People have complained to us about George Clooney, actor and human rights campaigner, appearing in advertisements for Nestlé coffee. Gaining access to an A-list hollywood star has proved problematic, but Mr. Clooney was put on the spot about this at the Venice film festival today as he took part in a press conference about his latest role. Ironically he plays a lawyer caught in a moral dilemma - and mortal danger - when called on to defend a company against a lawsuit over its practices.
Asked about his real-life role in the Nestlé Nespresso advertisements, Mr. Clooney said he did not work for Nestlé, according to ABS-CBN which reports he said unsmilingly: "I'm not going to apologize to you for trying to make a living every once in a while. I find that an irritating question."
The report does refer to the controversy over Nestlé's marketing of baby foods, though it refers to the boycott in the 1970s, prompting me to send the following response to the news outlet and to issue a press release (see the Nestlé-Free Zone page if you are unfamiliar with the boycott):
Your article on George Clooney defending his involvement in Nestlé advertising states: "The company has been criticized in the past for its manner of marketing formula baby milk in developing countries. The controversy led to a boycott of its products in the late 1970s."
It is unfortunate your article did not report the current situation, which is that the boycott was re-launched in 1988 as Nestlé failed to abide by commitments made that led to the end of the first boycott in 1984. The second boycott has forced some changes in policy and does stop specific cases of malpractice, but monitoring shows Nestlé continues to violate the international standards for baby foods more than any other company as it promises to build significant year-on-year growth in sales. Nestlé has repeatedly rejected a four-point plan put to it by boycott coordinators to save infant lives and ultimately end the boycott.
Even Nestlé's Global Public Affairs Manager, Dr. Gayle Crozier Willi, acknowledged in April this year that Nestlé is 'widely boycotted' after an independent poll found it to be one of the four most boycotted brands on the planet.
Where our work with our partners for independently monitored and enforced legislation implementing the marketing requirements has succeeded, Nestlé´ánd other companies abide by the international standards, so it is not impossible to comply. The boycott helps to compel it to change its practices where effective legislation is not yet in place.
Let us hope Mr. Clooney will also update his knowledge and support the boycott in future to keep up the pressure on Nestlé to change.
Wouldn't it be great if Mr. Clooney made ammends by walking down the red carpet with one of our must-have, boycott Nestlé, reusable, Fairtrade-cotton bags! You can buy them here:
Let me know if you see any more reports of this story and why not leave your own comments or send a letter to the editor in response?
UPDATE 5 September: You can view the press conference and Nestlé coffee advertisement via: