Below is my intervention at Nestlé’s Shareholder meeting in April 2010 in Lausanne. I challenged the company about its failure to abide by marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly and about it health claims strategy which tells mothers in 120 countries that its baby milk will ‘protect’ their babies. At this AGM we were joined by Greenpeace activists who cut through the ceiling to challenge Nestle about its exploitation of palm oil.
In response to Greenpeace, Peter Brabeck, Nestlé’s Chair and CEO said: ‘Tying corporations up in regulatory straightjackets is unnecessary when companies such as Nestlé already have sound principles and core values.’
Here’s my intervention:
Good afternoon. Thank you very much for allowing me to speak once more….. My Name is Patti Rundall and I am sorry to have to come here again but I do so on behalf of thousands of citizens and IBFAN groups around the world who monitor the marketing of baby foods and who try to make sure that babies lives are not put at risk by this company’s marketing.
Now Its been really interesting to hear Mr Brabeck go on so much about core values and principles. It’s very beguiling and I know that a lot of people do actually believe what he says. But he knows that I have to look at the actual practices and look in detail at what Nestle is doing. And that is why I would like to ask you to help me now to really try and find a way to bring an end to this interminable problem that is causing so much harm to children.
I want to focus on just a few issues then and will try and be really short.
- In the exhibition Hall at the AGM last year Nestlé’s new strategy for promoting baby milk around the world was on show. This was a new “protect’ logo which essentially claims that Nestlé formulas ‘Protect” babies who are fed on them. Now this may not seem like a very big issue to you, but think about it for a minute. It is a really misleading thing to say that this product is going to protect your baby from infection when in fact its not in dispute that babies fed on formula are far more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, are more likely to die. These labels are turning up around the world, even in the poorest countries in the world such as Malawi.
- We do want you to improve the quality of your products but please don’t make claims on them. Breastmilk substitutes are nothing like breastmilk and they should never, ever, carry claims. So I would really like you to do that because I simply can’t understand how the Board can defend such a practice. This is the sort of thing that fuels the boycott and is why Nestle is still one the most boycotted companies on the planet.
- Another crucial issue is sponsorship. I was very pleased that Mr Brabeck mentioned the whole issue of sponsorship and the need to make sure that CSR means something. Well, in fact, what Nestle does is show endless largesse and willingness to sponsor activities which target mothers and this is used (passed off) as Corporate Social Responsibility. So it’s TV shows in Egypt, baby clubs in the Philippines, school education schemes in India, websites, medical seminars etc. These are not in compliance with the WHA Resolutions and in many countries, such as India and Sri Lanka, such sponsorship is also in violation of legislation. It is a clear conflict of interest and a dangerous thing to do – even though it sounds like a good thing to those who don’t know and don’t understand the implications. Sponsorship of education leads to exploitation of children.
- So will you:
- stop making health and nutrition claims on all foods for infants and young children and especially stop using the ‘protect’ logo
- put the correct warnings on labels [regarding intrinsic contamination with Enterobacter Sakazakii and the need to make up the formula with water at 70 degrees. ]
- stop sponsoring infant and young child feeding resources
- clarify the system of reporting and the role of the ombudsman – because we’ve had no success with this.
Also I wonder if the issue of obesity has been raised at Board level? Last year it had not been, yet in the EU you claim to be concerned about it.
So I would really like the Assembly to help me stop this killing because this is really intolerable and can’t go on.