Nestle Ethics

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Becky Milne 27th December 2012
Law and Ethics Case Study – Nestle
Many lawful and ethical issues in Public Relations come from large corporations drive to maximise profits. An example of this is Nestles unethical conduct regarding their infant milk in the early 70’s, causing a huge scandal. Along with other aggressive marketing techniques Nestle was appointing uniformed Nurses to distribute the baby formula and leaflets for free in hospitals and maternity wards in the developing world, such as in Ethiopia and Indonesia. Nestle gave new mothers this formula long enough for their own milk to dry up, therefore leading them becoming dependent on the formula, and at the time United States Agency for International Development official Dr Stephan Joseph blamed ‘reliance on baby formula for a million infant deaths every year though malnutrition and diarrheal diseases’, showing the possible effects of Nestles unethical advertising in the developing world. http://www.businessinsider.com/nestles-infant-formula-scandal-2012-6?op=1 Nestle gave poor health workers gifs to promote their products as well as sponsoring hospital products such as branding newborn wrist bands and nurses prescription pads to get the brand in the forefront of people’s minds and believe it has beneficial products due to healthcare support. Nestle undermined new mothers confidence in breast feeding by the promotion of its infant milk and abused the want for westernisation in the developing world. There are many issues surrounding Nestles infant milk and its promotion. Formula is less healthy for a newborn baby and considerably more expensive than breast milk. In the developing world most could not afford this expense so gave their child weak milk to make the formula last, leading to children getting sever lack of nutrients and vitamins that they require for healthy growth. The formula also requires clean water which in many places in the developing world is not available, increasing the spread of diseases and diarrhea within infants. The infant formula also lacks basic nutrients that a newborn baby needs. This shows how Nestle took advantage of the undereducated who do not understand sanitation and nutritional needs. Labels were also not translated to the countries in which the product was been distributed, so a full understanding of the product was being withheld.

Nestles promotion and widespread distribution of baby formula in the developing world led to huge damage to the brands reputation globally, especially in the developed world which in turn led to a global boycott of Nestle in the late 70’s leading to a huge fall in sales figures and lack of trust in the brand. Many made Nestles unethical behaviour public including the New Internationalists expose describing the controversial marketing practices used to get thirds world mothers ‘hooked’ on formula, published in 1973. In 1974 London’s War on Want organisation also published a booklet on Nestles behaviour called the ‘baby killer’ exposing the consequences of baby formula and unethical marketing techniques. This organisation and its translators were later sued by Nestle for its publication. * Even though Nestles behaviour was seen as extremely unethical it was not illegal as no laws were in place surrounding marketing of baby food products. However, due to public outrage and awareness of Nestles unethical marketing practices hearings were held in 1978 between the US Senate, the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the International Baby Food Action Network which led to a new set of marketing rules for baby formula and food products and by 1981 the international codes of marketing breast milk substitutes had been created. Key points of these rules are shown below. Baby food companies may not:

* promote their products in hospitals, shops or to the general public * give free samples to mothers or free or subsidised supplies to hospitals or maternity wards * give...
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