Don’t give Kit Kat a break just yet say fair-trade campaigners

By staff writers
December 7, 2009

Campaigners have warned against a naïve response to today’s announcement that some Kit Kat bars will become fair-trade in the New Year.

As reported by Ekklesia on Friday, this morning it was announced that Nestle would be gaining the Fair Trade mark for its four-fingered Kit Kat.

The Daily Telegraph said that the award had helped “the company to secure a public relations coup, after being dogged by bad publicity dating back to the late 1970s because of its promotion of baby milk.”

The news was welcomed by the Government and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu who said: “The fact that Nestlé have listened to local campaigners and invested considerable time, effort and financial support to make this Fairtrade biscuit a reality is fantastic news and shows the commitment they have to helping workers get fair wages for the work they do, no matter where they live in the world."

Both the Church of England and Methodist Church hold shares in Nestlé.

However, campaigners pointed out that Nestlé continued to lobby against reforms to unfair trade rules, systematically violated baby food marketing standards and that the Fairtrade award represented less than one per cent of Kit Kat sales.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said: "When Nestlé is on the record as saying that charitable contributions should benefit its shareholders, we should not be too excited by one of the world's most boycotted companies pursuing something like this.

"Nestlé is already using a Fairtrade mark on a token product representing just 0.02 per cent of its coffee purchase to try to divert criticism of its trading practices which have been blamed for driving down prices for millions of coffee farmers. While the coffee and cocoa farmers in Fairtrade schemes should benefit, if proper independent audits are done, that provides little comfort to the vast majority of suppliers outside the schemes. Legal action has been taken against Nestlé in the US over its failure to act on child slavery in its cocoa supply chain, despite public claims that it is doing so, and we have already seen it trying to divert this criticism by, for example, sponsoring an event on the abolition of slavery at the Labour Party Conference.

"Nestlé systematically violates baby food marketing standards, undermining breastfeeding and contributing to the needless death and suffering of babies around the world - the changes we have been able to force on Nestlé are because of the boycott and it will continue until Nestlé brings its policies and practices into line."

Dozens of comments have today been posted on the Fairtrade Foundation’s website, expressing concern at the award of the Fair Trade Mark.

Steve Chalke, founder of Stop the Traffik and the United Nations Special Advisor on Community Action Against Human Trafficking said: “We want to see that this is more than a token gesture. So, we intend to keep the pressure on Nestlé until their commitment is global and product-wide.”

The World Development movement said in a statement that although it was “pleased that some small farmers in the Cote d'Ivoire will earn a little more as a result of Nestlé's four-fingered, Kit Kat's move to Fairtrade, this is a long way from achieving trade justice.

“It must be put into perspective: the Fairtrade mark only applies to sales of Kit Kat's four-finger bars in the first instance - and the premium represents less than one per cent of their Kit Kat sales” it said.

“We won't be satisfied until we see a deeper transformation of their business model, not just in cocoa for one product, but for all products. Nestlé's current model is based on paying farmers in the developing world a pittance whilst the company rakes in hundreds of millions of pounds of profits every year.

“Nestlé holds a staggering amount of power in the UK confectionery market, and the use of the Fairtrade label should not distract attention from Nestlé's continued lobbying against any reforms to the unfair trade rules that keep the price of cocoa low.

“With Fairtrade products now firmly established in the market, all of us in the Fairtrade movement should now raise our game by pushing for political action to ensure farmers in the Cote d'Ivoire and all around the world receive a fair price for all their produce."

Keywords:nestle | fairtrade
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