Judy Buhrman

Can Nestle be a Good Global Citizen?

Nestlé_GF_GL-300dpiBy Alan Bright, Judy Buhrman, Jenni Ellingson, Jon Harrop, Marra Longo, Anu Narayan

Switzerland-based Nestlé, SA, touts itself “the world’s leading Nutrition, Health and Wellness Company.” Their mission, described as “Good Food, Good Life,” is to “provide consumers with the best tasting, most nutritious choices in a wide range of food and beverage categories and eating occasions.”[1] However, their size and global ubiquity is also marked with a checkered past of questionable marketing and sourcing practices in the developing world, which has long made them a target of boycotts by human rights watch-groups. In the 1970’s Nestle gained notoriety for its role in the well-known Nestlé baby formula scandal, in which predatory promotion methods that targeted poor mothers were linked to deaths and malnourishment among infants in lesser-developed countries (LDC’s). More recently, Nestlé has come under fire from groups like the International Labor Rights Fund, Global Exchange, and Green America, for its failure to ensure that its commodities, such as cacao, are purchased from suppliers that do not exploit child labor.[2] In spite of a 2005 pledge to eliminate child labor from their supply chain by 2005, Nestlé’s Chairman and former CEO Peter Brabek-Letmathe recently called such a goal “nearly impossible.”[3] Emerging markets play an increasingly important role in Nestlé’s portfolio and global strategy Nestlé’s vulnerability to public relations attacks – and apparent inability to account for all of their global business practices – is due in part one of their biggest strengths as a global corporation: the flexibility and independence they have accorded to their subsidiary operations in emerging markets.

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