Four-point plan to end the Nestlé boycott

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Nestlé-Free Zone

Last updated: 16 April 2012

The following plan was put to Nestlé in March 2001 at Cambridge University when, thanks to boycott pressure, Nestlé agreed to debate its baby food marketing practices with Baby Milk Action. Prior to this date Nestlé refused to even speak in public if Baby Milk Action was present in the room.

The plan was immediately rejected by Nestlé executives and has been repeatedly rejected since when Baby Milk Action has written asking the company to reconsider or raised it again at debates. Having lost a series of debates, Nestlé has refused to debate since 2005.

Baby Milk Action has also invited Nestlé to put its terms and conditions for meeting before a panel of mutually-agreed independent experts to resolve questions of interpretation. Nestlé has repeatedly refused to do even this, most recently in a letter dated 15 December 2011.

4-Point Plan

Nestlé's response

1. Nestlé must state in writing that it accepts that the International Code and the subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions are minimum requirements for every country.

In its response to members of the public calling on it to respect the Code and Resolutions, Nestlé claimed in July 2010: "For your information, the World Health Assembly does not formulate marketing standards – rather it makes health policy recommendations to Member States. It is up to each Member State to determine how it implements these policy recommendations in their own country, according to their development goals and their social and legislative framework."

In truth, the International Code was adopted in 1981 and article 11.3 is clear: "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."

The World Health Assembly restated in May 2010 (Resolution 63.23) that 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;” and expressed "deep concern over persistent reports of violations". Improvements to breastfeeding rates and complementary feeding practices “could save annually the lives of 1.5 million children”.

NOTE: Nestlé's refusal to accept the validity of the Code and Resolutions also prevented it from being included in the FTSE4Good ethical investment list. However, FTSE4Good weakened its criteria in September 2010 to allow Nestlé to be included even while it systematically violates the marketing requirements. Click here for Baby Milk Action's briefing recommending that people who want to hold baby food companies to account DO NOT invest in a FTSE4Good tracker.

2. Nestlé must state in writing that it will make the required changes to bring its baby food marketing policy and practice into line with the International Code and Resolutions (i.e. end its strategy of denial and deception).

Nestlé continues to dispute any wrong-doing even in the face of documentary evidence of malpractice, fines, convictions and rulings against it.

For example, at the time of writing, Nestlé's Global Public Affairs Manager is defending its latest strategy of promoting its breastmilk substitutes with the claim it 'protects' babies and other claims.

In its response to the 2010 Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules report, produced by IBFAN, Nestlé agreed to act on just four of the 130 violations it counted in its profile. Hence, violations of the types of the vast majority that Nestlé dismissed will continue.

3. Baby Milk Action will take the statements to the International Nestlé Boycott Committee and suggest that representatives meet with Nestlé to discuss its timetable for making the required changes.

Nestlé has not provided the necessary statements.


4. If IBFAN monitoring finds no Nestlé violations for 18 months, the boycott will be called off.

Nestlé continues to violate the Code and Resolutions in a systematic manner.

See the Campaign for Ethical Marketing section for action you can take to encourage Nestlé to stop specific violations and to change its policies.