So this week is International No Nestle week as a part of the 30+ years of Nestle boycotting. Last night there was a #NoNestle twitter party, with lots and lots of tweets on the evilness oh Nestle. First off, brilliant move making NoNestle week during Halloween, brilliant.
I have been quietly paying attention to Nestle Boycott for probably the last year. Truth be told, most people don’t hear about until they have kids. Mostly, because some of the strongest boycotters are also breastfeeding advocates. As I said last night in a tweet, I am still very much on the fence. That’s right folks. This is a once in a blue moon situation where I don’t know exactly what my opinion is. Shocking. Usually I am just bubbling with opinions and on this one all I can muster is a: huh.
So I thought I would share some of my thoughts and then ask the boycotters some questions. (I hope some of them make there way over here, I will send out some tweets). Please don’t misinterpretation my pondering for arguments against the boycott– I really truly don’t know. But my ponderings do represent skepticism– which is something I hope to resolve. Through discussion I am hoping to figure out where I really stand on this issue.
First my thoughts:
There are a lot of companies out there that do bad bad things. Because it is in their economic interest and because governments are not strict enough. And many of those companies do even more bad things overseas because those governments are even less strict- caught between a rock and hard place of desperately needing investment and still wanting to protect their people (well, some governments anyway care about this…) So I really really don’t doubt Nestle is a bad bad company. As are others. I also don’t doubt that if you were to put all the companies on a scale from “good corporate citizens” to “bad bad corporate citizens”, Nestle would be hanging out with a large large handful of others in the bad bad category.
So I guess, what my real question is is why Nestle and not any (or all) of the other large large handful of companies? Pharmaceutical companies give out samples to doctors and market their drugs, resulting in more and more people being on prescriptions instead of focusing on a healthy lifestyle. It’s not just formula buying into our health care system. Coke and Pepsi sponsor schools and then fill vending machines and school cafeterias with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) rather then healthy drinks like water or milk. Not to mention Coke and Pepsi aggressively market in many developing countries, where people drink their products rather then water. Just about every maker of processed food puts too much salt and added sugar in their meals, including toddler meals. Chocolate and coffee are two industries where many many of the players are getting supply in ways that harm the people of those countries and the environment. (But there are good options for ‘direct trade’ (a step beyond fair trade) for both.) And I am sure Nestle isn’t the only company controlling water supply and degrading the environment. I live in a Oil town, enough said.
Which brings us to Question 1:
So why boycott Nestle and not all these other companies? Why not turn the Nestle boycott into a boycott against all the worst of the worst unethical companies? (Although with the challenge of all Nestle’s brands causes to even know what your buying, could you imagine multiplying that by 10 or 15 or 50 companies?)
The other thing I have been thinking about is the boycott in relation to breastfeeding support. While I know the boycott is about more then just formula- Nestle has no shortage of bad corporate behaviors- the boycotters themselves are largely breastfeeding advocates- at least the most vocal ones. So I think it is hard to claim that this isn’t about formula. I get the Nestle does not adhere to the WHO code for Breastmilk substitutes. I don’t think any of the formula companies do (correct me if I am wrong). There are parts of the code I am 100% behind- like not giving out samples at hospitals, doctors offices, ect. I am good with formula companies not sending me formula in the mail or sponsoring a big banner on the top of a breastfeeding information article on the web or having their own breastfeeding support hot-line. Seriously, that is all just crazy and inappropriately aggressive marketing. They shouldn’t be able to claim their product is as good or better then breast milk. It ain’t. I am all for truth in advertising. But it is the instore stuff that bothers me. Because I think it is insulting to women to think anyone is going to be rolling her cart down the grocery store, a happy breastfeeding Momma, see a can of formula on sale and think “well hell, it is on sale, I might as well give up this whole breastfeeding thing.” It is my opinion that any women who is swayed by a can of formula on sale is already lacking the support she needs to be successful at breastfeeding- the issue is that lack of support, not the sale on formula. So while I can get down with most of the code, I get bothered by the concept and implications of formula as a ‘controlled substance’ and the idea that women are just sheep to marketing. And I wonder if the effort spend on boycott is not better spend on breastfeeding support.
Then again, many of the strongest Nestle boycotters also put a ton of effort into advocating for better breastfeeding support, so why does it have to be one or the other? Many of them do both. Why not Boycott Nestle?
Question 2: Why shift the blame from lack of support for breastfeeding Moms (adequate maternity leave, access to lactation consultants, ect.) to a company that makes a product? Does the Nestle boycott not take our focus on what really needs to change? Their marketing wouldn’t be as successful if we cut the supply. Their methods work because so many women struggle to breastfeed and don’t have the support to make it work.
Lastly, if we are really honest with ourselves, acts of protests like boycotting are about more then just what we are boycotting against. They are part of a desire to connect and belong with a group of people united behind a cause. Boycotting Nestle says something about who you are and what you stand for. It is a personal statement as much as it is a political choice. And when it comes right down to it- I am not sure I fit in. Before I made my way online I thought I was pretty crunchy- I have discovered I am not in comparison to the people online. And while I have a lot of respect for a lot of the boycotter bloggers- I don’t fit into the club. Or do I? After reading this post over at Sorta Crunchy about why formula feeders should support the boycott, I don’t know. She has a point.
Question 3: Who is a Nestle boycott-er? What similarities unite those that boycott and what does it mean to say you are a Nestle boycott-er? What personal statement are you making?
Additional Reading: If you are on the fence to and want some more info before you jump into this conversation, here are some posts to check out.
Annie from Phd in Parenting. (Ton of stuff on her blog, just liked to the most recent.)
Baby Milk Action
I also tried to find some thing about the ‘other side’ to represent thoughts of someone who doesn’t boycott Nestle and why- I couldn’t find anything. But if anyone has a good link to suggest- let me know. I am all for a balanced approach and hearing out both sides.
*Edited* Oh ooo I found this one: The Mom Slant about the boycott in relation to Halloween. Thank goodness for twitter.
Okay- now I want to hear your thoughts.
*Edit #2* Annie from PhD in Parenting has written a post responding to my questions. (Thank you Annie!) Check it out here. I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on it, as well as the questions I presented. If you are following the boycott, why? If not, why not?