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Still Boycotting Nestlé

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As my post on my decision to boycott Nestlé is doing the rounds on Facebook again (and I mentioned it on twitter this week) I thought I’d write an update on where I am with it.

Firstly, it’s important to note that I’m not just sitting on my computer moaning about unfair marketing. I support Baby Milk Action with paid membership, and by buying their anti-Nestlé / pro-breastfeeding products. BMA are responsible for keeping Nestlé on their toes by campaigning against their unfair labelling of artificial milks in developing countries, as well as leading the way on campaigning against companies targeting health workers with misleading advertising, etc.

Anyway… the actual boycott. I have completely cut Nestlé purchases out of my life, having not knowingly bought a Nestlé (or Rowntrees, L’Oreal, Body Shop, etc) branded product in over 2 years. I accidentally bought some Buitoni pasta not knowing it was a subsidiary of Nestlé but that, I think, is my only slip up. Considering that — prior to the boycott — I would purchase several Kit Kats a week, drank Nescafé coffees almost exclusively, regularly bought Nestlé cereals, ice cream, etc I am quite pleased with how easy to cut the company out of my shopping basket when I put my mind to it.

Of course, even if we assume that I spent £1000 a year on Nestlé products, that’s little more than a pebble in the ocean for this huge multinational monster. But… my post has been seen by over 30,000 different people in 2 years. Who knows how many of those people have removed even just one product from their lives, or talked about the boycott with someone else. I know of several people who now boycott Nestlé because of my post.

Every time someone thinks twice about buying a Kit Kat, I feel like I’ve achieved a small victory.

The Nestlé boycott is the longest running boycotts worldwide and Nestlé are one of the most boycotted brands in the UK. It continues to be necessary because they continue to use underhand techniques to market their artificial milks (not translating safety information on labels in foreign countries, trying to weaken baby milk legislation in a country where thousands of babies die because of inappropriate artificial milk feeding etc).

As well as the baby milk issues, they are also boycotted because of their testing on animals, use of child slave labour to harvest cocoa, rainforest destruction etc

Why aren’t you boycotting them yet?

Update: Wikipedia has a full Nestlé product list including country-specific brands.

Jem Turner +44(0)7521056376

20 comments so far

  1. Aisling said:

    I try. It’s hard to figure out everything they’re related to, but I definitely do think about it and try to figure out which one isn’t Nestle. I let them give me a few thousand dollars in prizes, flights and accommodation in August. I think once I am on my own I will be a bit better about it too, because I will be the one shopping for myself, instead of my parents who shop for the household. Maybe I’ll just tag along on one of your shopping trips and you can just give me the rundown! :D

  2. Charlie said:

    I’m with Aisling, a list would be useful, especially where companies are connected and it’s not obvious on the labels. Been boycotting since your first post and only eating their stuff when there was nothing else, which is thankfully not much because I got most of my family boycotting too. But it’s hard to identify everything.

  3. Chantelle said:

    I’m not actively boycotting them because I don’t buy any of their products–there’s nothing for me to stop doing. But I have gone to the body shop and paid seriously marked up prices for goods that are not supposed to have been tested on animals, handmade, etc.

    If they lied about that, I am pissed.

  4. MrsB said:

    I have heard of the Nestle boycott several times and thankfully don’t buy many things from that list anyway. The only items that still need to go are Cheerios, Shreddies and some cosmetic products :| Thank you for reminding me to be more vigilant!

  5. Kristina said:

    I tend not to buy many Nestle products but I struggle to go all out on boycotts, partly because I think that the vast majority of massive corporations are exploitative and unethical (Procter & Gamble, Coca Cola and so on) so it’s really difficult to avoid all of them.

    Also, I’m not sure the list of brands on there is complete, because L’Oreal controls brands like Ralph Lauren, YSL and Diesel. So I suppose Nestle is linked to them too.

  6. Stephanie said:

    Thanks for this post! I just read the boycott list, and thankfully, have no need for most of the products on that list. I never realized the extent they have gone just to make money. Luckily, many of the brands on the list aren’t widespread in the US, so my boycott will be quite easy.

    Out of curiosity, is there another company making artificial baby milk that doesn’t do these same practices. I ask because my mom dried up within a few months even though she was trying to breastfeed my brother and me as much as possible, and my one of my roommate’s mom never had any milk to begin with. While my roommate and I would both love to breastfeed our future babies, there’s a good chance that genetics will make our bodies will do what our moms’ bodies did and force us to rely on artificial milk.

    • Jem said:

      I’m not aware of any genetic link between breastfeeding difficulties, although I would say that there is almost certainly a link between mothers who breastfeed ‘successfully’ and their daughters doing so, but that’s nothing to do with breasts and everything to do with support and confidence.

      Most (as in, the vast majority) can physically breastfeed, but the support for mums 20-30 years ago was non existent. Insistence on 3hr-4hr feeding routines, separation of mum and baby in hospital, supplementation without need, misreading normal feeding signs (cluster feeding, growth spurts) as lack of milk etc… endless list of ‘problems’ that are easily solved now we know why/how,

      Anyway, with all that said I think all formula companies in the UK are as guilty of awful / misleading marketing practices, so would recommend anyone who needs to use artificial milk for whatever reason, to pick the cheapest their baby will tolerate.

  7. Lea said:

    Boycotting Nestle is not really difficult for me, since I only buy store brands. But I had heard a long time ago about their massacre of babies in developing countries with their formula…

  8. Tyson said:

    They’re not cleaning up their act because the boycott’s been going for 30 years and hasn’t been very effective.

    I don’t boycott them (but don’t go out to buy their products) because of what someone else upthread said. There are hundreds of exploitative, greedy, unethical corporations, I don’t think Nestle is the worst by far.

    On a positive note, in New Zealand a boycott did work – Kiwis boycotted local company Whittakers until it stopped using palm oil from orangutan habitats in its chocolate. Unfortunately Cadburys still does.

    • Jem said:

      How do you define effectiveness?

      People are deliberately avoiding Nestlé products either in part or completely – that’s a loss of profit they may have otherwise received (and there were several on twitter who replied telling me they boycott Nestlé completely so add them too). Given that they are one of the most boycotted companies, think about that in terms of profit loss…

      Baby Milk Action has successfully spearheaded several campaigns against Nestlé; the most recent that springs to mind is getting a ‘baby milk roadshow’ stopped – (is that a measure of effectiveness?)

      I have no doubt that there are plenty of companies out there that are corrupt, greedy, etc but if we do nothing because of that, because it’s “too hard”, because finding alternatives for Nestlé products is “too time consuming” then we may as well just lie down and let the fuckers kick us to death now. To borrow a phrase from an ethically-questionable supermarket: every little helps.

  9. Tyson said:

    Nestle reported a 8.9% growth in the first half of the year. Mostly stemming from emerging markets (where they’re pushing their formula the most). So no, I don’t think it’s been effective.

    • Jem said:

      They had a strong profit last year too but that wasn’t my point – the point was that their profits would be even higher if all of the boycotters stopped boycotting.

      That aside, I just don’t get the “no point boycotting because they’re still making a profit” argument. All the more reason to boycott from where I’m sitting.

  10. Tyson said:

    Unfortunately there is no way to prove their profit ‘would be even higher’ so that argument is academic.

    The boycott’s media presence hasn’t kept up with Nestle’s behemoth marketing and relentless rolling out into the developing world.

    • Stephanie said:

      Gosh darn academics! They don’t know anything up in their ivory towers!

      So as someone earning a PhD in Management (admittedly on the “micro” side, Org Behavior, and not the “macro” side, Strategic Management, but I know enough about SM to hold my own), I can tell you researchers studying the effects of activism on firms have shown replying to activism in an engaging, proactive manner increases overall productivity and profitability in firms. Of course there are a number of factors at play, such as legitimacy, power, interest, etc. of primary and secondary stakeholders, so this is quite boiled down, but overall it seems to be that firms who answer activist concerns are more profitable and have a better community reputation. To the extent that the activists’ claims are legitimate and primary stakeholders agree with the activists’ POV (and the amount of power the primary stakeholders have), profitability is increased when activist concerns are answered in a satisfying manner.

      It makes good logical sense… more people who weren’t buying before because you pissed them off will start supporting the company, and your customers will have more warm, fuzzy feelings toward you because you are so proactive, and good community rep leads to increased profitability as well.

      Of course, you are correct, there is no way to “prove” their profit would be higher. Scientists, however, never endeavor to “prove” things, as it quite simply isn’t possible. However, we do gather evidence in support of hypotheses, and current evidence seems to indicate it’s more likely that proactively responding to activists (once again, to the extent that…) leads to increased profitability. And I must urge you, once again, to understand it isn’t THAT simple in process, but when you boil down the results, that’s what you tend to find.

      You are also correct in that the boycott hasn’t kept up with the behemoth… it needs to become much greater before Nestle takes real action. However, the greater the opposition, the greater potential for profitability increases upon engaging with the activists. Perhaps the benefits of meeting activist demands do not currently outweigh the benefits of keepin’ on. Which is a shame, but as Jem said, it’s all the more reason to keep plugging away if you truly believe what Nestle is doing is wrong.

  11. Murasaki said:

    Glad I read this post as I read another on Nestle today and there in the comments was the inevitable comment about not being wiling to give up Kit Kats (under the pic of the malnourished child no less) and my faith in humanity sunk to a daily low.
    Nestle doesnt get any of my money, knowingly. I avoid as much as I can the products of the big multinationals. Sometimes its impossible – even some small names and homebrand options are owned by the biggies but I do my best.
    In Australia Nestle even damages the health of Australian children I believe with their misleading commercials for Milo products among others. They make vague health claims – such as Milo cereal helping your children “fight the fuzzies” with images of children absorbed in school work while non Milo-ated children are falling asleep for lack of chocolate breakfast. Seriously.

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