Influence / Lobbying

Nestlé SA


Influence / Lobbying Groups

A brief glance at Nestlé's board of directors and executive directors shows connections with the major international lobby groups.

Famous for his quote 'Ethical decisions that injure a firms ability to compete are actually immoral', Helmut Maucher, now honorary chairman of Nestlé, is one of the arch-priests of corporate-led globalisation (see 'Who, where, how much?' section for more details and links to a brilliant New Internationalist profile). Maucher has headed up major international corporate lobby groups such as the European Roundtable of Industrialists and the International Chamber of Commerce, probably the most powerful lobby group on earth, as well as the Geneva Business Dialogues in 1998 with the UN. His role has essentially been to secure Big Business its place at the heart of influencing major multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations as well as at the G8 and OECD.

He is also on the board of trustees of the World Economic Forum, whose annual meeting in Davos draw regular protests.[footnote: For a fascinating insider's view of the WEF see http://www.ranprieur.com/crash/WEF2003.html]

CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, meanwhile, is on the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), more information on which can be found at www.xs4all.nl/~ceo/ebsummit/factsheet3.htm

Brabeck-Letmathe is also on the International Council of the Bretton Woods Committee, which 'works to educate Americans and their elected leaders about the many ways that international growth and development benefit the US economy and the role played by the international financial institutions in promoting that growth'.[39] In other words, a lobby group for the IMF and World Bank.

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Former Nestlé director Arthur Dunkel deserves a paragraph all to himself: He was the Director General of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) from 1980-1993, and was responsible for the notorious Dunkel Draft, which formed the basis for the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). He is also a registered WTO dispute panellist, meaning that he is one of the privileged few who gets to decide on such issues as whether environmental laws or legislation against GM crops are barriers to free trade. He has also been on the International Chamber of Commerce working group on international trade and investment policy.[40] His varied roles occasionally provide conflicts of interest, as in 1998 when he was selected by WTO Director-General Renato Ruggiero to serve on the dispute panel over a US law on which the International Chamber of Commerce had taken a strong position. In the end the panel's authority lapsed before it could consider the case. [41] He is one of the clearest examples of the World Trade Organization being an organization run for and by big business.

Former Nestlé Vice-President, Frank Cella, has also been involved in promoting 'free trade': As Chairman of the Grocery Products Manufacturers of Canada, he was on the Task Force on Trade Policy during Canada-US trade talks. [42]

Former Nestlé UK chief executive, Peter Blackburn, moved on to become chairman of Northern Foods plc.[footnote: See http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/profiles/food_supermarkets/northern_foods/northern_foods1.html]
He is also President of the major UK lobby group, the Food and Drink Federation. [footnote: See Corporate Watch profile, 'The Food and Drink Federation'. http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/profiles/food_drink/food1.htm]. Blackburn managed to have a major influence on Tony Blair over the decision not to vaccinate during foot and mouth crisis in the UK in 2001 (see 'Corporate Crimes' section).

Research and Education

In the UK, Nestlé has produced educational materials for schools, for children of all ages, on a variety of subjects, including "Food - A Global Industry", which will hardly encourage critical thinking about the way we eat.[footnote: For more information, see: www.nestle.co.uk/about/education/] Other contributions made by Nestlé to education are its sponsorship of the Australian Institute of Sport [43] and the American Community School of Athens. [44]

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Links with Government

Nestlé's links with governments are plentiful and powerful. It has clearly picked its board of directors with great care to ensure close links with both the Swiss and other governments. Nestle director, Kaspar Villiger, is a former Swiss head of state, finance minister and an IMF governor, so must be able to pull a few strings! Another director is Eddie George (Lord George of St Tudy), the former Governor of the Bank of England. Nestlé director, Nobuyuki Idei served as Chairman of the IT Strategy Council, an advisory committee to Japan’s Prime Minister from July to November 2000. He has now been appointed a member of Japan's IT Strategy Headquarters. [46]

Vice-President Michael Garrett has been appointed by the Australian government as Chairman of the Food Industry Council and Member of the Industry Council of Australia. [47]

Joe Weller, the chairman and CEO of Nestlé USA, is acknowledged by the Bush 2004 campaign as one of its 327 “Pioneers” - fundraisers who have pledged to raise at least $100,000 in donations. [footnote: http://www.georgewbush.com/Donors/Rangers.aspx#Pioneers]

Former Director Vreni Spoerry has been a member of the Swiss National Council (parliament) since 1983, and sits on the permanent commissions for economy, social security and health

Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, who had previously supported critics of Nestlé over its marketing of artificial milk, became a staunch defender of the company in 2002 and is now listed as “Consultant on International Affairs to Nestlé, UK”. When Nestlé failed to turn up to a European Parliament public hearing on corporate accountability, Lord Ahmed requested permission to speak on its behalf and, when refused, offered to organise a meeting between MEPs and the company. The reversal happened after a visit to some of Nestlé's facilities in Pakistan – a trip paid for and arranged by Nestlé, a fact Lord Ahmed failed to reveal during an interview on the BBC Asia Network, where he defended the company at length, accusing a Pakistani Nestlé whistleblower of attempting to blackmail the company. [footnote: http://politics.guardian.co.uk/green/story/0,9061,669900,00.html]

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PR Companies

Weber Shandwick is known to advise Nestlé [48], as is Munro and Forster [49]

In 2004, high-profile charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer refused a donation of Ł1 million from Nestlé. The company offered to support the charity financially and promote its work on packets of Nestlé breakfast cereals, such as Shredded Wheat and Golden Grahams. An official reason for the refusal wasn't given, but it is understood that the staff at the charity called the organisation to reject the money, fearing that Nestlé hoped to use Breakthrough's respectability and positive image to bolster its own position. Critically, Nestlé has been boycotted for its sale of baby-milk substitutes, undermining breastfeeding which has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.[footnote: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1210418,00.html]

During 2004, two academic conferences also decided not to apply for sponsorship money from Nestlé. These were the 12th International Conference of the International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation and the 8th Nordic conference on Nutrition. [Footnote: http://www.babymilkaction.org/press/press10sept04.html]

Marketing
Advertising Age estimate Nestlé had a 2002 worldwide ad spend of $1.5bn, making the company the world's #9 advertiser.

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References
[39] www.brettonwoods.org/aboutus.html
[40] Corporate Europe Observer, Issue 4, July 1999, www.xs4all.nl/~ceo/observer4/
[41] www.citizen.org/trade/wto/Dispute/articles.cfm?ID=5570
[42] See note 26.
[43] www.ais.org.au/nutrition/Nestlé.htm
[44] www.acs.gr/index.html
[45] See note 17
[46] www.ir.nestle.com/Nestle_Overview/Directors_Officers/Board_of_Directors/Board+of+Directors.htm
[47] www.ir.nestle.com/Nestle_Overview/Directors_Officers/Executive_Board/Executive+Board.htm
[48] The Guardian, Thursday 26th July 2001.
[49] www.marketing.haynet.com/leagues/00pr/top2.htm
 
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