Baby Milk Action sends condolences to the family of Helmut Maucher, (Nestlé CEO from 1981 – 1997). However, while he is being praised as a strong and visionary leader, its important we not forget the harm he caused to so many children over so many years. Maucher presided over Nestlé following the adoption of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in 1981, and set the company’s policy of refusal to abide by the minimum marketing requirements set by the World Health Assembly. Nestlé’s response to accusations with public relations coverups, started with Maucher (see Save the Children in China story below) and persists today. Nestlé still pretends to be code compliant (when it clearly is not) and suggests that more trust and ‘partnership’ is the answer.
For recent evidence of Nestlé’s continued harmful marketing of baby feeding products see: Save the Children Report Don’t Push it IBFAN ICDC Global Monitoring Report (Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules, 2017)
Nestlé dumps ethics at its AGM
Ethics and democracy were two key issues at the Nestlé Shareholder meeting in Lausanne in April. Over 2000 shareholders were present and, in front of US TV cameras, Nestlé was on best behaviour – friendly with everyone – publicly welcoming the news on breastfeeding (See Update 29).
Unlike smaller companies, where shareholders are at least able to get resolutions put on the agenda, £147.5m is needed to do this with Nestlé. Nestlé’s refusal to turn up at the EU Parliamentary Hearing illustrates further its lack of respect for democratic procedures (see below).
IBFAN has attended the AGM since the early 90’s when non-Swiss were allowed to own shares after Nestlé bought Rowntree. At this years AGM, Patti Rundall of Baby Milk Action asked the new CEO, Peter Brabeck, a number of questions, including his views on ethics.
Patti Rundall questioned Mr. Brabeck on the views of Helmut Maucher, his predecessor and now President. In his book, ‘Leadership in Action: Tough Minded strategies from the Global Giant’, Maucher said:
“Ethical decisions which injure a company’s ability to compete are actually immoral.”
Mr. Brabeck commented:
“I decided to eliminate the word ethical from Nestlé because it’s a word which divides people as opposed to uniting them. Ethics, if you look into dictionaries, are a set of moral standards within a very specific unit of society, and ethical standards in Britain, Switzerland, Chile and China vary to a large extent. And because this word is more likely to divide than to unite we don’t talk about ethics at Nestlé. We talk about responsibility. Our responsibility to our shareholders, our employees, and all other stakeholders. It’s true that we do have a social responsibility that corresponds to a global company as opposed to the group interests of one community or another community.”
Does a low-income mother count as a ‘stakeholder’ or a ‘responsiblity’ for Nestlé?
- Tying corporations up in a regulatory straightjackets is unnecessary when companies such as Nestlé already have sound principles and core values. Peter Brabeck Nestle Chair AGM 2010
- Ethical decisions that injure a firms ability to compete are actually immoral.Helmut Maucher, Nestle Vice President and CEO (1980 – 1997) Taken from New Internationalist and extracted from “Leadership in Action: Tough-minded Strategies from the Global Giant.”
- “Companies shouldn‘t feel obligated to ‘give back‘ to the community, because they haven’t taken anything away…..companies should only pursue charitable endeavors with an underlying intention of making money for investors.” Peter Brabeck, Boston Herald, March 2005