Pandora's Diaries | Opinion Statement
It started with multiple letters being sent through all possible internal whistleblowing channels highlighting food safety concerns. Yet, each and every one of them was ignored and the psychological warfare continued against Yasmine Moterjemi, former Assistant Vice President for global food safety at Nestlé. “For the last fifteen years, I’ve been trying to raise awareness about the wrongdoings of the giant food company Nestlé,” she says in one of her multiple activism videos on YouTube. However, this battle against Nestlé is a small part of the huge war against megacorporations.
Arguably the biggest food and beverage company in the world, Nestlé is a symbol of megacorporations. With countless resources at its disposal, Nestlé’s power and influence allows it to get away with child slavery, deforestation, false marketing, and other human rights violations. Although the corporation amasses a revenue of around 84.68 billion CHF, it continues to outsource cheap labor in the Global South for its products, allowing them to hide all injustices.
The ongoing child slavery case against Nestlé, Mars, Hershey's, and many more in the US is a testimony of the dangers these companies pose to the principles of human rights. The defendants are all notably considered ‘megacorporations’ with Nestlé leading the pack. The plaintiffs in the case were reportedly trafficked from Mali to Cote d'Ivoire for cacao harvestation without pay and egregious living standards.
Unfortunately, this is not the first case of its kind for Nestlé and some of these companies. Nestlé, for example, has been involved in other cases such as John Doe 1 et. al v. Nestlé and Cargill, where plaintiffs of Malian origin were allegedly trafficked as children and forced to work in their productions. To no surprise, the verdict was in favor of Nestlé, where the court ruled that the company cannot be held responsible for child labor violations in Africa.
Megacorporations such as Nestlé should not exist in the first place because they are systematically flawed and create monopolistic markets. The way these companies function can be compared to the East India Company that essentially enabled a new era of colonization in South Asia .
During colonial times, wealth taken from indigenous people, the slave trade, and exploitation of labor in continents such as Africa and Asia, allowed for mass production. This further exacerbates poverty in these parts of the world. The cheap labor in these countries allowed for cheap production and finished products for world markets. These same finished products are then sold back to these underdeveloped economies for a higher price, depleting capital and flooding the market. Nestlé uses this exact strategy in order to promote their water business.
This system of oppression from colonial times is what enables companies to continue the exploitation of Asian and African communities. Megacorporations like Nestlé mirror this colonial pattern. While some scholars, such as the economic historian Andre Gunder Frank, believe that the only way out of this is a non-capitalist economy. Others, such as the sociologist Fernando Henrique Cardoso, believe that there is still a possibility to develop within this system, such as with targeted policy interventions guaranteed by the state.
One of the major reasons why the current system is failing is due to the fact that even if Nestlé products are boycotted by consumers based on the company’s misdeeds, other massive corporations such as Mars and Hersheys would replace Nestlé and still continue to use the same unethical methods. Corporations that do not account for their social responsibilities and ethical values are a major contributing factor to a large number of global issues such as global warming, pollution, child labor, deforestation, and more.
While the ideal solution would be to call for global systemic reform to end this, it would prove to be impossible, especially in a time where a variety of opposing ideologies exist.
Expressed by Karnika Muralidharan
Edited by Eshal Zahur and Anushka Roy
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