fed from birth, are even deprived of the vital colostrum.