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United Reformed Church backs boycott - despite Nestlé misinformation

Baby Milk Action welcomes the decision of the United Reformed Church Assembly on 4 July 2010 to continue to support the Nestlé boycott until such time that Nestlé makes the required changes to its baby food marketing.  The Assembly referenced the FTSE4Good criteria. The Assembly rejected a proposal to end the church’s long-running support for the boycott.

[Update November 2011: Some months later, in September 2010, FTSE weakened the FTSE4Good criteria with the express purpose of allowing companies to be included in the Index while continuing to violate the marketing requirements, claiming this would promote "engagement". Nestlé was added to the Index in March 2011. Rather than taking the matter back to the Assembly for review, and the URC Mission Committee (which represents Church and Society issues) "issuing an instruction to its Mission Council meeting to terminate the boycott of Nestle products." The Mission Council serves as the executive of the URC between General Assemblies and meets biannually - click here for details].

Nestlé Vice President Niels Christiansen had earlier met with representatives of the URC, the Methodists and other churches at the Churches Investment Group (CIG) and assured them that Nestlé had changed its ways. Mr. Christiansen apparently claimed that the company investigates all reports of violations - but also said the last report from the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) contained only two genuine violations, which speaks volumes about how dismissive Nestlé is of complaints. 

Mr. Christiansen suggested that IBFAN continues to level criticism at Nestlé and other companies for the purpose of fundraising. IBFAN groups would be delighted if there were funds available for monitoring the industry, but the vast majority of people monitoring on the ground are volunteers and IBFAN has to charge for monitoring reports to help cover costs.

One of those present at the CIG meeting raised violations she had seen simply browsing the company’s South African website. Mr. Christiansen said he would look into it. A representative of the Methodist Church said at the meeting that in his view the decision of the Methodist Church Central Finance Board to invest to ‘change things from within’ had been used by the company and misrepresented the Church’s position. In fact, Nestlé has been asked by the Methodist Church several times to stop suggesting the decision to invest was because there were no longer concerns. Mr. Christiansen said, ‘If that had happened, it was regrettable and would be looked into.’ He assured the URC that if it dropped the boycott and invested, Nestlé would not misrepresent the decision. 

Baby Milk Action was not invited to brief the CIG meeting and was only able to meet with URC representatives two weeks before the Assembly when a resolution to drop the boycott had already been put on the agenda. The alternative Resolution actually adopted, continues support for the boycott until Nestlé changes policies and practices in line with the FTSE4Good criteria and will help keep the pressure on Nestlé to change. Mr. Christiansen is apparently retiring from Nestlé at the end of 2010 - but we hope his successor will look into it (see page 18).


Mr. Henry Nastie explains Nestlé strategy

Spoof marketing guru Mr. Henry Nastie (played by Baby Milk Action’s Mike Brady) gave a 2-minute lecture on the steps of Nestlé’s UK HQ at the annual demonstration on 22 May 2010 explaining Nestlé’s latest global marketing strategy.

Although delivered in an awful Swiss accent, everything in the talk was true - though you won’t hear Nestlé executives being so candid. Watch the film on youtube or Baby Milk Action’s website.

The next demonstration will take place on Saturday 21 May 2011 at 11:00 in Croydon (or Nestlé’s new HQ if a rumoured move takes place).



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