Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Happy birthday UN Global Compact - 10 years helping to cover up corporate malpractice

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.

Monday, June 21, 2010

United Reformed Church Assembly 2010 presents opportunity to expose Nestlé malpractice

We have just learned that the forthcoming Assembly of the United Reformed Church (4 July) presents an ideal opportunity to put pressure on Nestlé to stop its systematic violations of the World Health Assembly's marketing requirements for baby foods. If you will be attending the Assembly, please look at the up-to-date information in this site, particularly concerning Nestlé's current global baby milk marketing scam. Nestlé is claiming its baby milk 'protects' babies even though it knows babies fed on it are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. Contact me if you would like to discuss this further. Nestlé puts its profits before all else and the changes we have compelled it to make have come from exposure, and the public backing the boycott and telling Nestlé they are doing so.

[Left, How Nestlé promotes its breastmilk substitutes to health workers - this leaflet from Egypt June 2010 - claiming its formula 'protects' and is 'Strengthening the immune defenses and reducing the incidence of diarrhea in the crucial first year of life.' In truth, babies fed on baby milk are proven to be more likely to suffer diarrhoea than breastfed babies.]

The Assembly is due to debate the Church's boycott on investing funds in Nestlé and, possibly, the Church's promotion of the boycott. We are very pleased that the URC has been a long-time supporter of the campaign, as well as one of Baby Milk Action's funders, and hope this will be an opportunity to update the membership and reinvigorate the Church's involvement in the campaign.

From information we have received this week from the URC Church and Society Committee: "it had decided in 2007 that it was timely to review its 1992 boycott. As part of a period of information gathering and a wider review of the Church's ethical investment guidelines, some URC representatives attended a meeting with Nestlé organised by the ecumenical Church Investors Group in December 2009. This informed, in March 2010, a decision to propose to the Assembly that Nestlé should no longer be treated on a different investment basis from all other companies under its new, more rigorous, Ethical Investment Principles. Nestlé was invited by the URC to make a presentation in June 2010 to address some specific concerns."

Although the Committee began the review process three years ago and has met twice with Nestlé, Baby Milk Action was not approached or invited to brief the Committee prior to its decisions being taken and was only informed by the Committee on 21 June 2010, less than 2 weeks before the Assembly is due to take place, that it was asking the Assembly to endorse its decision to invest in Nestlé.

Baby Milk Action has now been invited to meet with some representatives of the Committee, but as it is currently concentrating on promoting its 'Email Nestlé in June' campaign and as it is National Breastfeeding Awareness Week has asked the Committee to hold the Resolution over to the next Assembly. This would also give Baby Milk Action time to arrange for experts to brief the Committee.

Baby Milk Action needs sufficient time to respond to the 22-page document prepared by the Committee for the Assembly and the Committee needs time to meet to review its investment decision in the light of this, if it is willing to do so. We will also try to prepare a briefing paper that can be distributed to the Assembly if the Committee does decide to press ahead with the Resolutions on allowing investment and dropping the boycott. The report reproduces Nestlé assertions without responses from Baby Milk Action. This is not only because Baby Milk Action was not consulted - it appears the Committee did not consult our website. For example, the Committee report includes Nestlé saying: "Nestlé itself has never marketed Perlagon on the basis that it combats diarrhoea." Search the Baby Milk Action website for 'Pelargon' and you immediately come to Baby Milk Action's response to this denial (contained in a 2004 briefing to the Methodist Church). As can be seen from Nestlé's own leaflet for Pelargon which claims 'Diarrhoea and its side-effects are counteracted...', Nestlé was not telling the truth

Nestle claims on Pelargon

Had the Committee checked with Baby Milk Action during the past three years, would it have come to a different decision about Nestlé's claims and the proposal to put to the Assembly? In response to a Baby Milk Action letter-writing campaign in 2003 backed by pressure from the boycott, Nestlé not only admitted producing the above leaflets, it said it was "preparing new materials for health professionals in Southern Africa with increased focus on the factual and scientific matters in these materials." The boycott brings results. No wonder Nestlé wants the URC to end its support for the boycott and compromise its independence by profiting from its latest marketing campaign claiming Nestlé baby milk reduces diarrhoea.

The March 2010 decision by the Committee to invest came after Nestlé's Vice President, Neils Christiansen, briefed Church officials in December 2009. On first glance the Baby Milk Action information included in the report for the Assembly has been taken from a briefing from 6 years ago. We need to analyse the report, particularly the assurances given by the Mr. Christiansen and his team last December, but time is short - our priority during June is on targeting Nestlé's claims that its baby milk 'protects' babies and reduces the incidence of diarrhoea and other claims of health benefits - in truth babies fed on baby milk are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. Click here for the press release and link to send a message to Nestlé.

We need all the support we can get. The Methodist Church Central Finance Board decided to invest in Nestlé in 2006 against our advice, suggesting this was a parallel strategy to the boycott to address the 'scandal' of Nestlé baby milk marketing. However, Nestlé has used that investment to try to undermine the campaign. The Methodist Church has had to contact Nestlé several times to ask it to stop misrepresenting the investment decision. The the Central Finance Board decision appears to have influenced the URC Committee, although the Methodist Conference was not asked to endorse - and did not endorse - investing in Nestlé. This was a decision of the Central Finance Board, following a report produced by the Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment (JACEI), which suggested investment would allow closer 'engagement' with Nestlé management. The Methodist Conference in 2006 did adopt texts stating:

"JACEI acknowledges the continuing concern with regard to some aspects of Nestlé's interpretation of the International Code, the implementation of company guidelines and the transparency of the procedures for monitoring compliance. These concerns may cause some through conscience to maintain a consumer boycott of Nestlé products." [emphasis added - documents available here]

We have yet to be told of any benefit of the Central Finance Board's strategy of 'changing things from within'.

It is a fallacious argument that investing gives more influence. FTSE4Good, an ethical investment listing, confirmed to Baby Milk Action this week, "Nestle is not included in the FTSE4Good indices," but this does not stop 'engagement'. FTSE4Good went on, "As you know we are engaging with all the infant food manufacturers re our criteria as a key aim is about improving company practices." That is the normal approach of ethical investing - don't invest in companies until they make meaningful changes, demonstrated by independent monitoring. Invest without those changes, leverage is lost and conflicts of interest result as the investor profits from the malpractice.

Nestlé current refusal to remove the 'protect' logos from the labels of its breastmilk substitutes certainly shows that it has not changed. This and other health claims and promotional practices are a clear violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981. In May 2010, the World Health Assembly expressed its concern over ongoing violations, particularly those related to health claims and specifically stated it: "CALLS UPON infant food manufacturers and distributors to comply fully with their responsibilities under the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly resolutions;”

However, in its response to our 'Email Nestlé' campaign, the company is refusing to remove the claims and ignores the measures adopted by the World Health Assembly. Nestlé is telling the public : "the World Health Assembly does not formulate marketing standards -– rather it makes health policy recommendations to Member States."

Nestlé is telling the media, "The 'Protect' logo is simply used to inform people of the scientifically proven benefits of the product in meeting the nutritional needs of babies."

According to UNICEF: "Improved breastfeeding practices and reduction of artificial feeding could save an estimated 1.5 million children a year".

According to the World Health Organisation: "Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life is particularly beneficial, and infants who are not breastfed in the first month of life may be as much as 25 times more likely to die than infants who are exclusively breastfed."

Independent reviews have a different view of specific claims used by Nestlé. For example, the Cochrane Library has reviewed studies regarding added LCPs and supposed benefits to brain and eye development and concluded these are 'not proven'. The Department of Health in South Africa told Nestlé its claims breach South African labelling laws, but Nestlé refused to remove them.

Nestlé strategy of claiming its formula 'protects' babies undermines the obligatory 'breastfeeding is best for babies' warning that the boycott helped to bring in. The 'protect' strategy comes from the very top of the company, as does the strategy to undermine the boycott. Mr. Christiansen, who led the Nestlé delegation to the URC, is credited within Nestlé for ending the first boycott of the company in 1984 by making promises to abide by the International Code (the marketing standards Nestlé now suggest do not exist). The promises were broken and the boycott relaunched in 1988. Today, according to even Nestlé's Global Public Affairs Manager, Nestlé is 'widely boycotted'. In fact, an independent survey found it to be one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet and the most boycotted in the UK. The boycott has forced some significant changes from Nestlé (see some examples here), but it continues to reject Baby Milk Action's four-point plan for saving lives and ultimately ending the boycott. For example, it refuses to accept the validity of the World Health Assembly measures. Nestlé is singled out for boycott action because monitoring finds it to be the worst of the baby food companies.

We will do our best to respond to Nestlé's latest attempt to undermine the boycott and hope that the URC Assembly will become an opportunity for Church members to say they find it unacceptable that Nestlé continues to systematically violate the World Health Assembly marketing standards.

It is, of course, for the members to decide whether they wish to invest in Nestlé - and so profit from this malpractice - and to consider the message this will send. It is for members to decide whether to act collectively in promoting the boycott. We did offer today to debate with Nestlé at the Assembly, but have already been told this is not possible. We will respond to the report as best we can - but we have rather a lot else on at the moment and time is short. We need all the help we can get so that Nestlé's attempt at a PR coup instead shines the spotlight on what it is doing right now around the world.

Despite the Methodist Church Central Finance Board deciding to invest in Nestlé and 'engage', the company has relaunched its strategy of claiming its baby milk reduces diarrhoea and is further away than ever from meeting the FTSE4Good criteria and our own four-point plan for ending the boycott as it now denies the marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly. The boycott, however, stopped Nestlé's 'counteracts diarrhoea' claim in the past and other violations of the World Health Assembly marketing standards. We will stop its latest global marketing strategy as well with enough public support.

If the URC invests in Nestlé it will profit from violations of the World Health Assembly marketing standards, such as the company's global strategy claiming its baby milk 'protects'. This tin in Saudi Arabia (May 2010), also has the prominent flash 'New Active Immunity' to divert attention from the fact that babies fed on baby milk are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies. Such images and text are prohibited by Article 9.2 of the International Code.

Other claims on the back of the label include: "LCPUFA Two special fatty acids found in breast milk, important for your babies defense system, and contribute to the development of brain and vision." In its response to Baby Milk Action's current campaign, Nestlé says these claims are 'scientifically proven'. This is simply untrue. Read the analysis by the independent and respected Cochrane Library at

Nestlé says the 'protect' logos have been launched in 120 countries. For an example from Africa click here.

Here I am focusing on the baby milk issue. There are other issues, such as the way Nestlé is using its Fairtrade KitKat to divert attention from its cocoa purchasing record. While Fairtrade KitKat benefits the producers of the 1% of cocoa sourced by Nestlé for this product, Nestlé has failed to deliver on its promise to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain by 2006. It has been taken to court in the US by campaigners acting on behalf of former child slaves from Ivory Coast.

Nestlé has also been targeted recently by Greenpeace over the harmful impact its sourcing of palm oil. It has responded in the same way as it responded to the child slavery campaigners in 2001: promising to end the practice within five years. It remains to be seen whether it will deliver on this undertaking or not.

Similarly, there are other groups raising concerns about Nestlé trade union busting activities, impact on water supplies and spying on campaign groups. You can find information on this issues on the Nestlé Critics website at:

Also see the report the Nestlé Critics submitted to the United Nations Global Compact under its Integrity Measures:

Brazilian Breastfeeding Conference - message of solidarity for campaign against Nestle's 'protect' baby milk marketing strategy

[The following message has been received from the Brazilian National Breastfeeding Conference (10 - 12 June 2010) - Encontro Nacional de Aleitamento Materno (ENAM) - regarding Nestlé's latest global breastmilk substitutes marketing strategy and Baby Milk Action's campaign to stop this. It is UK Breastfeeding Awarness Week at present (21 - 27 June)]

Participants at the ENAM Conference are concerned to learn that Nestlé is promoting its breastmilk substitutes around the world with the claim its products 'protect' babies. Like Nestlé we know that babies fed on breastmilk substitutes are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die.

We are pleased that in Brazil Nestlé's marketing strategy is against our laws and our laws have been strong enough to stop Nestlé using the strategy here. We are disturbed to learn that Nestlé is using the strategy in 120 other countries.

Article 9.2 of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is very clear: "Neither the container nor the label should have pictures of infants, nor should they have other pictures or text which may idealise the use of infant formula." [emphasis added]. Article 11.3 of the Code is clear that manufacturers and distributors should abide by its provisions independently of government measures.

The latest Resolution adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2010 calls once again for these measures to be implemented and for additional action to prevent infant feeding products being promoted with health claims that have not been explicitly approved.

Accordingly, we call on Nestle to respect the Code and remove these labels from the market with immediate effect.

We recommend that governments follow the example of Brazil and introduce the Code and subsequent, relevant Resolutions in strong legislation and enforce this. Breastfeeding rates have been recovering in Brazil in recent decades due to the efforts being made here to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

We send a message of solidarity to everyone around the world who is taking action, big and small, to hold Nestle and other companies to account for violations of the Code and Resolutions.

Notes from Baby Milk Action

Brazil has introduced progressively stronger regulations implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly. These prohibit all advertising and promotion of products for children up to two years of age (in the UK advertising of follow-on formula for use from 6 months of age and complementary foods, often promoted from 4 months of age, is commonplace). Brazilian regulations also require prominent Ministry of Health warnings on labels of such foods, whole milks and feeding bottles and teats. Breastfeeding rates in Brazil declined after Nestlé entered the market at the beginning of the last century. Rate have increased from less than 3 months median duration in the early 1980s to over 10 months today. Baby Milk Action has asked supporters to send messages to Brazilian policy makers several times when the dairy industry has lobbied to weaken the regulations. For further information, see this blog from 2007. Nestlé, principally, now focuses on sponsoring health workers in Brazil, creating conflicts of interest in violation of World Health Assembly Resolutions.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Protest Nestlé's claim that breastmilk substitutes 'protect' babies, public urged for UK breastfeeding awareness week (21 - 27 June)

This is the title of a press release we have been sending out as part of our campaign: Email Nestlé in June - stop its latest baby milk marketing scam.

Nestlé's Global Public Affairs Manager, Dr. Gayle Crozier-Willi, is taking the lead in defending Nestlé's strategy of promoting its baby milk with logos saying it 'protects' babies and other claims about its supposed benefits - claims that do not stand up to scrutiny.

Dr. Gayle Crozier-Willi latest response to campaign supporters puts the following argument for ignoring Nestlé's responsibilities under the World Health Assembly marketing standards. She says: "the World Health Assembly does not formulate marketing standards – rather it makes health policy recommendations to Member States."

Funny that. Article 11.3 of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 states: "Independently of any other measures taken for implementation of this Code, manufacturers and distributors of products within the scope of this Code should regard themselves as responsible for monitoring their marketing practices according to the principles and aim of this Code, and for taking steps to ensure that their conduct at every level conforms to them."

In addition, Dr. Gayle Crozier-Willi was leading Nestlé's delegation lobbying Health Ministers at the World Health Assembly last month and so she knows they adopted a further Resolution on 22 May that specifically: “CALLS UPON infant food manufacturers and distributors to comply fully with their responsibilities under the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly resolutions.”

Nestlé is demonstrating its contempt for this call. If you think it should abide by the International Code, please email it via:

Nestlé has still not got the message that it will lose more business through people's outrage than it will make from boosting sales of its formula. So please do keep spreading the word. Nestlé puts profits before all else - even the lives of babies and the rights of mothers, as this clear breach of the World Health Assembly marketing requirements shows. So we need as many messages as possible to go to Nestlé to give it a financial reason to stop this shameful marketing strategy.

See the press release at:

And send an email to Dr. Crozier-Willi via:

Monday, June 14, 2010

We want Nestle out of the London Marathon - Facebook group

Nestle is sponsoring the London Marathon with its controversial Pure Life brand of bottled water. The next London Marathon will take place on 17 April 2011. If you would like there to be alternative supplies, you can join the Facebook group: "We want Nestlé out of the London Marathon". See:

Nestle is the most boycotted company in the UK and its strategy it to try to improve its image and put boycott supporters and other campaigners in a predicament: withdraw from the marathon, endanger their health by not accepting water or break their boycott.

Members of this group are calling for alternative water to be provided and want Nestle out of the London Marathon. You can give your views on the London Marathon Facebook discussion board:

Nestle is the target of a boycott (and one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet) because the way it pushes baby milk. It breaks international marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly, undermines breastfeeding and puts babies that have to be fed on formula at risk.

Nestle pretends this is an issue of the past, but its current global marketing strategy is to promote its baby milk with the claim it 'protects' babies. Nestle knows that babies fed on its formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. Its claims undermine the obligatory 'breastmilk is best for babies' message that the boycott helped to bring in. You can send a message to Nestle about this at:

Nestle is also refusing to warn on labels that powdered formula is not a sterile product and the simple steps required to reduce risks of possible contamination with bacteria. Even babies fed on baby milk in the best conditions have died of such contamination. The World Health Organisation has issued guidelines for reconstituting formula to reduce the risk, but Nestle refuses to change its labels. See:

Nestle bottled water business is the target of campaigners around the world for the harm it causes to their communities. In Brazil, Nestle's bottling of Pure Life water damaged an historic water park, prompting residents, dependent on the park for their livelihoods, to petition the public prosecutor to take action. Nestle was taken to court and eventually stopped pumping under the threat of daily fines - but it took 10 years of campaigning. See:

For concerns about Nestle's bottling in other countries, particularly the United States, see the water section of the Nestle Critics website:

The Nestle Critics site also has information from groups campaigning about Nestle failure to deliver on its promise to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain by 2006, its use of palm oil implicated in destroying Indonesian rainforest (Nestle has said it will stop this following a Greenpeace campaign - but only by 2015), trade union busting, spying on campaigners and other concerns.

Supporting the campaign to remove Nestle from the sponsors of the London Marathon will help draw attention to its malpractice and add to the pressure for it to change.

Most people who run the Marathon do so because they want to contribute to good causes.

Nestle is not an appropriate sponsor.

Nestle's Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, has stated clearly that companies should only pursue charitable endeavors with an underlying intention of making money for investors (see Boston Herald).