Our commitment: Support breastfeeding and protect it by continuing to implement an industry-leading policy to market breast-milk substitutes responsibly
We support the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation to exclusively breastfeed infants for the first six months of life, followed by the introduction of adequate nutritious complementary foods, along with sustained breastfeeding up to two years of age and beyond.
Globally, it is estimated that breastfeeding could save more than 800 000 children’s lives, prevent 20 000 maternal deaths due to breast cancer, and add over USD 300 billion (CHF 295.6 billion) to the economy each year (UNICEF).
However, receiving breast-milk is unfortunately not an option for some babies because not all mothers can or choose to breastfeed. In these cases, it is critical that they are fed with the highest quality, scientifically proven alternative to help them grow, thrive and stay healthy. Infant formula is the only suitable breast-milk substitute (BMS) recognised as appropriate by the WHO.
Our commitment is to support breastfeeding and protect it by continuing to implement an industry-leading policy to market BMS responsibly. Our scientists continuously research and develop our formulas to make sure babies who cannot be breastfed can also receive the nutrition they need to thrive and grow. We are committed to marketing our infant formulas strictly in accordance with the principles and aim of the WHO's International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes (WHO Code).
Our Policy and Procedures for marketing BMS (pdf, 3Mb) applies globally in all countries where Nestlé operates. We comply with national government legislation implementing the WHO Code. In the 152 countries considered higher risk in terms of infant mortality and malnutrition, we follow our Nestlé Procedures when they are stricter than the local legislation, unless otherwise mandatorily required by the government.
Despite the WHO Code being adopted back in 1981, only 39 out of 194 countries have legislation or regulations reflecting all or most provisions of the Code. We are ready to back governments in fulfilling their responsibilities under the WHO Code, and support countries’ efforts to promote an environment conducive to breastfeeding. For example, we work with governments and civil society around the world to make breastfeeding rooms available.
Our global Maternity Protection Policy (pdf, 2Mb) gives female employees up to six months maternity leave, as well as providing flexible work arrangements, and has led to hundreds of breastfeeding rooms in our facilities. We will continue to lead the industry towards higher responsible marketing standards, and to work closely with governments, public institutions and civil society to carry out the actions needed to benefit future generations.
Compliance with the WHO Code
We verify compliance through routine internal monitoring and audits. Our Corporate WHO Code Compliance Committee, which includes three Executive Board members, oversees compliance. In higher-risk countries, we also have compliance committees that meet regularly at country level.
We have a mandatory, global Code training programme for staff involved in marketing BMS, and our WHO Code Ombudsperson system allows employees to report any concerns anonymously. We also provide training to distributors and retailers, and include clauses in contracts on complying with our Policy. We take disciplinary measures against Nestlé personnel who deliberately violate our Policy.
Compliance is also assured externally by Bureau Veritas, and through processes for inclusion in rankings and indices for manufacturers (e.g. verification assessment (pdf, 3Mb) conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers on behalf of FTSE4Good).
When third parties with whom we have a direct service relationship violate the Policy and Procedures or local legislation implementing the WHO Code, we will require them to take appropriate corrective actions where permitted under local legislation. Where we have no direct service relationship with a third party, our ability to influence their behaviour is limited. However, we will inform them of the violation in writing and ask them to take appropriate corrective action where permitted under local legislation.
Addressing stakeholder concerns
We regularly engage with wider stakeholders on marketing BMS and follow our Nestlé Policy on Transparent Interaction with Authorities and Organisations (pdf, 2Mb). We are also a member of a number of relevant industry associations, and have been active in the International Special Dietary Foods Industries since its foundation.
We invest substantial resources to ensure our marketing of BMS complies with our Policy and the WHO Code. We are strongly committed to transparency, and report regularly and publicly on compliance. We also make position statements, Q&As and responses to formal correspondence on breastfeeding and the Code publicly available. We are committed to transparent interactions with public authorities as outlined in our Interactions Policy.
We encourage partners, stakeholders and the general public to directly communicate in detail any concern or allegation of non-compliance with our commitments.
Find out more about our compliance record.