Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Their mothers will thank you

The water in our new temporary offices tastes funny. So we were looking into some water cooler services, and were surprised to find that Pow Wow (one of the best known suppliers of water and water coolers) is owned by Nestle.

Of course Nestle was widely criticised in the late 70s for recommending the use of infant formula instead of breast milk in developing countries. Allegedly, several babies died as a result of drinking contaminated water mixed with the formula. A concerted boycott of Nestle products followed, and several people are avoiding these products to this day.

But it begs the interesting question; at what point should we forgive a company for past misdemeanors? Is it fair to continue boycotting products 30 years after the event? (For the sake of this argument, I'm ignoring the other controversies). Should we wait until all the staff involved in the controversy have left the company? Or just let an 'acceptable' period of time pass?

My personal inclination is to avoid buying Nestle products where there is a quality alternative. Tough luck on the people who work there, but I'm sure there are shareholders still out there who have held Nestle stock since the 70s and should've sold their shares when the controversy came up. But I'm interested to hear other points of view.

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