Boycott Nestlé

I read yesterday that Nestlé was approved to withdraw 400 gallons of water a minute in Michigan at the low cost of $200 a year. Meanwhile, the residents of Flint have been struggling over water since April 2014. I find that unacceptable.

I started to think about Nestlé and an old memory came rushing back. Back in the 70s, when I was a young man, declining rates of breastfeeding led a number of organizations to raise concerns about the marketing practices of Nestlé baby formula in developing countries. It was reported that in poverty-stricken cities in Asia, Africa and Latin America, babies were dying because their mothers were bottle feeding them with formula.

Nestlé contributed to this in three ways, according to New Internationalist in a 1982 article:

  • Creating a need where none existed.

  • Convincing consumers the products were indispensable.

  • Linking products with the most desirable and unattainable concepts, then giving a sample.
The result of this marketing push, according to War on Want, was that millions of babies died from malnutrition.

In a New York Times article, United States Agency for International Development official, Dr. Stephen Joseph, blamed reliance on baby formula for a million infant deaths every year through malnutrition and diarrheal diseases.

It also hindered infant growth in general, said War on Want. Citing “complex links emerging between breast feeding and emotional and physical development,” the group said breastfed children walked “significantly better than bottle-fed” kids, and were more emotionally advanced.

Nestlé wasn’t about to take these allegations lying down. It sued a German translator of War on Want’s exposé, which published it in Sweden with the title, “Nestlé Kills Babies.”

Nestlé won the suit in 1976, said Baby Milk Action, but with a caveat: The judge urged them to “modify its publicity methods fundamentally.” Time Magazine declared this a “moral victory” for consumers.

What Nestlé did in the 70s was to create a serious ethical dilemma.

I am not here to pick at old scabs, but rather to discuss Nestlé’s business ethics today. Nestlé is drawing water in BC, Ontario, Michigan and elsewhere and selling it all over the world. They are paying virtually nothing for millions of gallons of water and it is being sold individually for as much as $1.20 per bottle.

There are moral and ethical issues here.

  • Firstly the fact that they are basically getting the water for free.

  • Secondly there are very few jobs created in the bottling and distribution of the product.

  • Thirdly, one million plastic bottles a minute, 1,440,000,000 bottles a day or, 525,600,000,000 bottles a year are being used and discarded.

  • Lastly, and a concern that is hotly debated by Nestlé is that water drawn from our aquifers and transported away is depleting our aquifers. I don’t have the education necessary to prove this but I do have an understanding of rainfall, runoff, transpiration and evaporation that leads me to accept this postulate.
Three years ago Global News reported “Nestlé Waters takes approximately 230 million litres of fresh water every year from an aquifer in the Fraser Valley. They pay $2.25 for every million litres. And that in itself is new, as Nestlé was previous able to take the water for free before new legislation was brought in last year.”

From the information I have been researching it would appear that the Ontario Government has not as yet renewed Nestlé’s permits to draw water at the Aberfoyle and Erin locations. The company is operating legally under the terms of the previous permits. They are asking for a 10 year permit renewal. Nestlé has taken over one BILLION litres since the expiration of the previous contract in Aberfoyle.

There is a lot of money at stake here. The Washington Post reports that “seltzer water became cooler than Coke” and it’s not just bubbly water, bottled water of all types has become a multi billion dollar industry.

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe CEO Nestlé once said “One perspective held by various NGOs, which I would call extreme, is that water should be declared a human right”. At the second World Water Forum in 2000, Nestlé and other corporations persuaded the World Water Council to change its statement so as to reduce access to drinking water from a “right” to a “need.”

The time has come to end the very practice of selling bottled water period. If we don’t buy it they will all stop bottling it. If they stop bottling it then the landfills and oceans will not be filled with the remnants of this unnecessary industry. Bottled water is no safer or better tasting than tap water. If you do a little research you will find that it takes 450 to 1000 years for a plastic water bottle to decompose and that they are filling the oceans and landfills at an alarming rate. Here is a Bloomberg article outlining how Nestlé makes billions bottling water it pays nearly nothing for. What a great corporate citizen.

Let’s do our little part to show Nestlé that their business practices, while certainly profitable, are not acceptable to those with ethics, morals and/or ecological concerns.

Please stop purchasing ALL products from the Nestlé family. Nestlé provides us with this webpage so that we can determine the scope of their product range. We may not have to include Nestlé’s confectionery products in this boycott as they agreed to sell this part of their U.S. business to Italy’s Ferrero for $2.8 billion in an attempt to look more health conscious.


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