Does Nestlé deserve a break?

It was great to discover earlier this week that Nestlé had launched the Fair Trade version of their four finger KitKat. This marks a great step forward in the campaigns to see major manufacturers adopt the Fair Trade mark, but has also generated some mixed reactions.

Having joined a boycott of Nestlé products whilst I was at university following the baby milk scandal and outcry over various labour rights abuses, this latest revelation has made me think again. Many have argued that this move towards using Fair Trade cocoa is merely a token gesture and will not change the practises of the company in other areas. Nestlé previously launched its own range of Fair Trade Coffee, but the marketing campaign was accused of being dishonest and misleading, and the promises of investing further in Fair Trade coffee failed to materialise.

Some are determined to continue their boycott of Nestlé products, in order to force the manufacturer to amend its policies and commit to a fairer trading system. Whilst it is true that the Fair Trade KitKat only represents a marginal section of Nestlé’s overall sales, I am determined to remain optimistic. Many of Nestlé’s other products may be tainted by their poor human rights record, but we can be assured that where we see the Fair Trade mark, producers are getting a better deal for their cocoa.

The move by Cadbury and Nestlé may only represent a partial commitment to Fair Trade, but it also symbolises a great achievement on the part of campaigns that have fought hard to get Fair Trade products onto supermarket shelves, and raise awareness of the plight of producers in developing countries. The battle is far from over, and campaigns will continue to encourage large multinationals to change their ways, and commit to providing a fairer deal for all.

I will be buying the Fair Trade KitKat, supporting Nestlé’s new initiative, but my boycott of other Nestlé products rests. If support of Fair Trade products increases sales, perhaps this will encourage companies to extend their commitment to Fair Trade.

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Published in: on December 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. Thank you for linking to my blog.

    However, let me just clarify that Baby Milk Action promotes a boycott of Nestlé over its aggressive marketing of baby milk in violation of international standards, which undermines breastfeeding and contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of babies around the world. At the current time we are focusing on Nestlé’s latest marketing strategy which is to claim that its formula ‘protects’ babies – it does not, babies fed on it are more likely to become sick and, in conditions of poverty, they are more likely to die.

    The boycott forces Nestlé to change – and eventually I am confident we will pressure Nestlé into removing its ‘protects’ logos and claims from its infant formula labels and other materials, but it will be a slog. Nestlé’s attempt to paint itself as an ethical company has as much to do with trying to undermine the boycott as trying to divert criticism of its failure to act on child labour and slavery in its cocoa supply chain.

    It is true that the 6,000 farmers supply the Fairtrade KitKat will benefit from better treatment, but arguably a greater impact would be achieved by compelling Nestlé to deliver on its 2001 commitment to end child labour and slavery in its supply chain by 2006. It not only failed to live up to its promises, but boycotted a meeting called by Senator Harkin – co-sponsor of the Harkin-Engel Protocol – to address the failings.

    Nestlé has been taken to court in the US by campaign groups on behalf of trafficked children and is arguing that it has no responsibility for how people are treated as it is simply a purchaser. No doubt Nestlé’s forthcoming advertising campaign for Fairtrade KitKat will highlight the benefits to the 6,000 farmers in the scheme, with no mention of the treatment of farmers and children supplying the 99% of Nestlé’s cocoa outside of it.

    Nestlé has received a very good press from this launch and even has the UK Minister for Trade and Development praising it while failing to mention these other issues.

    It’s a great investment for Nestlé – the Fairtrade premium for the cocoa for Fairtrade KitKat costs it less than £400,000 per year, a drop in the ocean to a company that is currently spending £43 million in the UK advertising Nescafé – the principal target of the boycott. The global publicity is worth a fortune to Nestlé and may mean it can put off addressing these other concerns a while longer.
    http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2009/12/nestle-kitkat-minister.html


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