All posts by TC

Save Our Water Sacramento Group Files Administrative Appeal Against Nestle’s Sacramento Plant

Nestle surely thought they’d snuck their Sacramento water bottling plant in through the back door (even a city memo acknowledged the company’s “penchant for secrecy”), but like so many other places, they’re now facing determined opposition.

Sadly for Nestle, the group uncovered a highly questionable permitting process, the appearance of a conflict of interest with a top mayoral advisor, and a development staff seemingly willing to keep the whole project hidden from public view.

In other words, it’s business as usual for Nestle – and at least some of Sacramento’s residents have discovered this sad fact:

Sacramento Press / Group to file Nestlé appeal

In a precursor to any potential legal action, a grassroots organization expects to take its next step in the fight against the Nestlé water-bottling plant by filing an administrative appeal with the city of Sacramento this week.

A Swiss public TV crew is coming to Sacramento Thursday to interview members of the group, Save Our Water Sacramento, which will re-screen the bottled-water documentary “Tapped” at 7 p.m. Thursday at Crest Theatre, 1013 K St.

Afterwards, group leaders will discuss plans to appeal the city’s designation of the Swiss company’s $14-million construction project as ministerial, rather than discretionary. A discretionary designation of a project that could possibly harm the environment triggers a requirement for an environmental assessment under the California Environmental Quality Act. A ministerial designation does not.

The California Environmental Quality Act also requires all administrative remedies be exhausted before a lawsuit can be filed, said Evan Tucker, a Sacramento resident who helps lead Save Our Water Sacramento.

“Those are supposed to exist as an alternative to litigation,” he said. “We can make our case to the city as to why the decision is incorrect.”

The group has been seeking an environmental analysis of the plant since at least September, Tucker said. City Councilmember Kevin McCarty asked the council last month to consider amending the city’s zoning code to immediately require special permits for water-bottling plants, but the proposal was never discussed.

Note the presence of a Swiss film crew; when a French film crew visited McCloud last year, I learned that Nestle’s reputation in Europe is less than sterling.

Surprise.

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Nestle’s Attempts to Woo “Mommy Bloggers” Results in PR Disaster as Company Refuses to Answer Questions

It seems that Nestle’s infant formula division employs tactics eerily similar to those used by their water bottling folks when confronted by inconvenient facts – including those that directly contradict the company’s own spin.

In the bottled water world, Nestle representatives have categorically stated they have never harmed a watershed or aquifer, yet a judge in Michigan clearly disagreed, and the company – faced with yet another losing effort in court – clearly agreed when they capitulated to a lower pumping limit in Mecosta County.

In other words, their representative lied, and it’s a pattern that plays out over and over.

In this case, it reared its head on a diastrous PR program aimed at promoting their products to “mommybloggers” who were wined and dined at a lavish seminar.

The Boycott Nestle Web site (focused on Nestle’s infant formula record [which is abominable]) recounted the whole sordid story:

But critics of the company countered that the event was a public
relations ploy in reaction to an ongoing boycott of Nestle for
marketing baby milk formula as a substitute for breast feeding in
developing countries.
In fact, before the trip, critics reached out to the bloggers invited to California and urged them to not go.
No one canceled.
As
the event got underway, the online conversation quickly turned into an
online battlefield. The company’s Twitter channel was so inundated with
anti-Nestle messages, and nasty accusations aimed at the attendees,
that it was essentially shut down. The company, caught off guard, let
the parents field questions aimed at executives until finally stepping
into the fray.
—Extract ends
I saw
several bloggers say they had been invited to the event and refused to
go. Not the same as canceling, but bloggers on the invitation list were
not all blind to the conflicts of interest in attending, even if
unaware of the boycott.
Nestlé is one of the
four most boycotted companies on the planet, according to an
independent survey, because it is found to be responsible for more
violations of the marketing standards for baby foods than any other
company.
The LA Times article is a little lazy
in characterising the posts to the #nestlefamily hashtag as
‘anti-Nestlé messages’ and ‘accusations aimed at the attendees’. The
vast majority of posts were raising concerns about Nestlé practices and
posting links to evidence (I became aware of the event through traffic
to our sites) and responding to specific requests from some attendees
for questions to put to executives, including the Chief Executive of
Nestlé USA.
Nestlé came online briefly and
offered to take questions. I offered to take part in a tweet debate
directly with Nestlé on behalf of Baby Milk Action, but this was not
taken up. Nestlé stayed on line for an hour or so, promising to come
back the next day to respond to questions, but did not.

The fact is Nestlé runs from fora where there are people with the knowledge to challenge its bland assurances that it markets formula ‘ethically and responsibly’ (a claim that the UK Advertising Standards Authority found to be untrue when Nestlé made it in an anti-boycott advertisement). It not only ran from the questions on Twitter, it now refuses to debate with Baby Milk Action, after we won a series of them from 2001 – 2004. Nestlé refused to attend a European Parliament Public Hearing in 2000, when UNICEF Legal Officer was present to address questions regarding interpretation of the marketing requirements Nestlé should be following (Nestlé claims its own interpretation is correct, while dismissing all others, including UNICEF). And Nestlé refuses to even set out its terms and conditions for participating in an independent expert tribunal into its policies and practices.

Nestlé prefers to direct people to its own website and provide written answers, but not defend them when these are scrutinised, perhaps hoping the majority will accept its assurances at face value. Those who do look closer generally come away more shocked and dismayed at Nestlé’s deceit as it tries to defend practices that contribute to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants.

Nestlé’s reticence to engage with informed critics can be understood given how its response to questions put by the PhD in Parenting blog has fueled concerns rather than dissuaded those looking at this issue. Nestlé’s answers have been posted in full on the blog, and can be found via:
http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/10/03/follow-up-questions-for-nestle/

As is often the case, Nestlé’s attempt to divert criticism became a PR disaster and gave International Nestlé-Free Week a boost in the US in its third year. The week aims to encourage boycotters to do more and non-boycotters to do something to increase the pressure on Nestlé. Boycotting has forced some changes and greater involvement can only help. See: http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2009/10/boycott-successes.html

Nestle, as it has been noted, promised to address questions, but clearly never did – at least when those questions became uncomfortable.

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Producers of “Tapped” Bottled Water Documentary Allege Nestle Trying to Limit Distribution

This statement from a Brookfield News Times interview with the makers of the bottled water documentary “Tapped” largely speaks for itself:

“A lot of major film festivals are sponsored by Nestle,” Soechtig said. “We were wondering why we weren’t getting into Cannes. We thought, is our film not good enough? Then we realized they have a hand in everything.”

Nestle asked the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute in Louisiana to not show the documentary, the Louisiana State University of Shreveport student newspaper, The Almagest, reported. The screening board denied Nestle’s request.

“I can’t help but think if they tried to pull us out of one town, Nestle has tried to pull us out of others,” Soechtig said.

The corporations have put pressure on commercial distributors, Walrath said, so he and Soechtig are distributing the film independently.

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