The United Nations Global Compact marks its 10th anniversary in New York on Thursday 24 June 2010. Nestlé, one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet, is a patron sponsor, despite being the target of a complaint for egregious violations of the Global Compact Principles, a complaint the Global Compact Office has refused to investigate.
The Global Compact sets out Principles that corporations are asked to abide by voluntarily. Baby Milk Action registered complaints about Nestlé in 2009 and found that the Global Compact is not only ineffective in stopping malpractice, it enables them to continue by providing public relations cover and promoting company reports without checking for factual accuracy or investigating when egregious violations of the Global Compact Principles are reported.
[Left, Nestlé promotes its breastmilk substitutes to health workers with health claims, such as claiming it will reduce diarrhoea, despite the fact babies who are not breastfed are at greater risk of diarrhoea and illness and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. The Global Compact Office refused to investigate the way Nestlé pushes its baby milk in ways that endanger infant health and violate human rights and the Global Compact Principles].
The Global Compact was introduced by then UN Secretary General, Koffi Annan, in partnership with the World Economic Forum as an alternative to the international regulatory systems many were calling for.
Baby Milk Action and other campaign groups concerned about egregious violations of the Global Compact Principles by Nestlé registered a complaint with the UN Global Compact Office last year under Integrity Measures. See the report: Nestlé’s UN Global Compact cover up - How Nestlé's Shared Value reports cover up malpractice and bring the UN voluntary initiative for corporate social responsibility into disrepute, available via:
Concerns raised included:
* aggressive marketing of baby milks and foods and undermining of breastfeeding, in breach of international standards;
* trade union busting and failing to act on related court decisions;
* failure to act on child labour and slavery in its cocoa supply chain;
* exploitation of farmers, particularly in the dairy and coffee sectors;
* environmental degradation, particularly of water resources;
In its responses, the Global Compact Office stressed that the Global Compact is a voluntary initiative and the Office has no mandate or resources to conduct investigations, but will promote 'dialogue'. As the campaign groups are already in 'dialogue' with Nestlé - and finding it unwilling to stop its egregious violations of the Principles - Baby Milk Action asked the Global Compact Office to conduct the review cited in the provisions of the Integrity Measures, which gives the Office the power to exclude companies and delist them from its website.
The UN Global Compact Office refused to conduct a review and continues to post Nestlé's Creating Shared Value and other reports on its website. The UN Global Compact Office stated in a telling phrase about the initiative:
"Of course, abuses of the 10 Principles do occur; however we believe that such abuses only indicate that it is important for the company to remain in the Compact and learn from its mistakes."
The Office has been asked for information on how Nestlé has 'learned from its mistakes' and has received no further information, though a briefing paper has been promised. For further details see:
Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:
"From the outset corporate accountability campaigners were concerned that the voluntary UN Global Compact would achieve little and divert attention from effective, enforceable regulations. In practice, Baby Milk Action's experience is the situation is far worse than this : the UN Global Compact is not only ineffective in holding companies to account, it is complicit in allowing violations of the Principles to continue by providing corporations with public relations cover. Nestlé's misleading reports are posted to the Global Compact website and even launched at joint events, giving them an apparent endorsement that is not deserved, but is exploited by Nestlé. We are currently asking members of the public to call on Nestlé to stop its latest global baby milk marketing scam, because the Global Compact Office did nothing to hold Nestlé to account. No company has been excluded from the Global Compact for violating the Principles - only for failing to send reports to be posted on the website regardless of their factual content."
Baby Milk Action is promoting the campaign 'Email Nestlé in June - stop its latest baby milk marketing scam', on Facebook, youtube, Twitter and its own site, particularly during UK Breastfeeding Awareness Week (21 - 27 July). See:
Members of the public are calling on the Nestlé to remove colourful 'protect' logos and other health claims from labels of its breastmilk substitutes as these undermine the obligatory message that 'breasfeeding is best for babies', introduced as a result of past campaigns which led to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes being adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981. Nestlé has recently added the 'protect' logos in a bid to promote its products despite the fact that babies fed on breastmilk substitutes are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. Idealizing images and text are prohibited on labels by Article 9.2 of the International Code. Nestlé also promotes its products to health workers with slogans such as, "Start healthy, Stay healthy".
According to UNICEF: "Improved breastfeeding practices and reduction of artificial feeding could save an estimated 1.5 million children a year".
'Protect' logos have already been added by Nestlé to products in 120 countries. Nestlé's health claims are disputed by independent scientific experts and even deemed contrary to national law in countries such as South Africa and blocked by Brazil's strong law. References are given on the campaign press release:
Nestlé has responded to the campaign so far by defending its 'protect' marketing strategy.
For further information contact Mike Brady on +44 7986 736179.