Earlier this month, Nestlé announced its plans to implement blockchain for the purpose of food tracking in partnership with OpenSC. This was done in order for them to be more transparent with their customers and to allow them to be more informed of where their produce is coming from. 

Given that the company has always been in the limelight for indulging in terrible activities, maybe it’s just a way to gain customers’ trust or it could even just be a front to cover up the same thing they’ve always been doing. Let’s take a look at a few of these instances:

Baby Formula

Image source: Unlatched

Back in the 1900s, Nestlé was aggressively marketing their baby formula as an alternative to breast milk to less economically developed countries and specifically targeting the less fortunate. One of their main targets was Africa, where there were a lot less educated mothers. The instructions to use clean drinking water to mix the baby formula and the amount of formula to add per serving wasn’t clear. This resulted in large scale malnourishment amongst the infants and finally led to a boycott campaign against Nestlé. 

Image source: Unlatched

This was the first instance that sparked the boycott of Nestlé products, which later in the ’70s led to the creation of the International Nestlé Boycott Committee, which still exists to date.

Child abuse and labor

A 2010 documentary – The Dark Side of Chocolate brought attention to the terrible things happening in cocoa plantations, where children were being used as the main source of labor and were trafficked from nearby countries. This threw a lot of companies into the limelight including Nestlé, who claimed that they were unaware of the situation at hand. 

Nestlé’s Executive Vice-President for Operations Jose Lopez said, 

“No company sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but we can say that tackling child labour is a top priority for our company.”

The Fair Labour Association [FLA] then went on to report that Nestlé hadn’t investigated child abuse and labour before employing young children and that Nestlé was fully aware where their cocoa was coming from. 

Trying to privatise drinking water

Nestlé, being the world’s largest producer of bottled drinking water, is trying to make it a need over a basic human right in order to push sales. Even in their water extraction process, they ended up wasting an estimated 30% of the 700 million gallons of water it draws every year by draining their aquifers regularly without environmental concern. This means that, annually, they waste around 200 million gallons of water which most countries in Africa could actually thrive under.

During the California drought back in 2017, they refused to stop drawing water from there as Nestle’s CEO Tim Brown said,

“Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase [water bottling operations], I would.”

They even started drawing water near a small Pakistani community of Bhati Dilwan for making packaged drinking water. This caused a major water crisis for the people of the community leading to famine as the groundwater levels receded from a hundred to four hundred feet. 

This complete disregard for denying humans their basic right is probably Nestlé’s worst feat as Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe went on to say,

“There are two different opinions on the matter [or water]. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.”

With its blockchain implementation, will Nestlé provide a record of the deeds they have that allows them to draw water from a certain location or if it’s actually benefiting that particular community? Unless Nestlé is willing to provide this information on their hyperledger, it’s difficult to believe that any of their practices would actually change; Nestlé will continue to function with a shroud around their unhealthy practices.

No Trust, Nestlé

The instances mentioned above are only a fraction of their heinous past, as they’ve been constantly involved in multiple human rights and health violations. Even if OpenSC’s blockchain solution is implemented perfectly on Nestlé’s supply chain and food tracking, it still wouldn’t tell you the conditions of the people working there or how the particular raw materials are ultimately being produced. The consequences to the environment and the people working there ultimately wouldn’t change.  

The tracking of food through OpenSC’s blockchain would allow customers to track how the product arrived from its origin to the supermarket or local market. When, where, and how it was produced and also it’s social and environmental conditions. Nestlé seems to be trying to regain their customers’ trust with this move and clean up their act. However, in retrospect, Nestlé has always fallen back into its old pattern of trying to milk sales. Only time will tell how this change will impact Nestle as a company and, more importantly, if it will sway old customers enough to start buying their products again.

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