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Nestle Boycott - is it working?

This question was posted the Infant and young child feeding interventions forum area and has 5 replies. You can also reply via email – be sure to leave the subject unchanged.

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Anonymous 81

Public Health Nutritionist

Normal user

24 Dec 2010, 15:00

The boycott is one of the largest boycotts in the commercial history. I am aware of the historical background and the various efforts. To me, the various efforts to sustain the boycott and the company's expansion are very incomparable. I have a chance to visit number of Asia and Africa countries up to the level of the grassroots. No matter there is top level big talk or code violation report, still the village level market is full of the company's products. So, when is this end? To me it is time to listen to each other and find common ground. We have to learn from the recent UK government initiative of engaging the food industries for better regulation. Thanks

Tamsin Walters

en-net moderator

Forum moderator

28 Dec 2010, 20:13

From Camlink Douala:

In countries where the boycott has been persistent with advocacy for respect of the rules, Nestle has been very careful. Nestle does not like to be shamed.
They are ready at anytime for negotiation. Be careful not to fall prey of negotiation because the company is strong enough to stop any baby milk promoter from doing good work.
The boycott has worked in Cameroon and sponsorship has become moderate. We need to insist and persist with the boycott.

Anonymous 266

Nutrisat Uganda

Normal user

30 Dec 2010, 07:27

Dear Anonymous 81,
My thinking is,the boycott is not working especially in the developing world. This kind of boycott is going to be very hard to effect in such countries as Nestle knows when and where to strike.
Today Nestle is still on of the biggest event sponsors at conferences and workshops relating to health and nutrition. Participants in such fora,(Nutrition scientists) have the luxury to sample, taste and even recommend Nestle's products. At such events Nestle is very generous. We have to understand Nestle's marketing strategies and campaigns if such a boycott is to be effected.
At the top level yes, we all agree to the boycott, but there seems to be very little or nothing done to the market audience. The market knows so little about these breast milk substitutes and they continue to use them with great confidence. If one walked into any super market in Eastern Africa, Nestle's infant products are available in alarming quantities. It would be great to learn fom the Uk, perhaps.

Anonymous 169

Normal user

4 Jan 2011, 14:31

Hi, There are 3 main parts to this (i) Is the Nestle Boycott needed? (ii) Does it work? (iii) What about corresponding with the formula industry?

i) Yes, it the Nestle Boycott is needed. The Code was created to protect breastfed and non-breastfed infants in developed and developing countries from morbidity and mortality (remember the Code does not say that formula should not be used, it says that if formula is required it should be provided under these stipulations in order to protect all infants). The need to protect infants continues today and the evidence of the risks of formula feeding continues to be obtained.

(ii) Does the boycott work? This question was answered by Mike Brady who works for Baby Milk Action (IBFAN in UK) on a UK website webchat see below: (Note: Look at website for other posts on shouldn't there be boycott of other formula companies, and other examples of where Nestle changed practice, etc)
[i]Do you think the boycott of nestle is having an impact. I haven't brought nestle products for 10 years but sometimes wonder if its worth it as they are such a huge company - not sure if little old me makes much of dent (not that I'll stop the boycott)..

From everyone who has made a dent, we have collectively sculpted Nestlé into the most boycotted company in the UK by far and one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet - according to independent analysts GMI.

I find people tell me one of two things: either they are surprised how many people know about the boycott, or the opposite.

The boycott is an effective tool for getting this issue into the media and raised elsewhere. It was instrumental in defending the regulations that the Philippines was trying to introduce in 2006/2007. It was our way to interest people in the situation in the Philippines. Nestlé marketed its formula with the claim it contains 'brain building blocks', implying it make children more intelligent. At the same time, we exposed marketing malpractice by all the main companies who were misbehaving. Do not underestimate the importance of action here in the UK. We asked people to send messages of solidarity to campaigners in the Philippines and some of these ended up on the front page of the main national newspaper - when editors are concerned about pressure from companies and may be scared to run stories, being able to report on something happening internationally is a way to speak out. This successfully negated the pressure from the industry lobby on the media, the President and the Supreme Court.

We are in regular communication with Nestlé, which is a bit of a thankless task because the executives who write to us make statements that might sound good but do not stand up to scrutiny. For the few years when Nestlé agreed to debate with us in public, principally at universities and schools, we were able to expose its dishonesty before the audience - and so Nestlé kept losing the debates and subsequent votes on the boycott. Now Nestlé refuses to speak if we are even present in the room. When you communicate with Nestlé executives directly, you realise how entrenched the profits-first, do-as-they-like management culture is - and it stretches across all business activities, not just formula. We set up the Nestlé Critics website to link people in to other campaigns which are trying to stop human rights and environmental abuses.

What makes Nestlé take notice is a hit to its profits and public image. Our job is to increase the pressure and exposure to force movement - which has happened time and again. We will eventually stop the 'protect' logos we are calling on Nestlé to remove from its formula labels. But the executives try all they can to divert criticism and have a big budget to link their name with good causes, so people look on them favourably.

Nestlé has also tried to improve its image by launching a Fairtrade KitKat. This involves just 1% of the cocoa Nestlé purchases. At the same time, it has failed to deliver on a promise made in 2001 to stop child slavery in its cocoa supply chain within 5 years (by 2006). Campaigners in the US have taken Nestlé to court on behalf of children who were trafficked to farms supplying the company. There are also concerns over the source of palm oil in Nestlé products and the destruction of Indonesian rainforests to produce it. This was targeted in a Greenpeace campaign this year and Nestlé has said it will change its suppliers of palm oil - within 5 years.

The more people who boycott Nestlé and tell the people who run the company, the more influence we have. [/i]

(iii) What about corresponding with formula industry? As Mike says above there is correspondence and I know of many other attempts over the years. Remember that the 1981 Code was developed with formula industry, so they knew what they were signing up to! One of the problems is that the aim of the formula industry is to sell more formula (- and hence have to persuade breastfeeding mothers to reduce/stop breastfeeding), while the aim of public health/breastfeeding advocates is to ensure mothers breastfeed optimally for 2 years or more (and hence don't need to use formula). Therefore the aims of these two groups is completely opposite.
Finally, in the UK there is huge concern by health / nutrition professionals about the governments engagement with the food industry with many believing that this is unethical and will increase obesity/diabetes, etc. Please don't use the UK as an example of good practice - at least until the research has been done, which of course is likely to take many years to see the outcome!
Best, Ali

Marie McGrath


Forum moderator

5 Jan 2011, 08:50

Dear Anon, To finally add that living at 'grassroots' in the UK, I can walk into many shops, supermarkets and pharmacies and see many Code violations - not just Nestle, but many companies. So whatever is portrayed at policy/global level from the UK, is very different on the ground here too. A paticular annoyance of mine in the UK is that the 'professional' circulation of the UK's dietetics professional body is full of advertisements for a range of infant formulas and associated products that, in my mind, 'stretch the rules' and do not reflect the spirit of the Code. This 'stretching of the rules' is what companies are very good at, aptly described in a recent IBFAN report called "Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2010" . You can access the summary of the report at : Finally I draw you to a posting regarding the UK's food company collaboration by a writer and Marion Nestle (coincidentally an unfortunate surname in this discussion!). She describes the collaboration of the UK government with food companies on public health and nutrition as a classic example of "sending the fox to look after the chickens"..... See her post at:

Anonymous 22505

Normal user

15 May 2018, 15:04

we have to accept the reality, expanding rapidly. Nestle Is Paying $7.2 Billion to Sell Starbucks Coffee.
the best way is to sit-down and discuss so that they can be part of the solution.

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