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Nestle accused of sanctions-busting in Zimbabwe PDF Print E-mail
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An article in the Daily Telegraph profiles Nestlé under the headline: "Nestlé: the world's biggest food company and one of the 'most boycotted'" and reveals that the company is purchasing 1 million litres of milk per year from Grace Mugabe, wife of the President Robert Mugabe, despite sanctions due to human rights abuses by the regime. According to the article: "American and European officials said that if Nestlé was subject to their rules it would be committing a criminal offence by trading with Mrs Mugabe." The article notes that Nestlé "is not obliged to comply with those sanctions as its headquarters are in Switzerland, but the country has its own set of measures, including against Mrs Mugabe, among which it "is forbidden to make funds available to persons mentioned, or put them, directly or indirectly, at their disposition". Nestlé denies that it has violated Swiss law."

Nestlé is the target of a boycott because it is the worst of the baby food companies in marketing baby foods in breach of international standards. Its practices undermine breastfeeding and mislead people who use formula. According to UNICEF: "Improved breastfeeding practices and reduction of artificial feeding could save an estimated 1.5 million children a year."

In the report on the BBC website Nestlé defends buying the milk, stating: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8277481.stm

"Had Nestle decided to close down its operations in Zimbabwe, the company would have triggered further food shortages and hundreds of job losses among its employees and milk suppliers in an already very difficult situation."

Nestlé reportedly buys just 10 - 15% of its milk from the farms Grace Mugabe has seized from other farmers. So it would not really have to pull out if it respects the sanctions.

The threat sounds strangely familiar. In 1998 Zimbabwe was introducing legislation controlling the marketing of baby foods. Nestlé called a meeting of Parliamentarians and told them that if the law went ahead it would pull out of Zimbabwe. Nestlé said: "This would result in job losses for about 200 people and an extremely negative economic impact on local farmers who supply us with milk, wheat, maize and sugar."

The Minister of Health judged that Nestlé was making an 'idle threat' as Nestlé would not pull out of the country - it wasn't there to create jobs, but to make money. Zimbabwe went ahead with legislation to protect its babies. Nestlé did not pull out of Zimbabwe. Nesté's threat was picked up by Mark Thomas in one of his investigations into Nestlé. See:

http://www.babymilkaction.org/boycott/boyct26.html#2
Later Mark interviewed the Minister of Health, Dr. Stamps, who was very critical of Nestlé's behaviour. See:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/boycott/boyct27.html#2

So when it suits Nestlé to threaten people with hardship it has no qualms. When it suits it to express sympathy for their plight, then it will do so to defend sanction busting! The common factor? Nestlé profit.

It is Nestlé's management style that employees should fear as well when it comes to their job security and keeping their hard-won benefits - not the boycott. With Nestlé rumoured to be interested in a hostile takeover of Cadbury's, people would do well to learn from what happened to Rowntrees. See:
Last Updated ( Dec 07, 2009 at 03:32 AM )
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