by Marion Nestle
Mar 15 2010

Nestlé’s 2009 report: Creating Shared Value

I’ve just gotten an announcement of Nestlé’s (no relation) latest corporate social responsibility activities.  It has released the 2009 version of its annual report: “Creating Shared Value.” By this, the company means that its activities that benefit society as well as its shareholders in three areas: water, nutrition, and rural development.

According to the report, Nestlé has achieved:

  • A 59% reduction of water withdrawal per ton of product since 2000.
  • More than 160,000 individual farmers and suppliers trained through capacity-building programs.
  • Significant improvements in greenhouse gas emissions, water use and creation of waste and by-products.
  • More than 7,200 products renovated for health considerations; over 3,300 now have reduced sugar, sodium, fats or artificial colors.

But wait.  Isn’t this the company that sold $102 billion worth of bottled water as well as chocolate candy, and ice cream last year?

Is Creating Shared Value a win-win?  Or is it an oxymoron?

  • BMH

    Hi Dr. Nestle,

    I am just wondering- and not trying to be glib- what the alternative is? I agree there is an oxymoronic quality to CSR, but on the other hand, it’s heartening that consumers and shareholders desire CSR enough that companies are compelled to make changes. I think this is a move in the right direction. Especially since food companies will continue to make and sell bottled water and junk food as long as consumers are buying (oh, and HOW!).

    I just would love to hear what you think is the right path in terms of CSR for companies whose sole purpose is decidedly profit over anything else.


  • Nestle’s “Shared Value” claims are like saying something is “a little less evil”. Do they want a pat on the back for this??

    Nestle has done SO much more harm than good and uses unethical practices. Not sure if they have this in the U.S. but in Canada they have used a heart-check look-alike symbol on their candy bars. That’s some shady marketing.

  • Subvert

    @BMH – I think this just shows that the “corporate social responsibility” act is the hand that catches your eyes, so that you don’t see what the other hand is really doing.

    I don’t think there is any “right path in terms of CSR for companies whose sole purpose is decidedly profit over anything else”. The fact that the “sole purpose is decidedly profit over anything else” pretty much says everything.

    Consumers should not demand CSR from companies. I say, rather than buying crap from these companies, and then wishing those companies would be more reponsible; why not just stop buying crap from the companies in the first place?

  • BMH

    Don’t I wish people would “vote with their forks” for more healthful products and environmentally conscious companies…but people don’t. LOTS of people don’t. (I certainly buy the occasional bottle of water…and I eat Triscuits and other “crap” sold by these companies as well!) My point is, given this reality, is a focus on some level of CSR better or worse? I don’t have an answer, but I do think that a lot of people are not fooled by CSR tactics.

  • The bit you missed was the CEO ( proudly saying that they made a lot of money out of everyone and they would be investing some of that money into the future; in particular increased spend on marketing and R&D to bring ‘new innovations’ to the market place.

    First, ‘new innovations’ to create new products – what does that mean? Fruit and vegetables don’t need new innovations, they just need water and sunshine. Sounds like more processed foods on the way.

    Second, they are going to spend more on marketing the existing and new processed rubish. Great. We should have an annual cap on ad spend for non-natural foods. What this guy says is that the more you buy from us, the more money we get to spend on marketing so you buy even more from us next year.

  • Eric


    In “Food Politics” you talk about Nestle producing baby’s milk in the early days and the worry in countries like Africa that those who have HIV can transmit the disease through breastfeeding. I recently watched the new movie “Precious”. I hope I’m not spoiling the movie but in the movie a girl has a baby that’s a few months old then she finds out she has HIV, and has had the whole time. She says something about trying to switch to formula to continue feeding her baby.

    In the book you mentioned the studies weren’t quite conclusive that breastfeeding can pass on the HIV virus. Do you have an update on this?


  • Marion

    @Eric–I think you may have misunderstood what I wrote in Food Politics. Breastfeeding most definitely does pass on HIV. But exclusive breastfeeding seems more protective than breastfeeding plus infant formula. And use of infant formula in areas without clean water supplies has its own set of hazards. Hence: the dilemma.