UN Global Compact punishes companies for failing to play its greenwash game, but not for violating its Principles

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Press release 29 March 2012

Baby Milk Action has slammed the United Nations Global Compact Office announcement of its expulsion of 750 companies from the voluntary corporate social responsibility initiative as a transparent bid to gain credibility - and influence - in advance of the Rio+20 Forum in June 2012. While companies are expelled for failing to submit "Communications on Progress", Baby Milk Action suggests that other companies, such as Nestlé, get away with submitting misleading reports and systematically violating the Global Compact Principles. Nestlé is a Patron Sponsor of Global Compact events.

Baby Milk Action, which has been pursuing a case against Nestlé for egregious violations of the UN Global Compact Principles for nearly three years claims the initiative is worse than useless as it provides public relations cover for companies while doing nothing to hold them to account. Unlike the 750 companies expelled, Nestlé does submit reports, but Baby Milk Action claims these are misleading. The UN Global Compact Office says it is unable to verify the reports it posts to its website and has told Baby Milk Action that not one company has been excluded from the initiative as a result of a complaint being registered by a civil society organisation under the Integrity Measures.

Baby Milk Action suggests the announcement of companies being expelled for failing to provide reports is an attempt to gain the UN Global Compact undeserved credibility and to divert attention from its role in undermining regulations and other efforts that are effective at holding corporations to account.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:

"Far from boosting the credibility of the initiative, this announcement from the UN Global Compact Office shows the fundamental problem with the whole concept: it only delists companies if they won't play its game of publishing glossy reports full of greenwash. It takes no action when companies publish misleading reports and are shown to be violating the UN Global Compact principles.  

"Far from helping to end corporate malpractice, the UN Global Compact is complicit in helping companies such as Nestlé, a funder of Global Compact events, to undermine effective regulation and other efforts to hold it to account. Governments meeting in Rio should look to the UN Global Compact for the failure it is and a reminder that they are long overdue in meeting their obligations under existing human rights norms to regulate corporations effectively."

Nestlé UN Global Compact cover up

Baby Milk Action submitted a report (left) and complaint to the UN Global Compact on behalf of the Nestlé Critics in June 2009 - click here for press release. Since then, it has copied the UN Global Compact Office in on correspondence with Nestlé as part of its process of "promoting dialogue". After two years, Baby Milk Action asked the Global Compact Office to take additional action called for under its Integrity Measures in light of Nestlé's refusal to make changes or even discuss terms for a possible meeting before a panel of mutually-agreed experts to address disagreements over interpretation of baby food marketing requirements. The UN Global Compact Office refused and Baby Milk Action wrote in 2011 quoting the text of the Integrity Measures with a request for an explanation of why the specified action was not being taken. The Global Compact Office refused to provide an explanation.

Accordingly, Baby Milk Action wrote to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, on 13 December 2011 asking for his office to respond to the request for clarifications of the Integrity Measures in his role of Chair of the Global Compact Board. No answer has been received and Baby Milk Action is now releasing the text of the letter (click here).

Nestlé uses its prominent involvement in the UN Global Compact in attempting to divert criticism of its baby food marketing and other controversial practices.


For further information contact Mike Brady at mikebrady@babymilkaction.org or on +44 7986 736179.

Notes for editors 

Despite being the subject of a complaint for egregious violations of the Global Compact Principles, Nestlé is a patron sponsor of Global Compact events, such as its 10th anniversary celebrations. See Baby Milk Action's press release: UN Global Compact - 10 years of helping cover up corporate malpractice

Baby Milk Action wrote an article entitled "Governments should govern, Corporations should follow the rules" for the UN System Standing Committee on Nutrition journal, SCN News, in 2011. Click here to download - see page 51 onwards.

Baby Milk Action contributed a chapter on Holding Corporations Accountable to the book "Global Obligations for the Right to Food" edited by Professor George Kent, as a member of a Task Force of the Working Group on Nutrition, Ethics, and Human Rights of the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition - click here.

Letter to UN Secretary General 13 December 2011335.38 KB