This briefing paper has been produced by the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church (CFB). It attempts to set out the ethical issues, not to reach conclusions. Where any opinions appear to be given they should not be viewed as representing CFB policy. Similarly, they should not be considered as representative of the views of the Methodist Church in general or the Public Life and Social Justice team in particular.
The paper constitutes the initial stage of a consultation process designed to enable the Methodist Church through its Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment (JACEI) to assess the ethical suitability of Nestlé as a potential investment, and to advise the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church accordingly. The consultation will pay particular attention to Nestlé’s performance with respect to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Other aspects of Nestlé’s business will also be considered in arriving at a conclusion.
The structure of this paper is as follows:
1. Review of Key Ethical Issues Concerning Breast-Milk Substitutes 2. Nestlé Policy on Infant Formula Marketing
3. Criticisms Raised by Baby Milk Action
4. FTSE4Good’s Criteria on Infant Formula Marketing
5. The Methodist Church’s Position on Breast-Milk Substitutes 6. Other Ethical Issues Relating to Nestlé
1.Review of Key Issues Relating to Breast-milk Substitutes
The major ethical concern regarding Nestlé relates to the marketing of breast-milk substitutes, as described in the International Code of Breast-Milk Substitutes. These concerns essentially refer to milk-based substitutes, although Article 2 of the Code states: “The Code applies to the marketing, and practices related thereto, of the following products: breastmilk substitutes, including infant formula; other milk products, foods and beverages, including bottle-fed complementary foods, when marketed or otherwise represented to be suitable, with or without modification, for use as a partial or total replacement of breast-milk; feeding bottles and teats. It also applies to their quality and availability, and to information concerning their use.”
there is a dispute between campaigning groups and manufacturers whether they also apply to ‘complementary infant foods’ such as fruit juices and infant cereal. Manufacturers such as Nestlé deny that fruit juices and infant cereal are covered by the Code, whereas Baby Milk Action insists that they are. Nestlé disputes that ‘complementary infant foods’ are covered by the Code, despite the fact that UNICEF has stated in writing to Nestlé that they are covered as set out in Article 2. In its monitoring IBFAN includes complementary foods marketed as replacements for breastmilk (e.g. for feeding during the 6 month period when exclusive breatfeeding is recommended). In addition UNICEF has clarified, in writing, that company representatives cannot use complementary foods to circumvent the prohibition on seeking direct or indirect contact with pregnant women or mothers of infants and young children (children up to three years of age), specified in Article 5.5 of the Code. UNICEF has stated the prohibition is absolute. Complementary foods are otherwise outside the scope of the Code and subsequent, relevant Resolutions adopted by the World Health Assembly, except for the general point in Resolution 49.15 (1996) that: “that complementary foods are not marketed for or used in ways that undermine exclusive and sustained breast-feeding.” So, for example, Nestlé’s practice of promoting powdered whole milk in the infant feeding sections of pharmacies alongside more expensive infant formula is covered by this Resolution.
The controversy relating to milk-based nutritional...