Last updated: 14 September 2016

Baby Milk Action has repeatedly put the following plan to Nestlé executives. We call on them to bring company policies and practices into line with international marketing requirements, most recently at the company’s shareholder meeting on 7 April 2016.

4-Point Plan

Nestlé’s response

1. Nestlé must state in writing that it accepts that the International Code and the subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions are minimum requirements for every country. In a letter dated 2 April 2014, Nestlé’s Global Public Affairs Manager wrote: ‘Nestlé has always done its utmost to comply with the WHO Code as implemented by national governments’. This qualification ignores Nestlé’s responsibility under Article 11.3 of the Code to abide by its provisions ‘independently of any other measures’ – many governments have not implemented the Code and Resolutions or have only done so partially, often because of industry pressure.The International Code was adopted in 1981 and article 11.3 is clear: “Independently of any other measures taken for implementation of this Code, manufacturers and distributors of products within the scope of this Code should regard themselves as responsible for monitoring their marketing practices according to the principles and aim of this Code, and for taking steps to ensure that their conduct at every level conforms to them.”The World Health Assembly restated in May 2010 (Resolution 63.23) that it “CALLS UPON infant food manufacturers and distributors to comply fully with their responsibilities under the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly resolutions;” and expressed “deep concern over persistent reports of violations”. Improvements to breastfeeding rates and complementary feeding practices “could save annually the lives of 1.5 million children”.

NOTE: Nestlé’s refusal to accept the validity of the Code and Resolutions also prevented it from being included in the FTSE4Good ethical investment list. However, FTSE4Good weakened its criteria in September 2010 to allow Nestlé to be included even while it systematically violates the marketing requirements. Click here for Baby Milk Action’s briefing recommending that people who want to hold baby food companies to account DO NOT invest in a FTSE4Good tracker.

2. Nestlé must state in writing that it will make the required changes to bring its baby food marketing policy and practice into line with the International Code and Resolutions (i.e. end its strategy of denial and deception). Nestlé continues to dispute any wrong-doing even in the face of documentary evidence of malpractice.For example, at the time of writing, Nestlé’s Global Public Affairs Manager is defending its latest strategy of promoting its breastmilk substitutes with the claim it ‘protects’ babies and other claims.At the company shareholder meeting on 10 April 2014, the Nestlé Vice President who is Head of Nestlé Nutrition said that 90% of the violations of the International Code and Resolutions documented by IBFAN ‘comply with our policies’. This demonstrates that violations are not mistakes or the actions of rogue employees by the product of Nestlé’s policies and management systems. See examples in the Breaking the Rules reports.
3. Baby Milk Action will take the statements to the International Nestlé Boycott Committee and suggest that representatives meet with Nestlé to discuss its timetable for making the required changes. Nestlé has not provided the necessary statements. Baby Milk Action raised this again at the Nestlé shareholder meeting on 7 April 2016, saying to Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmaté on the 150th anniversary of the company: “Nestlé eventually accepted it was wrong to market sweetened condensed milk and farine lactée for feeding babies and it wouldn’t do this today. Mr Brabeck, maybe in 20 years time your successor will be distancing the company from practices that you defend today. You could prevent that by accepting the four-point plan for saving lives and ultimately ending the boycott. We have put it to Nestlé many times. And I welcome you to accept it today.”
4. If IBFAN monitoring finds no Nestlé violations for 18 months, the boycott will be called off. Nestlé continues to violate the Code and Resolutions in a systematic manner.See the Campaign for Ethical Marketing section for action you can take to encourage Nestlé to stop specific violations and to change its policies.