February 13, 2004
Nestle and Mandela: a Telling Anecdote
In 2000, Nestle representatives in South Africa offered to donate a large sum of money (reportedly in the neighbourhood of $900 000 American) to Nelson Mandela’s Children Fund’s Aids Orphan program. Apparently, all that the corporation wanted in exchange was to be photographed with the world’s most famous African. But to his great credit, Mandela and his organization would not oblige them. A spokesperson for the charity stated their reasons: “Given the Nestle debacle in relation to HIV/Aids infected mothers and their campaign on promoting formula milk…and the disadvantages they put out publicly regarding breastfeeding” the charity had no choice but to refuse the money.
This is great evidence that speaks to the seriousness of Nestle’s crimes. The charity was in need of money to alleviate a desperate situation but would not accept the donation because it refused to be seen as complicit with a company as immoral as Nestle, or to give such an odious corporation any good publicity. Such damning condemnation from such a noble source certainly speaks volumes. It is assuring to know that someone like Mandela is on the boycott’s side.
To all those who wrote to Nestle about the Brazil’s Zero Hunger Program: we appreciate you involvement as it’s important to try to build pressure against Nestle. Good work! As always, feel free to send us any information or correspondence you receive from the corporation.
All of you who emailed Nestle about their unscrupulous involvement in Brazil’s Zero Hunger Program likely received the same response that a few members who wrote to INFACT did. The form letter Nestle sent to boycotters did not mention Brazil, and did not at all deal with the issue at hand. Mary Ellen Crossin, their Consumer Response Representative, instead took the opportunity to play up Nestle’s involvement in implementing the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, a worldwide program to safeguard breastfeeding in hospitals. This initiative set out to put an end to free supplies of infant formula that companies were giving to hospitals. Although companies have complied in many cases, it was first spearheaded by health officials, governments, and non-governmental organizations, not, as Ms. Crossin implied, by corporations such as Nestle.
Ms. Crossin only talked about how Nestle is dedicated to ridding hospitals of free samples of formula (a claim which is not upheld by independent evidence). The insidious thing about their involvement in Brazil is that they are not even donating infant formula, but a more dangerous product that is under no circumstances a viable breastmilk substitute. Ms. Crossin did not address this in any way.
It has been speculated that Nestle’s donation to the Zero Hunger Program was only made to encourage the country’s Administrative Council of Economic Defense to allow the company to take over the Garoto Chocolate company, located in Brazil. At the time the donation was announced, the council’s verdict was still pending. Nestle might have thought that its donation would tip the balance, but the commission decided to forbid the takeover due to the fact that it would give Nestle a monopoly. The Swiss company has now been ordered to sell its share of Garoto. Seemingly as retribution, Nestle has suspended US$ 150 million of investment that had been destined to Brazil. This has angered the national government as the money would have helped create jobs. The company may appeal the decision in court, but for now they have been stymied.