Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nestlé Critics website exposes abuse of trade union rights in the Philippines

Information from trade unionists in the Philippines has been posted on the Nestlé Critics website today. See:

This relates to a long-running dispute, where Nestlé has refused to abide by Supreme Court rulings calling for it to negotiate with the trade union on retirement benefits. The dispute has been running for 7 years. During that time, Nestlé has boasted of its support for the UN Global Compact. Principle 3 of this voluntary initiative states that: "Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining."

Nestlé does not do so, even when ordered by the courts that it should.

Those who went on strike for their rights have been dismissed and they complain that: "The lawful, peaceful picket at Nestlé’s Cabuyao factory is sometimes violently dispersed the police and military, measures Nestlé has encouraged and been fully complicit with."

Two trade union leaders have been assassinated. In 2006 I interviewed the General Secretary of one of the trade unions, to highlight these concerns at a time when Nestlé was invited to hold a reception at the UK Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Labour Party Conference. You can listen to the interview at:

Ironically one of the unions that hosted Nestlé, the GMB, soon after was complaining about Nestlé failure to consult adequately before laying off workers in York. While not showing solidarity with colleagues in the Philippines when it joined with Nestlé in a champagne reception at the TUC, it said: "In particular, GMB will seek to invoke the agreement with our international IUF trade union colleagues in Nestlé to prevent job losses."

The International Union of Foodworkers very strongly condemns Nestlé activities in the Philippines and elsewhere. In fact, the IUF has a site dedicated to Nestlé:

The Philippines is a dangerous place to be seen to oppose powerful vested interests. In 2006 when the pharmaceutical companies were taking the government to court to try to have baby food regulations struck down, and Nestlé was calling for the country heads of UNICEF and WHO to be removed for supporting the measures, the Assistant Solicitor General Nestor J. Ballocillo and his son were shot dead.

I was surprised - and shocked - at the suggestion that this murder may have been linked to the 'Milk Code' case. According to the Philippines Daily Inquirer, see text and link at:

Solicitor General Antonio Eduardo Nachura said that the killing of Ballocillo—as well as his son Benedict—may have something to do with the expropriation of the controversial Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal 3 (Naia 3) and the Milk Code case that the elder Ballocillo was handling.

When officials and trade union leaders are assassinated, when corporations ignore rulings from the courts, those who suffer need the rest of the world to pay attention. I hope that by raising these issues here, additional people will hear their pleas.

Sometimes it is suggested that the boycott of Nestlé that Baby Milk Action is a threat to Nestlé employees, but my view is that they have far more to fear from Nestlé management when it comes to job security and workers' rights.

Monday, February 16, 2009

ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN buttons and banner advertisement

Here are a couple of buttons you can add to your blog or website, as I have done on the right here. On blogger, just login to your blog, go to the layout and add a picture gadget. For the link, put http://www.onemillioncampaign.org/ and add a suitable extra message if you want.

There is also a banner advertisement that you can add to your site. Here is how it looks on the Baby Milk Action site:

To add the banner, simply follow the instructions you find at:

You will find other resources in the aptly named 'resources' section of the site. Also see other blog entries here tagged "ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN".

Friday, February 13, 2009

Campaigners appeal in Nestlé spying case. Nestlé appeals in abuse of power in the coffee industry case.

IBFAN figures in the report passed by a spy to her control at Nestlé, a former MI6 officer. The spy had infiltrated the Swiss group, ATTAC, which was developing a book looking at different aspects of Nestlé malpractice. I attended the launch of that book to speak on the baby milk issue in 2004. So I've been interested to follow the case from a distance. Today there is a report saying that a Swiss Judge has thrown the case out on the grounds that it is not against the law for corporations to spy on people! See:

It is ironic if the courts accept a corporation can pass someone off as a campaigner to infiltrate an organisation and gather sensitive and confidential information. When the Nestlé Critics website was being launched last year, Nestlé's lawyers wrote to Baby Milk Action threatening legal action on the absurd basis that the site was "passing off" as a company site, despite the text making it clear it was an analysis of Nestlé's claims, with a prominent link to Nestlé's own site for information from the company. The metadata, which appears in search engine listings, also made it clear it was a site with information from Nestlé's critics. See:

Nestlé demanded we hand the original domain name (nestlesa.org) over to it, which we refused to do, as it has already been published and we had reasonable grounds to suspect Nestlé might put something on the domain "passing off" as a campaign site to dupe campaigners into sharing information, just as its spy had done.

So on the one hand Nestlé thinks it is fine to infiltrate organisations with a spy, but thinks it is outrageous that an organisation should have a domain with the Nestlé name in it, less someone visit it looking for information on the company. The court has sided with Nestlé on the spy. We have heard no more from the lawyers about the domain name.

ATTAC Switzerland is appealing against the Judge's decision.

Coincidently, today we learn that Nestlé is also going to court to appeal a decision, in this case in Greece. Greece's competition watchdog has levied of EUR29 million fine against Nestlé. According to the AFP news agency, the company said, "We deem this decision unfair and reject the charges". The Greek authorities accused "Nestle of taking steps to shoulder out other coffee providers in its deals with supermarkets, restaurants and distributors."

Aggressive marketing practices from Nestlé are all too well known for those of us monitoring its behaviour in the baby food industry. This is also the company that misled George Clooney over its baby food marketing practices to persuade him to appear in Nespresso advertisements. See our briefing at:

And it ran a national advertising campaign in the UK portraying it as having a positive impact on coffee farmers when it launched a Fairtrade-certified brand, neglecting to say that the Fairtrade brand only involved 0.1% of the coffee farmers dependent on the company and that it had been strongly criticised for its negative impact on the other 99.9%. See:

It will be interesting to see who gets furtherst with their appeal: ATTAC Switzerland or Nestlé.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Send a message to Nestlé over child slavery in its cocoa supply chain

One of the other issues concerning malpractice by Nestlé is its failure to act on child slavery in its cocoa supply chain. You can find an overview of this issue and links to further information on the Nestlé Critics website:

The International Labor Rights Forum has just issued a update on its campaign in this area and while Nestlé is targeted alongside Mars and Hershey, it comes in for special criticism. You can find the full report at:

Here is the introduction and an extract on Nestlé:

The major US chocolate companies signed an agreement in 2001 (called the Harkin-Engel Protocol) committing to ensuring that they were not purchasing cocoa beans harvested by the worst forms of child labor, but in 2009, children continue to work in West African cocoa farms. Many of the major chocolate companies have joined together in industry associations to respond to the criticism and these bitter companies have all been leaders in the failed industry efforts to improve labor conditions in their supply chains. For a full analysis of the failures of chocolate companies to implement of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, please visit:

You can send e-mails to Hershey, M&M/Mars and Nestlé here:

Nestlé (which owns Haagen-Dazs [IN NORTH AMERICA])

Even within the closed ranks of the chocolate industry behind the curtain of the Protocol, we’ve heard that Nestlé is the lowest common denominator. Nestlé has never responded with anything more than form letters to any requests for information by ILRF or any of our allies; in its form letters, Nestlé simply points to its ‘engagement’ with the Protocol.

As many of our supporters know, since 2005 we have particularly targeted Nestlé for its failure to reform its cocoa supply chain, and the choice was not random. Unlike other chocolate manufacturers, Nestlé directly sources cocoa from West Africa and has direct control over its supply chain and knowledge of the farms from which it sources. Nestlé has greater power to act than perhaps any other player in this industry and is therefore our top choice target for action. While Nestlé has joined Mars in the UTZ Certified program, we continue to put pressure on the company to improve conditions for cocoa farmers and encourage concerned consumers to send Nestlé a letter here:
---extract ends

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Resources for the ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN in support of a woman's right to breastfeed

The ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN in support of a woman's right to breastfeed her child is underway after being launched yesterday. See:

You can see the total number of people who have signed up by visiting the ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN website. If you have not yet signed yourself, you can do so here:

You will also find useful resources on the site, such as the posters and book mark shown below and leaflets.

Download the pdfs of these images to print in the 'resources' section at:

A group has been launched on facebook, so if you are a member, you can send an invite to your friends to join the group for news on the petition and other aspects of the campaign. See:

If MySpace is your preference, there is a group at:

If you are a member of other social networking groups and would like to recommend a group be created there, please let me know.

Monday, February 09, 2009

ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN in support of a woman's right to breastfeed her child

The following message comes from colleagues in India, where this campaign is officially launched today. Please do visit the petition page.

Over the past six months we all have witnessed the most shocking tainted milk scandal that killed six infants and sickened nearly 300,000 more. These babies, well below 3 years, were fed milk powder contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical used in fertilisers and plastic production. Imagine if the babies were not fed powder milk and in fact were fed on their mother’s milk. They could be saved from this unnecessary catastrophe.

Add your name to the ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN - NO MORE MILK SCANDALS! SUPPORT WOMEN TO BREASTFEED to stop the push towards feeding babies with milk formula, as well as demand support to women to breastfeed. Click here to sign the petition http://www.onemillioncampaign.org/en/Details_Petitions.aspx

Growing scientific evidence points out how vital breastfeeding is to infant survival with health. Women are being forced to stop breastfeeding and give their babies milk formulas because they lack support to breastfeed, whether at the time of birth in family or institutions, or when they are at work, and more importantly due to increasing commercial push to milk formula feeding. Potential disasters are thus waiting to happen across the world.

The problem is HUGE. Around 200 mothers give birth to babies every minute somewhere in the world. They need our support. Out of about 135 million children born annually, only 64 million begin breastfeeding within an hour and 71 million do NOT. About 48 million women are successful in carrying out exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and 87 million are NOT.
Click to sign the petition
to demand support for women to breastfeed.

Most people think of breastfeeding as something that happens between the woman and her child: that this decision is in the personal domain. However, several factors affect women's ability to breastfeed successfully: traditions, myths, status in the family and society, work load, confidence in her body and sexuality, economic needs, labour laws, domestic and workplace violence and harassment, availability of support services, advertising by commercial baby food manufacturers, and so on. These factors do not allow millions of women across the world to breastfeed their babies optimally.

How we respond to this crisis will shape the lives of our children – our future.

Today, public concern alone can prevent potential milk scandals – public action to respond to the needs of women to enable them to give the best possible food to their babies. We need to Act NOW !

Click to sign the petition

The petition demanding support to women will be presented to the world leaders, at the World Health Assembly in May 2009. Your collective voices will put pressure on the leaders to prevent unnecessary deaths of children, to ensure that every woman in every part of the world is enabled to breastfeed successfully.

Be a connector

Forward this message to all your friends, your networks, and your family, and let us raise a voice our leaders cannot ignore.

With hope and determination to change the world.

ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN Support Women to Breastfeed is a campaign of the World Breastfeeding Movement with just one mission - to mobilize public opinion through one million signatures, demanding support to women to breastfeed.

ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN Support Women to Breastfeed brings together people of all ages from all walks of life to generate the support women need to breastfeed successfully. Through participating in the Movement's campaigns, petitions to local, national and international policy makers, discussions groups, evidence-based information sharing, and actions at every level, you can focus national and global attention on the several challenges to successful breastfeeding and help to resolve them. read more

The Team

The ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN team assists the members of the World Breastfeeding Movement family to identify issues that pose a challenge to successful breastfeeding, and develop national, regional and international campaigns around them. The team works through a secretariat in New Delhi, India, and international coordinators for different regions.

ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN has been initiated by International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), winner of the '1998 Right Livelihood Award'. IBFAN has more than 200 public interest groups working around the world to improve infant feeding practices and save lives of infants and young children. IBFAN works for the universal and full implementation of 'International Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Guardian Diary reports on Nestlé misleading George Clooney

The Guardian has picked up on the launching of our esposé showing how Nestlé misled George Clooney about its baby food marketing practices. See today's Guardian Diary at:

The article reports: "The company insists that it adheres to the highest ethical standards and has been straight with Clooney in all respects."

They really don't care what they say!

Nestlé told Mr. Clooney that he could ignore Baby Milk Action’s evidence of ongoing pushing of baby milks, which undermines breastfeeding and harms infant health, on the grounds the Methodist Church had decided it was okay to invest. What it didn’t tell him was the rationale of the Church’s Central Finance Board:

“[The Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics in Investment – JACEI] acknowledges and respects the work of organisations such as Baby Milk Action in highlighting the scandal of inappropriate marketing of breast milk substitutes. The way in which the CFB responds to such activities is to engage with company managements and seek change from within. These approaches should be seen as complementary strategies working to achieve a common aim.”

The Methodist Conference took the view:

“JACEI acknowledges the continuing concern with regard to some aspects of Nestlé’s interpretation of the International Code, the implementation of company guidelines and the transparency of the procedures for monitoring compliance. These concerns may cause some through conscience to maintain a consumer boycott of Nestlé products.”

Nestlé also gave Mr. Clooney an article written by a midwife and colleagues who had enjoyed an all-expenses-paid trip to Nestlé’s Swiss HQ. It neglected to mention that the lead author had worked with Nestlé prior to the visit or that Baby Milk Action was given a substantial right-to-reply to the article in the British Journal of Midwifery to highlight factual errors and misuse of references. Of course, Nestlé didn’t give Mr. Clooney our right-to-reply along with the article.

Nestlé is the worst of the baby food companies, not only in the way it puts its own profits before infant health and mothers’ rights, but in the dishonest means it uses to try to divert criticism. Mr. Clooney would be correct to feel he has been taken for a ride by Nestlé. Although he has not responded to our past communications, we hope he will look at the new exposé of Nestlé’s false claims, which is available to the public on our website, and take appropriate action. See:

Source documents regarding the Methodist Church are available via:

Analysis of the British Journal of Midwifery article is available at:

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Nestlé manipulation in the spotlight: celebrities, spying and re-writing its own Wikipedia page

We launched a new briefing paper on Nestlé last week in Zurich, alongside campaigners concerned ab out Nestlé's trade union busting activities in Colombia and spying in Switzerland. You can download it from our press release about the event at:

The spying case relates to Nestlé hiring someone through the Securitas company to pass themselves of as an activist to infiltrate Attac Switzerland, which was preparing a book on Nestlé malpractice. The spy passed information to a former MI6 officer working for Nestlé. The foreward to the Attac book was written by Susan George, who commented last year:

---Statement from Susan George

I had the honour of writing the preface to the book Attac contre l’Empire Nestlé, and as such I would like to provide the following statement as I am unable to attend the press conference on June 13.

From the time I began following Nestlé’s activities in the 1970s, I have known it as a corporation that does not take criticism and will go to any length to force its point of view and, whenever possible, cover up unfavourable findings. I am not familiar with the applicable Swiss law in this case, but I do know that Switzerland is a democratic country and that this time, Nestlé has gone too far. If the espionage carried out by Nestlé against members of Attac Vaud, including violations of their homes and private lives, is considered “legal,” then no one is safe any longer. If Nestlé can infiltrate citizens’ groups with impunity and monitor their activities that are entirely licit and non-violent, as if it were a State infiltrating a terrorist cell, then social scientists will no longer have the right to work, journalists will no longer be able to carry out investigations in the way the courageous Temps Présent team did. No one will be allowed to criticize transnational corporations or defend human, labour and environmental rights. If such espionage is “legal,” then citizens can no longer act freely, and a new type of soft corporatist fascism also becomes “legal,” put in place not by a government or a political movement but by transnational corporations using private police, that feel they can get away with anything because of their economic power.

As the writer of the preface to Attac Vaud’s book Attac Contre L’Empire Nestlé, I imagine I was spied on just like my colleagues. Consequently, I ask to be to associated with any judicial and/or other action that Attac Vaud and Attac Switzerland may decide to undertake against Nestlé, and I express my full solidarity with them at this difficult time, as well as with the Temps Présent team. I am also certain that the Swiss people will judge the abject behaviour of Nestlé appropriately.

Susan George
Author, honorary president of Attac France

---statement ends

The spying case was one of those in a vote organised by the Berne Declaration, known as the Public Eye Awards, to coincide with the World Economic Forum. You can find full details of the nomination at:

Nestlé did not win on this occasion, though it was an overwhelming winner of a past public vote on corporate malpractice when we nominated it. Here's the nomination document (in English) on the German page for the award:

And there is this graph, which shows how overwhelming was Nestlé's victory and its shame:

"Many people from all over the world voted on the “Public Eye” website for the most blatant case of corporate irresponsibility. The clear winner and thus laureate of the Public’s Award is Nestlé. The Swiss food and beverages company is criticised for labour conflicts in Colombia and for its aggressive marketing methods for baby food, which jeopardize breastfeeding."

While we work to expose Nestlé malpractice, the company has staff trying to cover it up. The misleading and recruiting of George Clooney to relay the company's claims is one example. The spying is another.

A third comes from analysis of the Wikipedia website. This has entries on different subjects which anyone can edit. Editing wars can sometimes result, particularly on contentious topics.

Now there is a site that tracks who is doing the editing and this has detected how Nestlé has removed contentious entries from pages relating to the company. This has found what it describes as possible 'conflict of interest' edits on the following issues:

  • Cricisism of Nestlé’s business practices,
  • Baby milk marketing,
  • Legal action against Ethiopian government,
  • Genetically modified organisms,
  • Nestlé Purina in Venezuela.
You can run the search yourself on the Wikiscanner website:

Having attended the Nestlé shareholder meeting and heard the shareholders hissing and booing whenever a speaker raised concerns about Nestlé practices, I can well believe that investors think the management is doing a good job with its aggressive practices and protecting its financial interests by using celebrities for two-step communication, spying and re-writing history. Profit comes before all else for them.

So perhaps we should not be surprised to see as Susan George says, that Nestlé, "will go to any length to force its point of view and, whenever possible, cover up unfavourable findings."

Part of our role is to help others understand this. The Nestlé Critics website is a resource to help with this and contributions from experts on different aspects of Nestlé malpractice are welcome.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The truth about British Midwives and George Clooney

I wrote last time about how Nestlé misled George Clooney by suggesting our claims of baby food marketing malpractice are wrong because the Methodist Church has invested inn Nestlé. In truth, the Methodist Church Central Finance Board (CFB) has praised : "the work of organisations such as Baby Milk Action in highlighting the scandal of inappropriate marketing of breast milk substitutes." And stated: "The way in which the CFB responds to such activities is to engage with company managements and seek change from within."

Nestlé is trying to undermine marketing controls on the multi-billion pound baby milk market by attempting to discredit its critics. Mr. Clooney has become part of its strategy as his office has relayed the Nestlé spin and not the full story. The spin also ignores the fact that the Church Conference stated that 'engagement' and boycotting Nestlé can be viewed as parallel strategies. (We have no problem in talking to Nestlé, but we did warn the Church Central Finance Board that investing would backfire as Nestlé would misrepresent it. Our warning was ignored, but has been proved right).

Another way in which Nestlé misled Mr. Clooney - which again has been relayed by his office - is to state: "British midwives visited Nestlé in 2005 on a fact finding mission and reported a dissonance between their prior perceptions and what they observed in actual Nestlé culture, ethics, policies and hard evidence."

The implication is that 'British midwives' are on Nestlé side of the disagreement. But the facts are that the midwife on the trip was Chris Sidgwick, who wrote a highly flawed article published in the British Journal of Midwifery (included in the briefing to Mr. Clooney). So flawed is the article, in fact, that Baby Milk Action was given a substantial right to reply. Nestlé neglects to include this with the article. You can read our analysis of the article at:

Aside from the journal’s peer-review process being called into question as misuse of references by the article authors was missed, the British Journal of Midwifery recently gained further notoriety for violating the International Code by distributing a free 2009 calendar promoting a brand of formula from a Nestlé competitor (Aptamil, produced by Danone).

The ‘fact finding mission’ referred to in the Nestlé briefing was, in fact, an all expenses-paid trip to Nestlé’s HQ in Vevey, Switzerland. Chris Sidgwick concluded the article by calling on midwives to accept Nestlé sponsorship. She had earlier worked with Nestlé in launching a video at the Royal College of Midwives Conference. Such materials have to have the authorisation of the Secretary of State for Health, which Nestlé had not obtained. So the launch was against the law - enforcement authorities had to remind Nestlé in 2008 that it requires this authorisation.

Chris Sidgwick, as readers of this blog will know, is funded by Nestlé to run training days targeting health workers. The main speaker at events in 2008 works for Nestlé, but this was not mentioned in the publicity. The links are strong. The speaker, Zelda Wilson, is thanked in the British Journal of Midwifery article for arranging the paid trip to Nestlé Headquarters.

Chris Sidgwick and Zelda Wilson also work with Nestlé’s PR firm, Webber Shandwick, in lobbying students to drop their support for the boycott.

Let us hope that Mr. Clooney will look beyond Nestlé's claim about the views of ‘British Midwives’. Let us also hope he will inform those who he has inadvertantly misled in defending his links to the company the facts of the matter.