Originally published in Volume III, Issue 3 on 6th November 1996 by Margaret Walsh.
The absence of KitKats, Aeros, Yorkies and Fruit pastilles in the Student Union Shop has caused confusion among the Freshers of ‘95 and ‘96. Each time a Nestle product is requested by a customers, the staff politely point to a notice on the back wall stating UCD policy with regard to all UCD policy with regard to all Nestle products.
It reads: “This shop has discontinued its sale of Nestle Products. These include KitKats, Yorkies, Rolos, Polos, Aeros and Nescafe. The action was taken in accordance with the will of the UCD students as expressed in college-wide referendum on November 10th 1994. This boycott is a protest against Nestle’s irresponsible marketing techniques in the developing world. It will continue until we are satisfied that the company has returned to safe practises.”
The campaign against Nestle was initiated by members of the One World Society at the end of the academic year 93/94. At one of the final council meetings, members of the society brought what they saw as Nestle’s irresponsible marketing practises in the developing world. As it was on so late in the year, further discussion was held off to the opening council meetings of the 94/95.
Being a Student Union service the shops on campus needed student authorisation in the form of a referendum to remove Nestle products from stock. The referendum was fixed for November 10th and each side was allocated a budget from which expenses for the campaign were to be paid. At the time there were unsubstantial rumours for further financial support for those opposing the referendum from Nestle themselves. Almost 60% of more than 4000 students who voted supported he ban.
The grounds for the boycott were according to One World Society “aggressive marketing of baby milk formula in the developing world.” It was felt that Nestle were not adhering to the World Health Organisation (WHO) code for marketing breast milk substitutes. Nestle declined to comment immediately on the referendum result but later stated that the Swiss Multinational “agrees with and is fully committed to the WHO code.”
Soon after the referendum was passed a decision was taken by the Bar Committee to remove all Nestle products from its stock also. The Student Union shops have maintained their boycott throughout the last two years. Management are reluctant to comment on the effect of the boycott on shop sales simply stating that it is a Student Union policy matter. The referendum stated that the boycott would continue until Nestle return to responsible marketing practices. That is, if and when Nestle are deemed to have complied with all aspects of the WHO code.
The code gives a list of the recommendations including: no advertising if infant formula to the public; no direct contact with mothers; no sales incentives to staff on infant formula; no pictures of infants on packet; no free samples to mothers; no personal gifts to healthcare professionals, except low-cost items of practical professional use and no promotional material for mothers to be distributed to hospitals or clinics.
The bar has also maintained its boycott. It does however lack a public notice informing the public why the boycott exists. The bar-staff themselves seem to be confused as to the reasons behind the boycott. One barman believed it was somehow linked to the situation in Rwanda.
A recent debate organised by the Commerce and Economic Society discussing the motion “That This House Would Buy Nestle” brought together old adversaries of Liam Kelly and Shona Ni Bhriain. Mr. Kelly, a former Student Union President and Ms. Ni Bhriain were both heavily involved in the referendum campaign in 1994. Again allegations of financial support from Nestle for those opposing the boycott were raised though later withdrawn.
The debate also involved a representative of Baby Milk Action, an organisation who campaign for adherence to the WHO code. Though not specifically involved in the UCD referendum campaign, Baby Milk Action did call for a nationwide boycott of Nestle products soon after the referendum was passed in UCD.