Is Nestle a Bad Company? The Secret of the Chocolate Behemoth

Is Nestle a Bad Company?

This company with its unscrupulous business practices like taking clean drinking water from areas that desperately need it, taking part in human trafficking and child labor, and also young mothers from third world countries that got exploited, Nestle is probably one of the world’s most corrupt companies.

The Nestle Company History And Foundation

Nestle was one of the world’s largest companies for food and drinks. This company was established in 1886 after Henri Nestle developed, patented, and marketed infant food, first in a liquid form and then in a powdered form for better preservation. What is now called the Nestle Group was established after they merged with an Anglo-Swiss condensed milk business. They became a globally involved business as they began producing a wide variety of products.

Nestle and water abuse in Michigan

As the corporate expanded, so did their money-hungry appetites. They used to pump out 200 gallons worth of freshwater out of Michigan-water that the people of Flint desperately needed, and all that was put in public after the National Public Radio made a report about the situation.

The worst was yet to come after the Flint Michigan crisis killed 12 people and hospitalized 87 people. Children started to lose their hair, developed skin lesions, and what was even worse some of them went blind just from bathing in polluted water.

The whole community had no access to fresh tap water just because Governor Rick Snyder decided to switch the city’s water supply from one of Michigan’s most intact water sources to the harmful Flint River in trying to save some money. While the residents of Flint lived in constant fear and worried about how to survive, Nestle company was making a huge profit with their water business.

It is not only that Nestle was taking the clean water from the city while it was in a big water crisis, but what is even worse and unethical they used to sell the water to third world countries that didn’t have access to clean drinking water, for very high prices.

Based on Nestle Pure Life, the company promotes and sells bottled water for two dollars per bottle. To people of America that will look like no big deal, however, in those third world countries where people are able to make only a few cents per day (only those who are working and have a chance to work), it’s everything.

Nestle went that far to persuade the World’s Water Council in order to change the status of drinking water to a need rather than a right. That would mean if water were a right, then it must be provided freely (for free), but once it becomes a need, water companies would get the right to sell it for as much as they want and that means they would be able to make a huge profit.

Infant formula abuse

The entire concept behind Nestle in the 1970s was noble and somewhat unselfish. It was looking for the free baby formula to be a breath of fresh air for little babies and moms that couldn’t breastfeed them, magical powder and bottled water easily mixed and ready to go, and looking at all indications, it was.

Because their target market for infant formula was really small when you compare it with the population, Nestle decided to look for a way to expand their business with baby formula. In order to do that, they had to go against their biggest competition; breast milk. This is the moment that started their ethical downward spiral which made them get their palms dirtier and dirtier as time was passing.

Breast milk looked like too great an obstacle to be overcome. How could you even begin to make comparisons between baby formula (cow milk and sugar) to the pure natural goodness that mother’s milk is?

The main problem was how to convince the people to pick your breastfeeding formula product over something that 100% of doctors would recommend.

Nestle put doctors to do the dirty work

Whenever you hear the phrase “role model,” a few categories of people come to mind; doctors, scientists, religious leaders, actors, politicians, artists, and athletes. When a religious leader does it, for many people that would be a sign that it’s undoubtedly right, when a doctor does it, it is healthy for sure.

Some of the doctors were highly paid in order to promote this product, and we all know the influence doctors have on us when it comes to our health. This entire thing was doable because of the doctors that have been paid to advertise them.

There was a huge marketing campaign that started which Nestle aggressively pushed. Medical professionals have been employed not only to recommend Nestle formula as a great alternative but in some cases to ruin the reputation of breast milk, which means it was a very aggressive campaign. Salesmen and women started dressing in medical attires and whisked to much less educated and less economically developed countries in Africa to sing the praises of their product.

Unfortunately, this leads to a lack of proper nutrition and the deaths of numerous babies. What is even worse it doesn’t seem like Nestle took care of that and about the “side effects” of their products. As you can guess on your own, cases of malnutrition started to increase, and because the majority of Africans at that time were not able to read or write, they were hit the most.

Besides the fact that Nestle’s formula in itself was crudely nutrient-deficient, additionally, the water in many African countries was not clean as well. Instead of the company instructing their “doctors” that were sent there to teach the autochthon people to always boil the water before they prepare the product in order to kill dangerous microbes, Nestle was unconcerned and practically ignored the instructions because they knew well that many of those people are not able to read. This was clearly meant to avoid a lawsuit and not because they cared about their consumers.

The cases of babies getting sick and dying (mostly in Africa) became so big that the executives had been called by the senate in 1978 to explain the situation, in their defense they stated there were instructions added at the back of the “food” containers.

This action was one of the last that led the UN to ban every company from ever trying to compare any of their formula products to breast milk. This action made Nestle transform into advocates for breastfeeding and put on a show.

They started a number of campaigns, and they created a baby commercial in order to explain their idea to the people. People in charge at Nestle knew that the whole attention of people was towards Europe and America, and putting on a show would make the whole or part of the attention in another direction.

They did all of this while steadily turning their market vision in different places and developing countries like Asia and Africa where their sales were skyrocketing. Nestle was able to manipulate its way around the formula market in America and Europe where strict laws have been handed against some of its actions.

Child labor and trafficking

We know for sure that a high percentage of people love chocolate, however, only a few are aware of the shady deals that are hidden behind dark chocolate production.

There was a documentary in 2010 “The Dark Side Of Chocolate” that brought attention to purchases of cocoa beans from Ivorian plantations that use child slavery. Those children were usually 12 to 15 years old, and some of them were trafficked from neighboring countries and Nestle was into this “business” as well.

The cocoa industry was for the first time under the spotlight in 2005. The International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit for child labor in opposition to Nestle (among others) on behalf of three Malian children. The case alleged that kids have been trafficked to Côte d’Ivoire, were forced into slavery, and also experienced frequent beatings on cocoa plantations.

In 2010, the US District Court for the Central District of California decided companies cannot be held responsible for violations of international regulation and dismissed the case – a controversial decision that has since been appealed. Even if Nestle was not legally responsible for these child abuses, they were, at least morally – or maybe not? However, that was not the only case of this kind.

There was a report by an independent auditor, the Fair Labor Association (FLA), that says it discovered “a number of serious violations” of the corporate’s personal supplier code. It was reported that Nestle had not carried any checks against child labor and abuse (maybe they didn’t care enough?). Moreover, many accidents caused by machetes on a cocoa plantation, that are used to harvest cocoa pods, have been reported. The excuse by the Nestle company can be summed up as “everybody does it”.

“The use of child labor in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for,” says Nestle’s Executive Vice-President for Operations Jose Lopez. “No company sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but we can say that tackling child labor is a top priority for our company.”

The FLA reported that Nestle was fully conscious of where their cocoa was coming from and under what circumstances, however, did little to improve conditions.

Health Threats

In July 2009, consumers were warned to keep away from consuming any sort of prepackaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That happened because of the risk of contamination with E. coli O157:H7 (a foodborne bacterium that causes sickness). Within the US, it caused sickness in more than 50 individuals in 30 states, half of whom required hospitalization. Particularly, one lady had a deadly infection earlier than the batch was reclaimed.

“The fact that our product was implicated in Linda Rivera’s 2009 illness and tragic passing was obviously of grave concern to all of us at Nestle,” the company said in a statement. “Since then, we have implemented more stringent testing and inspection of raw materials and finished product to ensure the product meets our high-quality standards,” which sort of makes you wonder – why weren’t stringent testing and inspections implemented in the first place?

However, that is only a minor incident in comparison with the 2008 Chinese Milk Scandal. Six infants have been killed and 860 have been hospitalized with kidney issues after Nestle products were contaminated with melamine, a substance sometimes illegally added to food products in order to raise their apparent protein content.

Taiwan Health ministry in October 2008, announced that six types of milk powders that were produced in China by Nestle company actually contained “low-level” traces of melamine and because of that they were removed from the shelves.

After China reported over 300.000 victims the scandal rapidly escalated, raising concerns in regards to the safety of major food corporations operating in China. Two individuals were executed and a number of life prison sentences have been issued, with the World Health Organization (WHO) referring to the incident as one of the largest events it had to deal with in recent times where food safety was included.

As you can already guess, Nestle denied implications and claimed that their products are clean. However, the Taiwan authorities linked their products to toxic melamine. In response to this Nestle says they sent 20 specialists from Switzerland to five of its Chinese plants in order to strengthen chemical testing.

Pollution issues

As happens with many “respectable” giant companies, Nestle was also involved in a number of incidents regarding pollution. A 1997 report discovered that in the UK, over a 12 month period, water pollution limits had been breached 2,152 times in 830 areas by corporations that included Cadbury and Nestle. However, the situation that happened in China was much worse.

While people within the US and Europe are slowly turning more environmentally concerned and some are choosing more sustainable sources of water, Nestle has moved to a different market – Asia. Alongside corporations such as Kraft or Shell, Nestle made a number of environmental violations.

Nestle Sources Shanghai Ltd’s bottled water manufacturing plant also made the list for beginning operation before its wastewater treatment facilities had passed an environmental impact assessment.

“These are only some of the water pollution violations committed by multinational companies in China since our website has yet to cover information about air and solid waste pollution,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs. “The parent companies in their home countries are models for environmental protection. But they have slackened their efforts in China.”

There was another article that claims Nestle capitalizes on China’s polluted waters in order to make a very good profit with bottled water, while Corporate Watch highlighted the fact that Nestle continued to extract water from Brazil (illegally) for their Perrier brand. Despite the fact that Nestle lost the legal action, they just kept the water pumping process as it went through the appeal procedures (something which can take up to ten years).

The Not So Sweet Truth Behind Nestle

To be honest almost every major company have issues with scandals and accidents. When you have a big number of employees it is understandable that you cannot maintain order so easily.

Meanwhile, Nestle is still fighting a PR battle with Greenpeace because there were claims they are continuing to source palm oil for Sinar Mas, the Indonesian company accused of illegal deforestation and peatland clearance. Greenpeace claimed that expansion by Sinar Mas for palm oil was endangering animals by intruding on their habitat.

If you spend some time and read about similar situations where other big companies were involved you will see companies like Mars and other big companies involved in some scandals. However, no other company has made those scandals on the same scale as Nestle did. As a result, the corporation’s online reputation is considered severely damaged. 

Regardless of Nestle’s dark past, and promotion of unhealthy food they still hold first place as the largest food company in the world. This company has more the 300.000 employees, operates in 190 countries, and has around 380 factories.