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Nestle Answers: Help rejuvenate the boycott they wish ended 25 years ago

This is one of a series of posts that features Nestle’s answers to my questions that came out of the Nestle Family event. To access the other questions and answers, go to follow-up questions for Nestle and click on the questions you are interested in. Answers will be posted as they are received and analyzed.


Why did your CEO tell bloggers at the Nestle Family event that the boycott ended in 1986? The boycott in fact ended in 1984, but was reinstated in 1988 because Nestle did not live up to the promises it made. The boycott is is still active today. Please explain why you would attempt to mislead the bloggers about the status of the boycott.

Nestle's Answer

In 1977, the first Nestlé boycott was lead by US-based INFACT and ended in 1984. At the end of 1988, an attempt was made to relaunch the Nestlé boycott but received little attention in the U.S.

My Response

Yes, the first boycott was launched by US-based INFACT in 1977. Two years later, the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) was formed by numerous organizations participating in the boycott. It was the US IBFAN group that re-launched the boycott in 1988 after Nestle failed to live up to the committments in made in 1984 that initially ended the boycott. IBFAN continues to monitor compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes around the world and has not called off the boycott because Nestle continues to have substantial violations of the Code. You can read the full history of the boycott on Baby Milk Action's website.

The boycott is still going strong around the world. In the United Kingdom, an independent survey found that Nestle is the 4th most boycotted brand (after Nike, Coca Cola and McDonald's) and there is a substantive list of businesses, organizations and individuals like Members of Parliament who support the Nestle boycott. The coordinating offices of IBFAN around the world maintain boycott pages and boycott campaigns, including INFACT Canada, UK's Baby Milk ActionGermany's Aktionsgruppe Babynahrung and many more. In addition to the official IBFAN groups, there are numerous YouTube videos with tens of thousands of views each and a Wikipedia page.

Nestle is sadly correct that the boycott hasn't received as much attention in the United States as it should. Fortunately, some organizations and web sites like breastfeeding.comblisstree.com's Breastfeeding 1-2-3, and the Crunchy Domestic Goddess have been trying to spread the word in recent years. In addition, many people are made aware of the boycott through their participation in local La Leche League groups. However, perhaps Nestle is right that the boycott hasn't achieved as much attention in the United States as it warrants. Will you help me spread the word?

What can you do to raise the profile of the boycott in the USA?

« Nestle Answers: Introducing solids - maybe, kind of, sort of at 6 months | Main | Nestle Answers: Outsourcing Accountability in the Chocolate Industry »

Reader Comments (23)

Thank you, thank you, for continuing to be a voice for so many. We will absolutely help spread the word. Keep up the amazing work. :)

[...] 13. Why did your CEO tell bloggers at the Nestle Family event that the boycott ended in 1986? The boycott in fact ended in 1984, but was reinstated in 1988 because Nestle did not live up to the promises it made. The boycott is is still active today. Please explain why you would attempt to mislead the bloggers about the status of the boycott. ANSWER HERE [...]

The answers that Nestle is providing are very predictable. There's almost no sport in this.

Great job setting the record straight Annie.

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter@Artemnesia

As an Australian who's known about and participated in the boycott since school, this was what surprised me the most - that people just didn't know. It does make the lies very obvious, doesn't it? And the beautiful demonstration that only the US is important. Which is really the whole point - even children in Africa, even negro and hispanic kids matter.

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeb - Fusion Parenting

[...] to perpetuate the myth that solids should be introduced before six months of age. In fact, like the boycott that so few Americans are aware of, you will probably find that few Americans (Germans, Canadians, etc.) are aware of the updated [...]

Nestle seriously frustrates me.

I have to say this was one of the more (disturbingly) honest answers in the bunch.

The boycott is over to Nestle because it is over in the way that matters to Nestle. They do not care about the ethics or legality or morality. They care only whether or not any protests garner sufficient mainstream attention. Legitimacy or verity is irrelevant to them.

And, because there is no attention, they can get away with declaring it to be over--or so they thought.

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

These are some pretty astounding non-answers you're getting. They didn't address why they chose 1986, or why they obviously implied it was no longer active. Not getting much attention is NOT the same thing as over. Honestly, the responses that Nestle have given make me more inclined to boycott than I already was.

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

Many thanks for this blog.

In the UK Nestlé is THE MOST boycotted company (by a long way).

Globally it is amongst the four most boycotted companies, as found in an independent survey reported here:

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brady

This is a brilliant resource, you have motivated me to write a "code post" in the last week of October! Thanks for all the hard work... they are relying on the energy of mothers of young to fight them... that would be low energy... what they aren't expecting is the energy of passion and you sure have that!!! Great work!!! In South Africa where clean water is just not accessible to millions of new mothers it is criminal to push formula for healthy mothers and babes....

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterse7en

Wow - I was expecting a "he misspoke" answer there - not "we care so little about it that it doesn't deserve a mention" answer. Well, Nestle Family, since long-term memory seems to be a problem for you, let us give you a little reminder - trick or treat bags across the continent are going to be Nestle-free this Hallowe'en and the boycott will be in many, many front windows for parents to see.

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle @ doudoubebe.com

I would like to say a word of encouragement about the boycott, particularly for people taking it up for the first time. Many will boycott as a personal statement, or because Nestlé products are difficult to swallow knowing what the company gets up to.

Nestlé is an aggressive company in the way it deals with its competitors, governments and regulators and it sees the boycott as another problem to be managed, investing in PR and saying whatever it thinks it can get away with to divert criticism. It has yet to accept the four-point plan we have put to it for saving infant lives and ending the boycott. With greater pressure it might. But the boycott has achieved and is achieving important changes. It is part of a range of strategies.

A few potted things the boycott and campaign has achieved: The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (despite what Nestlé told the bloggers, it opposed the Code - scans of documents from the time are on our site), the Code's implementation in 70 countries to greater or lesser degrees, breastfeeding rates in countries taking action to stop malpractice increasing (Brazil from median duration 3 months in the 1980s to 10 months today), Nestlé changing its policy on milk nurses and baby pictures on formula, stopping specific cases of malpractice such as Nestlé promoting formula in Botswana as preventing diarrhoea etc. etc.

Sometimes success is measured in terms of things not getting worse. For example, we have had to campaign several times to stop Brazil's exemplary legislation from being weakened. And 2 years ago helped to stop the regulations in the Philippines being struck down (Nestle USA was involved in attacking WHO and UNICEF in that case).

Nestlé is always bringing in new strategies. Health claims are a recent strategy. In the Philippines it labeled its formula as containing 'brain building blocks' and made demonstrably untrue claims about ingredients aiding 'brain and eye development' (you can see these on our site). The new regulations should stop this. Watch the UNICEF film from the Philippines to see the impact of such promotion and why these regulations are so necessary:

If you want to see how the campaign can force a change on an immediate issue, I would suggest writing to Nestlé over its strategy of telling mothers its formula 'protects' their babies.

When a company puts its own profits before the well-being of babies, the boycott gives a financial imperative for changing policies and practices. It also keeps the issue in the public eye - as Nestlé's Twitter PR disaster demonstrates.

A good way to promote the boycott on your blog or site is using the Nestlé-Free Zone logo and/or banner. Use the code you find on the Nestlé-Free Zone page as this will ensure the banner updates with latest news and links back to that page:

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brady

I have to say that Nestle's obfuscation and outright lies are nothing new - and they are hardly confined to the infant formula market.

My particular focus is on Nestle's predatory actions in small, rural communities, where its water bottling operations do a fair amount of damage to communities.

That they'd lie is no surprise; their representative told a Cascade Locks resident that the company had never harmed an aquifer or watershed - despite the fact that a judge in Michigan had decided Nestle was in fact harming and aquifer. Nestle fought hard to maintain its damaging pumping rate, negotiating a reduction only when the judge got fed up and threatened an injunction.

They also sued the tiny town of Fryeburg (ME) in an attempt to force them to permit the building of a 24/7 truck loading station in a residentially zoned area (after losing the one suit and three appeals, their high-priced legal talent finally found the legal loophole they needed), yet their representatives have repeatedly said "there was no lawsuit" or that they simply "protected themselves from a potential lawsuit."

That's corporate doublespeak at its worst - as is their astonishing claim that the Nestle formula boycott ended in 1986.

I'm hardly a rabid anti-corporate activist, but when Nestle showed up in my small northern California town and tried to intimidate legal opponents of its proposed water bottling plant by subpoenaing their private financial records, I started investigating the company, and what I saw was not very encouraging.

They are, sadly, about as amoral as their opponents suggest they are, which is a fairly strong statement given the amount of hype typically found on the Internet.

Greg keeps mentioning Nestle's willingness to "dialogue" as their saving grace, but to be blunt, they're not engaged in a dialogue; this is damage control, and I've seen the results of their "dialogue" firsthand, and the results are unpretty at best, and downright vicious at worst.

Despite the damage control and soothing PR statements, Nestle is not a good company - they deserve the investigation they receive and the condemnation they suffer.

October 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStopNestleWaters.org

I had no idea that there was still a boycott campaign going on against Nestle. I remember my mom boycotting the company when I was a kid because of the way it marketed its formula.

I wonder if Congress could be lobbied to exclude any formula made by a company that violates the code from the WIC program. Now THAT would certainly get Nestle and the other violators' attention!

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCrimson Wife

[...] Nestle Answers… if you are curious about this then take a look! Here is her post on the Nestle Boycott and this is my favorite post in the series: “Nestle Answers: Using Health Care Professionals [...]

It takes principles and strong conviction in standing up on what you really believe in. Boycotting Nestle is something that should be based on belief. These beliefs, sometimes, are difficult to understand but these beliefs have basis nonetheless.

November 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBoycott Nestle

[...] movement to raise awareness of a Nestle boycott that has existed since the 70s in response to their formula marketing practices.  At Halloween, the #boonestle hashtag was established to help tweeps show their support for [...]

[...] advice: Buy fresh or at least check labels. And keep boycotting Nestle (Gerber). var addthis_pub = 'phdinparenting'; var addthis_language = 'en';var addthis_options = 'email, [...]

[...] Keep on boycotting. Here is a list of products to boycott and you can join the facebook Nestle boycott group [...]

[...] voices. Organizations like Greenpeace and Baby Milk Action have a wide reach. The more Nestle sticks its head in the sand, continues with unethical business practices, and uses double speak instead of making actual [...]

[...] that began in 1977 publically.  I think of this everytime I read another great blog post (like this one or this video one) about why Nestle deserves to be boycotted.  I come so close to posting a Nestle [...]

[...] Nestlé have commented that it is inappropriate for me to attend BlogHer. They say that because I advocate for a boycott of Nestle products and because I suggested bloggers should rec0nsider attending a Nestlé corporate event that [...]

[...] for more than 30 years and Nestlé is still one of the three most boycotted companies in Britain. Although Nestlé officials would like to claim that the boycott has ended, it is still very much ali.... But it needs to get bigger in order to have a greater impact. Nestlé owns a lot of brands and is [...]

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