Nestlé Boycott: About the Chocolate

A lot of people within natural, “AP” circles tend to boycott Nestlé… or hear a lot that others do. In 1887 when Henri Nestlé made his infant formula mixture to ‘save the life’ of a neighbor’s baby whose mother was ill and unable to breastfeed, I don’t think he expected that in a century, his name would be the name of a multi-billion dollar company… or that that company would be one of the most boycotted companies in the world, and on almost every ethical blacklist there is, in almost every category they function in.

Most people have just heard about some issues with Nestlé and South Africa or Indonesia, or their predatory nature when it comes to infant formula marketing, so I’m actually going to leave those issues — the baby-related ones — for last, and start explaining some of the many other reasons this corporate giant is worthy of your time and effort to avoid… or at the very least, help explain why so many other people do make that effort, which if you’re new, can seem like an extreme one.

I’m starting with chocolate today. Yeah, your Butterfingers, Wonka chocolate, Raisinets, Sno-Caps, and of course, NesQuik. Child slave labor, anyone?

A good majority of cocoa  — around 40% of production at least — comes from the West African Nation of ‘The Ivory Coast’ where an estimated 90% of Ivory Coast cocoa plantation work is done via slave labor… often young children from Mali, Togo or Benin are enticed to the Ivory Coast by traffickers, promised paid work, housing and education and instead end up sold to the plantations as slaves.  Most of these children are boys, ranging in age between 9 to 16, and they’re forced to work 18 hour days with no protection from the dangerous tools or toxic pesticides, carrying 50 pound bags of beans on their shirtless bodies, the rough fabric often scarring the skin on their shoulders… for a payment of beatings:

Aly Diabate was almost 12 when a slave trader promised him a bicycle and $150 a year to help support his poor parents in Mali. He worked 11/2 years for a cocoa farmer known as Le Gros (the Big Man), but he said his only rewards were the rare days when Le Gros’ overseers or older slaves didn’t flog him with a bicycle chain or branches from a cacao tree.

Aly was barely 4 feet tall when he was sold into slavery, and he had a hard time carrying the heavy bags of cocoa beans.

“Some of the bags were taller than me,” he said. “It took two people to put the bag on my head. And when you didn’t hurry, you were beaten.”

Faint scars remain on his back, right shoulder and left arm.

“The beatings were a part of my life,” Aly said. “Anytime they loaded you with bags and you fell while carrying them, nobody helped you. Instead, they beat you and beat you until you picked it up again.”

As you can imagine, Nestlé is hardly the only company utilizing this slave labor, but they’re the company I’m focusing on. This is just one facet of their disturbing mosaic that makes an image of total lack of care of any people that happen to help produce or even consume their products. It’s ALL about money. In 2001 when so much of this horror came to light, chocolate companies were put on the spot and questioned and critisized about their cocoa purchases. While some other companies like Hershey’s and Russel Stover didn’t confirm that they got cocoa from the Ivory Coast, Nestlé didn’t make any effort to deny it… hard to do anyway with a warehouse in Daloa, Ivory Coast. Many companies claimed they had middlemen, so they couldn’t be aware of things on the other side of production… an excuse that many critics and ethical companies say is just a paper tiger.

Legislation was put into place to help prevent use of child slave labor sources, but it also allowed voluntary commitments to change procedures, a loophole which Nestlé grabbed onto, claiming they’d make changes by 2005… but with no one to hold them accountable but themselves. Not surprisingly, nothing ever came of it, other than a suit from the International Labor Rights Fund where Nestlé claimed escalating civil war on the Ivory Coast prevented them from sending anyone in to monitor the situation… but of course, didn’t prevent anyone from getting to their warehouse and exporting their product… and they also said, “We’re just buyers of a product.

And so are we.

As consumers, we do have a choice.

Don’t buy Nestlé products, for one. Buy Fair Trade chocolate (yes, even if it costs a little more).

This is just part one of my Nestlé Boycott series, but there are many resources out there, including product lists (though it’s almost impossible to make them complete). You can also sign the Boycott Pledge on Baby Milk Action’s website, and use some of their many anti-Nestlé logos on your blogs and pages to help spread awareness and encourage discussion.

Did you know this about the Ivory Coast? About Nestlé?



About Christie Haskell

I'm a Pagan, pierced, latte-sipping liberal mom to two kids and a cat. I've been on Good Morning America, HuffPo Live, and featured in a lot of online publications like New York Times Motherlode, and print publications like Kiwi Magazine. My articles focus a lot on parenting, food, and social health issues. I'm really opinionated and love to back those opinions with facts.

19 Responses

  1. I had no idea this was happening…

    I’ve talked with my husband and we’re joining the Nestle boycott (and committing to buying fairtrade chocolate). I look forward to reading your upcoming posts and thank you for the information…


      1. Gemika

        Thanks for sharing, I will not buy one of those coconut roughs ever again! although I can’t promise that next time I am in labour I won’t have another mango Weiss craving, hopefully the knowledge of this makes me sick at the idea. I was at the shops yesterday when I made a discovery that led me on a rabbit hole of further discoveries about Nestlé and other formula company’s antics. I shared the full story on my fb page


  2. Laura

    Can you update me on the other chocolate companies you mention? Fair trade chocolate seems the ideal, but are Hersey’s and Russel Stover (or others) an ok substitute in a pinch?


  3. Heather

    Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I had no clue about any of this, but now that I do you can bet I am going to do my best to boycott nestle. I’m going to look through your links mentioned above about their products and start from there. Thanks again for bringing this information to light!


  4. Michelle

    Oh my word! I know that Nestle is such a bad company. We’re working our way to full boycott and have avoided buying all things blatantly Nestle. Just looked at a list of all the brands it owns… WHOA! I’m most disappointed in Edy’s ice cream. Bye bye Edy’s. 😦


  5. Quigleypuff

    Nestle go to great lenghts to ensure that they act in the most ethical way possible in everything they do. The boycott isn’t even effective! Is there any evidence that Nestle’s have suffered since the boycott began in 1973??


  6. Stephanie

    Just came across this. Wow. I had no idea 😦 whenever I’m tempted to buy something of theirs I’ll remind myself that they whipped this kid with a BICYCLE CHAIN. That should keep me away. I’ll spread the word.


  7. child slave labor huh ?reminds me of when sally struthers went on rampage to shut down a levi’s plant (or was it niki?)for slave labor for only paying the kids $1 an hour……the average rate of pay for that country…. .31cents per hour….the kids were some of the highest paid employee’s in the country….but…after sally….jobless…pretty sad,these ‘slaves’ were working to feed there families….the company also provided healthcare for them and there families…all gone because someone couldn’t get it through there heads that not every country has the same economic status as the u.s.
    without companies like nestle providing jobs in these little countrys people, ..and children…starve,get no health care and end up living on the streets or dead.look at what they are REALLY doing rather than following hype.


  8. Diane

    I loathe this company…on so many levels, but wow is it hard to boycott them entirely. Their tentacles are so far reaching…even in pet food!! I need to look again but do you have the full list of all their products and other companies that come under their umbrella?


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