Saturday, December 19, 2009

Industry survey suggests Fairtrade mark has been damaged by being awarded to Nestlé's token products

A report on a survey conducted by the industry body, IGD, suggests that the Fairtrade brand has been harmed by it being added to Nestlé products.

As followers of this blog will know, Nestlé has received Fairtrade certification for two products. Partners' Blend coffee, involving just 0.1% of the coffee farmers dependent on it has been used in national advertising campaigns since it was awarded in 2005, diverting attention from criticism that Nestlé's predatory pricing practices drive down farmers' income, sometimes below the cost of production. Suggestions that the award would be a Trojan horse, transforming Nestlé's relationship with coffee farmers have so far proved unfounded.

This month it was announced 4-finger KitKats in the UK and Ireland will be Fairtrade certified in January, representing just over 1% of Nestlé's cocoa purchase. Media coverage generally failed to mention how small a percentage was involved or the fact that Nestlé has been taken to court in the US for failing to act on a 2001 agreement to end child slavery within its cocoa supply chain within five years. Indeed, media coverage has implied Nestlé's Fairtrade move is addressing the problem of child slavery, rather than being a token move that is diverting attention from the broader concerns.

The amount Nestlé is spending on the Fairtrade Premium for the cocoa it will buy in 2010 (less than £400,000) is less than 1% of its expenditure on its current UK Nescafé advertising campaign (£43 million). Not only has it generated unwarranted good publicity, a UK Minister has used Fairtrade KitKat to dodge a question at a UN press conference on Nestlé's negative impact in developing countries. See:

According to the Food and Drink Digital report on the IGD poll, entitled Food shoppers sceptical of ethical shopping influence:

---Extract begins
There are several forms of certification that food and drink products can be accredited with, such as Fairtrade, the Rainforest Alliance or Freedom Foods.

However, many of these labels have attracted controversy, damaging consumer confidence. Fairtrade certification applies to products, not to companies, recently allowing Nestle to gain Fairtrade certification for the Kit Kat, despite ongoing allegations about its business practices relating to other brands.
---extract ends

US Fair Trade organisations have questioned Nestlé's commitment to sourcing cocoa more responsibly. See the press release at:

---Extract begins
Bama Athreya, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, said, "Nestlé cannot claim to be sourcing responsible cocoa by using a small amount of Fair Trade Certified cocoa when the majority of its cocoa could be produced by forced labor and child labor. As the largest food company in the world, Nestlé must make a stronger commitment to protecting worker rights in its cocoa supply chain as well as in its production facilities and in the sourcing of other agricultural products."

When Nestlé received its Fairtrade coffee certification from the UK Fairtrade Foundation for a product representing just 0.02% of its coffee purchase, another Fair Trade organisation suggested that a far greater commitment should have been extracted from Nestlé before giving it the right to use the logo:

---Extract begins
Equal Exchange's co-director, Rob Everts said, "We understand what it takes to commit to more equitable relationships with small coffee farmers. We have long recommended that for large corporations the Fair Trade starting point should be 5% of their total imports. Given Nestlé's dismal track record on many fronts in the developing world, they have an even steeper credibility hill to climb than most, and should in fact begin even higher than 5%. Large companies tend to subsidize their modest Fair Trade purchases by paying farmers much lower prices on the rest of their coffee imports."
---extract ends

A quick survey of Baby Milk Action supporters in 2005 found that 47% incorrectly thought the award of Fairtrade certification signified the Fairtrade Foundation had verified that there are no serious ethical concerns with a company. Only 17% realised there could be concerns and the mark relates only to the suppliers of the product that bears it and not all suppliers to the company. Many said their view of the mark would change if Nestlé received an award.

This misunderstanding of the limited scope of the Fairtrade mark that has presumably led to the damage to its reputation as it does not compute that a company with such an appalling record as Nestlé should receive it.

Nestlé is one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet, according to GMIPoll (as reported in The Guardian in 2005), over it aggressive marketing of baby foods.

An international coalition of civil society organisations is currently campaigning for Nestlé to be excluded from the UN Global Compact for bringing this voluntary corporate social responsibility initiative into disrepute by using it for Public Relations purposes while continuing with egregious violations of the Global Compact Principles in various aspects of its business. See:

It is, therefore, perhaps not surprising that the good reputation that the Fairtrade mark has built up over years through the hard work of grassroots supporters (including my own small personal involvement in the campaign to earn Cambridge certification as a Fairtrade city) has been damaged by being handed to Nestlé for so little while Nestlé's systematic breaches of baby food marketing requirements and human rights abuses continue.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Baby Milk Action Update 42 newsletter

You can download our latest newsletter as a pdf file by clicking here:

Here's the overview of what is in the newsletter - and our stop press news that after 7 years of campaigning we have finally prompted the formula companies to warn people on the labels of their products that powdered formula is not sterile and so steps to reduce the risks of possible contamination with bacteria should be followed.

Also in the newsletter: It was 30 years ago that six citizen’s groups, including a member of the Baby Milk Action Coalition, formed the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN). A celebration in Geneva (pg 3) recalled how this came about and honoured the many people who gave pivotal support to its aims.

After celebrating the successes and the many lives the campaign has undoubtedly saved, IBFAN Europe’s conference focused on planning and training to meet the latest challenges. As industry analysts have stated: “The industry is fighting a rearguard action against regulation on a country-by-country basis.” (pg 6) In the UK the industry has been winning. The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe and, with the help of the European Commission, the industry is successfully blocking implementation of the International Code, despite every health worker and mother support organisation, the Government’s own advisors and enforcement bodies calling for stronger measures. A draft report of an ‘Independent Review’ of the 2007 Regulations shows that the Independent Review Panel has wasted public money asking the wrong question (“Are babies under six months being fed follow-on formula by mistake instead of infant formula?”) rather than examining whether the regulations are fulfilling their stated purpose of protecting breastfeeding. We examine how the Government has got it so wrong and what needs to be done to protect infant health, and ensure that all mothers - those who breastfeed and those who use formula - do so on the basis of truly independent information (pgs 9 - 10).

At an international level we look at the policy changes in the USA that are coming in under the new administration (pg 7). We also examine how UN Business ‘partnerships’ are influencing health policies and threatening food security. Under the banner of ‘enlightened self interest’ and ‘wellness’ the industry is now on ‘a noble cause’ and is fuelling a craze for branded fortified foods with health and nutrition claims - a key marketing strategy for ‘adding value.’ (pgs 8 & 17) We examine the weaknesses in European process for authorising claims. Our position on formula is that if an ingredient is necessary to reduce its shortcomings, it should be a requirement for all formula, without claims being made. (pg 12) Through the Baby Feeding Law Group we are helping to close loopholes in the marketing regulations in the Philippines (pg 15).

Worryingly, Nestlé launched a new strategy at its AGM, claiming its formula ‘protects’ babies (pg 19) - it doesn’t, babies fed on it are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies, and in conditions of poverty, they are more likely to die. The boycott is part of our strategy to force Nestlé to respect the marketing standards (pg 19 - 23). We invite you to send a message to Nestlé and help us stop Nestlé’s ‘protect’ claims. Campaigns like this really work as our latest victory in the UK demonstrates.

Safer formula campaign victory: Finally! In 2002 the tragic death of a five-dayold child in Belgium highlighted that powdered formula is not sterile and may contain harmful bacteria, such as Enterobacter Sakazakii. Simple steps reduce the risks, but companies refused to warn parents or update their labels - until now. After seven years of campaigning, new warnings that powdered formula is not sterile have started to appear on SMA, Cow & Gate, Aptamil, Nurture and Hipp branded formula in the UK. The instructions and health claims are still not right - but it’s progress!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

What the UK's Trade and Development Minister said and did not say about Nestle Fairtrade KitKat

The UK Fairtrade Foundation press release regarding the certification of 4-bar Nestlé KitKats in the UK and Ireland, includes the following:

---Extract begins

Rt Hon Gareth Thomas MP, the UK government’s Trade and Development Minister, says: "I am glad to see Kit Kat become Fairtrade certified, giving more British shoppers the chance to improve the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. This will give thousands of Ivorian cocoa farmers better opportunities to trade their way out of poverty."

---extract ends

This has appeared in many of the media reports about the launch. I emailed Mr. Thomas to ask if he was aware of the context of this announcement: 99% of the cocoa Nestlé sources is outside the Fairtrade scheme and that Nestlé has been taken to court in the US for failing to act on its 2001 commitment to address child labour and slavery in its cocoa supply chain from Ivory Coast.

I'll give the full text below. I am still awaiting a reply. But it seems I am not alone in questioning the Minister of his uncritical support. A press release from the United Nations Department of Public Information regarding a press conference Mr. Thomas gave today (9 December) contains the following:

---Extract begins

Mr. Thomas was also asked to comment on his praise for Nestlé UK, whose Kit Kat chocolates would be Fair Trade-certified in Britain beginning in 2010, although Nestlé had faced controversy in the past for its marketing tactics in developing countries. He stressed that, under the Fair Trade deal, cocoa farmers from Côte d'Ivoire earned additional money on top of the agreed price of the cocoa bought by Nestlé, to be used for development purposes. At the moment, the United Kingdom was pursuing the goal of doubling the number of supermarket goods sourced from Africa.

---extract ends

This is exactly what Nestlé was buying with Fairtrade certification for its 4-bar KitKat - a diversion from other issues. Including the fact that 2-bar KitKats and all other Nestlé chocolate is outside the scheme.

From the Fairtrade Foundation we see that the additional money is US$150 per tonne and Nestlé is to buy 4,300 tonnes in 2010, which is US$645,000 (about £400,000).

Great for the farmers, but small change for Nestlé - in August, Nestlé launched a Nescafé promotion in the UK costing £43 million.

So by investing just 1% of a UK Nescafé advertising campaign in sourcing Fairtrade cocoa for 4-bar KitKat, it has generated stories around the world suggesting it is doing something significant to improve the lives of farmers in Ivory Coast and has a UK Government Minister spreading the same misinformation to the media and at the UN. The logo on the KitKat and associated advertising will do the same job in the longer term.

It would have been welcome if the Minister had said something like:

"Fairtrade certification is making a real difference to people's lives. This example is good news for the 6,000 farmers involved, but Nestlé still has to change how it deals with the farmers providing 99% of its cocoa which is outside the scheme and it should live up to its commitments to the Harkin-Engel Protocol. It promised to end child labour and slavery in its cocoa supply chain by 2006, but has not done so. It has been taken to court in the US, but has repeatedly argued that it is just buying a product when it comes to cocoa and is not responsible for egregious labor rights violations involved in its production. If it changed that position it would have a far wider impact than the Fairtrade certification for one product sold in just two countries."

If he was really interested in shifting Nestlé's corporate ethos, he could have added: "We should also not lose sight of the fact that Nestlé continues to violate the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly and that complaints about this and alleged human rights abuses have been filed with the UN Global Compact Office by experts on its practices, calling for it to be excluded."

Is it too much to expect the Minister of State for International Development to see the broader picture and not act as an unpaid Public Relations spokesperson for Nestlé?

If our leaders were prepared to speak the truth then campaigners would not have such a tough job forcing changes on corporations such as Nestlé.

This was the message I sent to Mr. Thomas on Monday (bad grammar corrected):

Dear Mr. Thomas MP,

I have seen your comments regarding the award of Fairtrade certification to some Nestlé KitKats (4-finger products only). In making your comment I wonder if you are aware of the context? Nestlé has been taken to court in the US for failing to act on a 2001 agreement to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain and in the past has boycotted a meeting by Senator Horkins (co-sponsor of the Horkins-Engel Protocol in the US) called to examine lack of progress. There are 11 million people dependent on cocoa farming in West Africa, many of them dependent on Nestlé. The KitKat products involved in this scheme will benefit only 6,000 farmers. There is a danger that the improved conditions for the 6,000 farmers will divert attention from the many others outside the scheme, and be used deliberately to this end by Nestlé.

Stop the Traffik, founded by Steve Chalke, the United Nations Special Advisor on Community Action Against Human Trafficking, said in response to the announcement that ‘two finger’ Kit Kats and all of Nestlé's other chocolate products: “"will continue to exploit the chocolate slaves of the Ivory Coast from where Nestlé source most of their cocoa"”. See:

I am trying to find out how many cocoa farmers are dependent on Nestlé specifically to see if this is a similar situation to its Fairtrade coffee, which involves just 0.1% of the coffee farmers dependent on it, but is used to suggest it is making a huge difference, providing cover for continued unethical practices.

In addition, Nestlé is the most boycotted company in the UK and one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet according to GMIPoll because of the way it pushes its breastmilk substitutes. Nestlé systematically breaches the baby milk marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly, undermines breastfeeding and contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of babies. According to UNICEF, 1.5 million babies die around the world every year because they are not breastfed. Even Nestlé's Global Public Affairs Manager, Dr. Gayle Crozier Willi, admitted in 2007 that Nestlé is 'widely boycotted'.

Fairtrade KitKat will be added to the boycott list. The boycot has forced some changes in Nestlé marketing practices and policies, but the company, the market leader, refuses to make all necessary changes and is still the worst of the baby food companies. At the present time it is being targeted for practices that include claiming its infant formula 'protects' babies - it does not, babies fed on it are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and in conditions of poverty, they are more likely to die.

Its Fairtrade product should be seen in this context.

Please see my blogs on this topic, which includes a quote from me:

Best wishes,

Mike Brady

Monday, December 07, 2009

US Fair Trade Organizations Question Nestlé’s Commitment to Fair Trade Cocoa


December 7, 2009
11:18 AM

CONTACT: Fair Trade Organizations
Tim Newman,, 202-347-4100 x113 or 617-823-9464
Todd Larsen,, 202-872-5310
Adrienne Fitch-Frankel,, 415-255-7296
Paul Hong-Lange,, 626-584-0800

Organizations Question Nestlé’s Commitment to Fair Trade Cocoa

WASHINGTON - December 7 - Nestlé SA announced today that it would begin to source Fair Trade Certified cocoa for its Kit Kat bars in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Since stories about the use of child, forced and trafficked labor and the widespread poverty among farmers in West Africa's cocoa industry surfaced in 2001, organizations in the United States and around the world have been campaigning to convince major chocolate companies, especially Nestlé, to commit to sourcing Fair Trade Certified cocoa. A lawsuit filed in 2005 in US courts against Nestlé on behalf of Malian children who were trafficked to Cote d'Ivoire to harvest cocoa is still ongoing.

While Nestlé's announcement may be a very small step toward supporting a more sustainable and labor-friendly system of cocoa sourcing, the company's history and practices around the world raise questions about its commitment to Fair Trade. Additionally, Nestlé has not announced any plans to use Fair Trade Certified cocoa in its products in the United States.

Nestlé is one of the most boycotted companies in the world. Trade unions have criticized the company for a range of labor rights abuses including in Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Tunisia. Nestlé has also been a target of campaigners concerned about its impact on access to water and baby food marketing, among many other issues.

Nestlé's minimal investment in Fair Trade Certified coffee also provides reason to be skeptical about its commitment. Nestlé's Fair Trade line is only a marginal part of its coffee products and it has not increased its purchasing of Fair Trade coffee despite its promises to do so. In October 2009, Nestlé launched a new program related to their global cocoa sourcing called "The Cocoa Plan" which does not include investing in Fair Trade cocoa, suggesting that the company does not intend to shift toward more equitable trading relationships through the Fair Trade system and it is unclear if Nestlé plans to expand Fair Trade cocoa beyond the UK.

Bama Athreya, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, said, "Nestlé cannot claim to be sourcing responsible cocoa by using a small amount of Fair Trade Certified cocoa when the majority of its cocoa could be produced by forced labor and child labor. As the largest food company in the world, Nestlé must make a stronger commitment to protecting worker rights in its cocoa supply chain as well as in its production facilities and in the sourcing of other agricultural products."

Todd Larsen, Corporate Responsibility Programs Director at Green America, said, "We urge Nestlé to go beyond this token commitment to Fair Trade and to take steps to end all sourcing from child labor and pay a living wage to its workers worldwide. Consumers the world over are increasingly concerned that their chocolate purchases are supporting slavery and misery, and are increasingly purchasing Fair Trade chocolate as a result. They will be looking to Nestlé to do far more to support farmers worldwide."

Adrienne Fitch-Frankel, Fair Trade Campaign Director at Global Exchange, said, "While we thank Nestlé on behalf of the thousands of cocoa farming families who will begin to thrive by receiving the Fair Trade price for their cocoa, we also ask, ‘How can Nestlé leave so many thousands of children languishing in child slavery and abusive labor conditions, and keep so many farming families mired in poverty while growing cocoa for the rest of Nestlé's products?' Nestlé's profits depend on the hard work of cocoa farmers, and justice will only be done when those farmers can live in dignity."

Paul Hong-Lange, Director of Oasis USA, said, "This step by Nestlé guarantees that no slave labor or exploitation will be used in the production of one line of chocolate in one region of the world. This is a good start but it still leaves the conscientious American wondering if Nestlé chocolate on the shelf in their grocery store is tainted with slave labor. We urge Nestlé to do better by more farmers and more consumers."

Over 60 organizations and chocolate companies have endorsed a "Commitment to Ethical Cocoa Sourcing" that sets a higher standard for sustainable and responsible cocoa sourcing than Nestlé. The commitment can be found online:


Global Exchange is a membership-based international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the

Green America is a non-profit organization whose mission is to harness economic power-the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace-to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.

The International Labor Rights Forum is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide.

Oasis USA is a non-profit organization committed to developing communities where everyone is included, making a contribution, and reaching their God-given potential. Oasis USA is the West Coast Office for Stop the Traffik Campaign in the

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Nestle KitKat to be Fairtrade - except for those where child slavery is involved

According to the Ekklesia news site, there will be an announcement on Monday 7 December that in the UK four-finger KitKats are to be Fairtrade certified. See "Campaigners give two finger salute to Nestlé":

Great news for the farmers in the scheme if properly independently audited, but raises questions about why Nestlé has not lived up to its promises to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain more broadly.

As Ekklesia reports:

---Extract begins
Stop the Traffik say the good news is only partial, as this will only apply to their ‘four finger’ product.

‘Two finger’ Kit Kats and all of their other chocolate products “will continue to exploit the chocolate slaves of the Ivory Coast from where Nestlé source most of their cocoa” they said in a statement.
---extract ends

For details of Nestlé's failure to live up to its 2001 promise to end child slavery in its supply chain and a reminder of Nestlé's token Fairtrade coffee and how it has used that to try to divert criticism of its coffee trading and to undermine the boycott over its baby milk marketing, see my earlier blog:

Here's the quote from the page with my full analysis - see that for links to supporting documents and images:

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said: "Nestlé is already using a Fairtrade mark on a token product representing just 0.02% of its coffee purchase to try to divert criticism of its trading practices, which have been blamed for driving down prices for millions of coffee farmers. While the coffee and cocoa farmers in Fairtrade schemes should benefit, if proper independent audits are done, that provides little comfort to the vast majority of suppliers outside the schemes. Legal action has been taken against Nestlé in the US over its failure to act on child slavery in its cocoa supply chain, despite public claims that it is doing so, and we have already seen it trying to divert this criticism by, for example, sponsoring an event on the abolition of slavery at the Labour Party Conference.

"When Nestlé is on the record as saying that charitable contributions should benefit its shareholders, we should not be too excited by one of the world's most boycotted companies pursuing something like this. We will continue to include Kit Kats on the list of boycott products and recommend that anyone who is concerned about promoting real change for people in developing countries support the boycott and buy their products from companies with positive business values, not just token initiatives. There are companies whose entire output is Fairtrade certified after all. Nestlé systematically violates baby food marketing standards, undermining breastfeeding and contributing to the needless death and suffering of babies around the world - the changes we have been able to force on Nestlé are because of the boycott and it will continue until Nestlé brings its policies and practices into line."