from AndrewGavinMarshall Website
Chairman of Nestlé
In the 2005 documentary, We Feed the World, then-CEO of Nestlé, the world’s largest foodstuff corporation, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, shared some of his own views and ‘wisdom’ about the world and humanity.
Brabeck believes that nature is not "good," that there is nothing to worry about with GMO foods, that profits matter above all else, that people should work more, and that human beings do not have a right to water.
Today, he explained,
Humanity, Brabeck stated,
He then referenced the "organic movement" as an example of this thinking, premising that "organic is best." But rest assured, he corrected, "organic is not best."
In 15 years of GMO food consumption in the United States,
In spite of this, he noted, "we’re all so uneasy about it in Europe, that something might happen to us."
This view, according to Brabeck, is "hypocrisy more than anything else." (below video)
Water, Brabeck correctly pointed out,
Brabeck elaborated on this "extreme" view:
The other view, and thus, the "less extreme" view, he explained,
The biggest social responsibility of any CEO, Brabeck explained:
While watching a promotional video of a Nestlé factory in Japan, Brabeck commented,
And of course, for someone claiming to be interested in creating jobs, there appears to be no glaring hypocrisy in praising factories with "almost no people."
It’s important to note that this is not simply the personal view of some random corporate executive, but rather, that it reflects an institutional reality of corporations: the primary objective of a corporation - above all else - is to maximize short-term profits for shareholders.
By definition, then, workers should work more and be paid less, the environment is only a concern so much as corporations have unhindered access to control and exploit the resources of the environment, and ultimately, it’s ‘good’ to replace workers with automation and robotics so that you don’t have to pay fewer or any workers, and thus, maximize profits.
With this institutional - and ideological - structure (which was legally constructed by the state), concern for the environment, for water, for the world and for humanity can only be promoted if it can be used to advance corporate profits, or if it can be used for public relations purposes. Ultimately, it has to be hypocritical.
A corporate executive cannot take an earnest concern in promoting the general welfare of the world, the environment, or humanity, because that it not the institutional function of a corporation, and no CEO that did such would be allowed to remain as CEO.
This is why it matters what Peter Brabeck thinks:
To the average person viewing his interview, it might come across as some sort of absurd tirade you’d expect from a Nightline interview with some infamous serial killer, if that killer had been put in charge of a multinational corporation:
Sadly, though intentionally satirical, this is the essential view of Brabeck and others like him.
And disturbingly, Brabeck’s influence is not confined to the board of Nestlé. Brabeck became the CEO of Nestlé in 1997, a position he served until 2008, at which time he resigned as CEO but remained as chairman of the board of directors of Nestlé.
Apart from Nestlé, Brabeck serves as vice chairman of the board of directors of L’Oréal, the world’s largest cosmetics and ‘beauty’ company; vice chairman of the board of Credit Suisse Group, one of the world’s largest banks; and is a member of the board of directors of Exxon Mobil, one of the world’s largest oil and energy conglomerates.
He was also a former board member of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical conglomerates, Roche.
Brabeck also serves as a member of the Foundation Board for the World Economic Forum (WEF),
Brabeck is also a member of the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), a group of European corporate CEOs which directly advise and help steer policy for the European Union and its member countries.
Thus, through his multiple board memberships on some of the largest corporations on earth, as well as his leadership and participation in some of the leading international think tanks, forums and business associations, Brabeck has unhindered access to political and other elites around the world.
When he speaks, powerful people listen.
Brabeck has become an influential voice on issues of food and water, and not surprisingly so, considering he is chairman of the largest food service corporation on earth.
Brabeck’s career goes back to when he was working for Nestlé in Chile in the early 1970s, when the left-leaning democratically-elected president Salvador Allende was,
A 1973 Chilean military coup - with the support of the CIA - put an end to that "threat" by bringing in the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who murdered thousands of Chileans and established a ‘national security state’, imposing harsh economic measures to promote the interests of elite corporate and financial interests (what later became known as ‘neoliberalism’).
In a 2009 article for Foreign Policy magazine, Brabeck declared:
In a 2010 article for the Guardian, Brabeck wrote that,
What the world needs, according to Brabeck, is,
In other words, water should become increasingly expensive, according to Brabeck.
Countries, he wrote, should recognize,
In a discussion with the Wall Street Journal in 2011, Brabeck spoke against the use of biofuels - converting food into fuel - and suggested that this was the primary cause of increased food prices (though in reality, food price increases are primarily the result of speculation by major banks like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase).
Brabeck noted the relationship between his business - food - and major geopolitical issues, stating:
One "solution," he suggested, was to provide a "market" for water as "the best guidance that you can have."
If water was a ‘market’ product, it wouldn’t be wasted on growing food for fuel, but focus on food for consumption - and preferably (in his view), genetically modified foods.
After all, he said,
Brabeck suggested that the world could "feed nine billion people," providing them with water and fuel, but only on the condition that,
Brabeck co-authored a 2011 article for the Wall Street Journal in which he stated that in order to provide,
Brabeck’s job then, as chairman of Nestlé, is to help create the "political will" to make water into a modern "market" product.
Now before praising Brabeck for his ‘enlightened’ activism on the issue of water scarcity and providing the world’s poor with access to clean drinking water (which are very real and urgent issues needing attention), Brabeck himself has stressed that his interest in the issue of water has nothing to do with actually addressing these issues in a meaningful way, or for the benefit of the earth and humanity.
No, his motivation is much more simple than this.
In a 2010 interview for BigThink, Brabeck noted:
This is what led Brabeck and Nestlé into the issue of water "sustainability," he explained.
Brabeck was asked if industries should,
Thus, when Brabeck and Nestlé promote "water sustainability," what they are really promoting is the sustainability of Nestlé’s access to and control over water resources. How is that best achieved?
Well, since Nestlé is a large multinational corporation, the natural solution is to promote ‘market’ control of water, which means privatization and monopolization of the world’s water supply into a few corporate hands.
In a 2011 conversation with the editor of Time Magazine at the Council on Foreign Relations, Brabeck referred to a recent World Economic Forum meeting where the issue of "corporate social responsibility" was the main subject of discussion, when corporate executives "started to talk about [how] we have to give back to society," Brabeck spoke up and stated:
Brabeck explained to the Council on Foreign Relations that he felt such a concept was the purview of philanthropy, and,
Engaging in corporate social responsibility, Brabeck explained, "was an additional cost."
At the 2008 World Economic Forum, a consortium of corporations and international organizations formed the 2030 Water Resources Group, chaired by Peter Brabeck.
It was established in order to "shape the agenda" for the discussion of water resources, and to create "new models for collaboration" between public and private enterprises.
The governing council of the 2030 WRG is chaired by Brabeck and includes,
At the World Water Forum in 2012 - an event largely attended by the global proponents of water privatization, Nestlé among their most enthusiastic supporters - Brabeck suggested that the 2030 Water Resources Group represents a "global public-private initiative" which could help in,
Brabeck and Nestlé had been in talks with the Canadian provincial government of Alberta in planning for a potential "water exchange," to - in the words of Maclean’s magazine - "turn water into money."
In 2012, the University of Alberta bestowed an honorary degree upon Peter Brabeck,
Protests were organized at the university to oppose the ‘honor,’ with a representative from the public interest group, the Council of Canadians, noting:
A professor at the university stated:
As another U of A professor stated:
The Global Water Privatization Agenda
Water privatization is an extremely vicious operation, where the quality of - and access to - water resources diminishes or even vanishes, while the costs explode.
When it comes to the privatization of water, there is no such thing as "competition" in how the word is generally interpreted: there are only a handful of global corporations that undertake massive water privatizations. The two most prominent are the French-based Suez Environment and Veolia Environment, but also include Thames Water, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, among others.
For a world in which food has already been turned into a "market commodity" and has been "financialized," leading to massive food price increases, hunger riots, and immense profits for a few corporations and banks, the prospect of water privatization is even more disturbing.
The agenda of water privatization is organized at the international level, largely promoted through the World Water Forum and the World Water Council.
The World Water Council (WWC) was established in 1996 as a French-based non-profit organization with over 400 members from intergovernmental organizations, government agencies, corporations, corporate-dominated NGOs and environmental organizations, water companies, international organizations and academic institutions.
Every three years, the WWC hosts a World Water Forum, the first of which took place in 1997, and the 6th conference in 2012 was attended by thousands of participants from countries and institutions all over the world get together to decide the future of water, and of course, promote the privatization of this essential resource to human life.
The 6th World Water Forum, hosted in Marseilles, France, was primarily sponsored by the French government and the World Water Council, but included a number of other contributors, including:
...and a number of corporate sponsors, including:
Clearly, they have human and environmental interests at heart.
The World Bank is a major promoter of water privatization, as much of its aid to ‘developing’ countries was earmarked for water privatization schemes which inevitably benefit major corporations, in co-operation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the U.S. Treasury.
One of the first major water privatization schemed funded by the World Bank was in Argentina, for which the Bank "advised" the government of Argentina in 1991 on the bidding and contracting of the water concession, setting a model for what would be promoted around the world.
The World Bank’s investment arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), loaned roughly $1 billion to the Argentine government for three water and sewage projects in the country, and even bought a 5% stake in the concession, thus becoming a part owner.
When the concession for Buenos Aires was opened up, the French sent representatives from Veolia and Suez, which formed the consortium Aguas Argentinas, and of course, the costs for water services went up.
Between 1993, when the contract with the French companies was signed, and 1997, the Aguas Argentinas consortium gained more influence with Argentine President Carlos Menem and his Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo, who would hold meetings with the president of Suez as well as the President of France, Jacques Chirac.
By 2002, the water rates (cost of water) in Buenos Aires had increased by 177% since the beginning of the concession.
In the 1990s, the amount of World Bank water privatization projects increased ten-fold, with 31% of World Bank water supply and sanitation projects between 1990 and 2001 including conditions of private-sector involvement, despite the fact that the projects consistently failed in terms of providing cheaper and better water to larger areas.
But of course, they were highly profitable for large corporations, so naturally, they continued to be promoted and supported (and subsidized).
One of the most notable examples of water privatization schemes was in Bolivia, the poorest country in South America.
In 1998, an IMF loan to Bolivia demanded conditions of "structural reform," the selling off of "all remaining public enterprises," including water. In 1999, the World Bank told the Bolivian government to end its subsidies for water services, and that same year, the government leased the Cochabamba Water System to a consortium of multinational corporations, Aguas del Tunari, which included the American corporation Bechtel.
After granting the consortium a 40-year lease, the government passed a law which would make residents pay the full cost of water services. In January of 2000, protests in Cochabamba shut down the city for four days, striking and establishing roadblocks, mobilizing against the water price increases which doubled or tripled their water bills.
Protests continued in February, met with riot police and tear gas, injuring 175 people.
By April, the protests began to spread to other Bolivian cities and rural communities, and during a "state of siege" (essentially martial law) declared by Bolivian president Hugo Banzer, a 17-year old boy, Victor Hugo Daza, was shot and killed by a Bolivian Army captain, who was trained as the U.S. military academy, the School of the Americas.
As riot police continued to meet protesters with tear gas and live ammunition, more people were killed, and dozens more injured.
On April 10, the government conceded to the people, ending the contract with the corporate consortium and granting the people to control their water system through a grassroots coalition led by the protest organizers.
Two days later, World Bank President James Wolfensohn stated that the people of Bolivia should pay for their water services. On August 6, 2001, the president of Bolivia resigned, and the Vice President Jorge Quiroga, a former IBM executive, was sworn in as the new president to serve the remainder of the term until August of 2002.
Meanwhile, the water consortium, deeply offended at the prospect of people taking control of their own resources, attempted to take legal action against the government of Bolivia for violating the contract.
Bechtel was seeking $25 million in compensation for its "losses," while recording a yearly profit of $14 billion, whereas the national budget of Bolivia was a mere $2.7 billion.
The situation ultimately led to a type of social revolution which brought to power the first indigenous Bolivian leader in the country’s history, Evo Morales.
This, of course, has not stopped the World Bank and IMF - and the imperial governments which finance them - from promoting water privatization around the world for the exclusive benefit of a handful of multinational corporations. The World Bank promotes water privatization across Africa in order to "ease the continent’s water crisis," by making water more expensive and less accessible.
As the communications director of the World Bank in 2003, Paul Mitchell, explained,
I would agree.
Though the myth that it ‘works’ is what I would propose, but Mitchell instead suggested that,
Except that it doesn’t...
But don’t worry, decreasing water standards, dismantling water distribution, and rapidly increasing the costs of water to the poorest regions on earth is good, according to Mitchell and the World Bank. He told the BBC that what the World Bank is most interested in is the "best way to get water to poor people."
Perhaps he misspoke and meant to say,
In 2003, the World Bank funded a water privatization scheme in the country of Tanzania, supported by the British government, and granting the concession to a consortium called City Water, owned by the British company Biwater, which worked with a German engineering firm, Gauff, to provide water to the city of Dar es Salaam and the surrounding region.
It was one of the most ambitious water privatization schemes in Africa, with $140 million in World Bank funding, and, wrote John Vidal in the Guardian, it,
The agreement included conditions for the consortium to install new pipelines for water distribution.
The British government’s Department for International Development gave a 440,000-pound contract to the British neoliberal think tank, Adam Smith International, "to do public-relations work for the project."
Tanzania’s best-known gospel singer was hired to perform a pop song about the benefits of privatization, mentioning electricity, telephones, the ports, railways, and of course, water.
Both the IMF and World Bank made the water scheme a condition for "aid" they gave to the country.
Less than one year into the ten-year contract, the private consortium, City Water, stopped paying its monthly fee for leasing the government’s pipes and infrastructure provided by the public water company, Dawasa, while simultaneously insisting that its own fees be raised.
An unpublished World Bank report even noted:
The World Bank as a whole, however, endorsed the program as "highly satisfactory," and rightly so, because it was doing what it was intended to do: provide profits for private corporations at the expense of poor people.
By 2005, the company had not built any new pipes, it had not spent the meager investments it promised, and the water quality declined.
As British government "aid" money was poured into privatization propaganda, a video was produced which included the phrase:
Actually, privatization attaches a price-tag to rain.
Thus, in 2005, the government of Tanzania ended the contract with City Water, and arrested the three company executives, deporting them back to Britain. As is typical, the British company, Biwater, then began to file a lawsuit against the Tanzanian government for breach of contract, wanting to collect $20-25 million.
A press release from Biwater at the time wrote:
The sixth World Water Forum in Marseilles in 2012 brought together some 19,000 participants, where the French Development Minister Henri de Raincourt proposed a,
A parallel conference was held - the Alternative World Water Forum - which featured critics of water privatization.
Gustave Massiah, a representative of the anti-globalization group Attac, stated,
Another member of Attac, Jacques Cambon, used to be the head of SAFEGE’s Africa branch, a subsidiary of the water conglomerate Suez.
Cambon was critical of the idea of a global water fund, warning against centralization, and further explained that the World Bank,
Maria Theresa Lauron, a Philippine activist, shared the story of water privatization in the Philippines, saying,
But then, why would the company do such a thing? It’s not like it’s particularly profitable to be concerned with human welfare.
In Europe, the European Commission had been pushing water privatization as a condition for development funds between 2002 and 2010, specifically in several central and eastern European countries which were dependent upon EU grants.
Since the European debt crisis, the European Commission had made water privatization a condition for,
In this context, among the global institutions and corporations of power and influence, it is perhaps less surprising to imagine the chairman of Nestlé suggesting that human beings having a "right" to water is rather "extreme."
And for a very simple reason: that’s not profitable for Nestlé, even though it might be good for humanity and the earth.
It’s about priorities, and in our world, priorities are set by multinational corporations, banks, and global oligarchs. As Nestlé would have us think, corporate and social interests are not opposed, as corporations - through their ‘enlightened’ self-interest and profit-seeking motives - will almost accidentally make the world a better place.
Now, while neoliberal orthodoxy functions on the basis of people simply accepting this premise without investigation (like any religious belief), perhaps it would be worth looking at Nestlé as an example for corporate benefaction for the world and humanity.
Nestlé’s Corporate Social Responsibility
Making the World Safe for Nestlé… and Incidentally Destroying the World
As a major multinational corporation, Nestlé has a proven track record of,
In 2012, Nestlé was taking in major profits from ‘emerging markets’ in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
However, some emerging market profits began to slow down in 2013. This was partly the result of a horsemeat scandal which required companies like Nestlé to intensify the screening of their food products.
Less than a year prior, Nestlé was complaining that "over-regulation" of the food industry was "undermining individual responsibility," which is another way of saying that responsibility for products and their safety should be passed from the producer to the consumer.
In other words, if you’re stupid enough to buy Nestlé products, it’s your fault if you get diabetes or eat horsemeat, and therefore, it’s your responsibility, not the responsibility of Nestlé. Fair enough!
We’re stupid enough to accept corporations ruling over us, therefore, what right do we have to complain about all the horrendous crimes and destruction they cause? A cynic could perhaps argue such a point.
One of Nestlé’s most famous PR problems was that of marketing artificial baby milk, which sprung to headlines in the 1970s following the publication of "The Baby Killer," accusing the company of getting Third World mothers hooked on formula.
As research was proving that breastfeeding was healthier, Nestlé marketed its baby formula as a way for women to ‘Westernize’ and join the modern world, handing out pamphlets and promotional samples, with companies hiring "sales girls in nurses’ uniforms (sometimes qualified, sometimes not)" in order to drop by homes and sell formula.
Women tried to save money on the formula by diluting it, often times with contaminated water.
As the London-based organization War on Want noted:
An official with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) blamed baby formula for,
Mike Muller, the author of "The Baby Killer" back in 1974, wrote an article for the Guardian in 2013 in which he mentioned that he gave Peter Brabeck a "present" at the World Economic Forum, a signed copy of the report.
The report had sparked a global boycott of Nestlé and the company responded with lawsuits.
Nestlé has also been implicated for its support of palm-oil plantations, which have led to increased deforestation and the destruction of orangutan habitats in Indonesia.
A Greenpeace publication noted that,
A social media campaign was launched against Nestlé for its role in supporting palm oil plantations, deforestation, and the destruction of orangutan habitats and lives.
The campaign pressured Nestlé to decrease its "deforestation footprint."
As Nestlé has been expanding its presence in Africa, it has also aroused more controversy in its operations on the continent. Nestlé purchases one-tenth of the world’s cocoa, most of which comes from the Ivory Coast, where the company has been implicated in the use of child labour.
In 2001, U.S. legislation required companies to engage in "self-regulation" which called for "slave free" labeling on all cocoa products.
This "self regulation," however, "failed to deliver" - imagine that! - as one study carried out by Tulane University with funding from the U.S. government revealed that roughly 2 million children were working on cocoa-related activities in both Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
Even an internal audit carried out by the company found that Nestlé was guilty of "numerous" violations of child labour laws.
Nestlé’s head of operations stated,
So naturally, they will continue to use child labour.
Peter Brabeck stated that it’s "nearly impossible" to end the practice, and he compared the practice to that of farming in Switzerland:
While acknowledging that this,
Thus, Brabeck explained,
So clearly there is no problem with using child slavery, just so long as the children get some schooling… presumably, in their ‘off-hours’ from slavery.
While Brabeck and Nestlé have made a big issue of water scarcity, which again, is an incredibly important issue, their solutions revolve around "pricing" water at a market value, and thus encouraging privatization.
Indeed, a global water grab has been a defining feature of the past several years (coupled with a great global land grab), in which investors, countries, banks and corporations have been buying up vast tracts of land (primarily in sub-Saharan Africa) for virtually nothing, pushing off the populations which live off the land, taking all the resources, water, and clearing the land of towns and villages, to convert them into industrial agricultural plantations to develop food and other crops for export, while domestic populations are pushed deeper into poverty, hunger, and are deprived of access to water.
Peter Brabeck has referred to the land grabs as really being about water:
This, noted Brabeck, is "the great water grab."
And of course, Nestlé would know something about water grabs, as it has become very good at implementing them. In past years, the company has been increasingly buying land where it is taking the fresh water resources, bottling them in plastic bottles and selling them to the public at exorbitant prices.
In 2008, as Nestlé was planning to build a bottling water plant in McCloud, California, the Attorney General opposed the plan, noting:
Nestlé already operated roughly 50 springs across the country, and was acquiring more, such as a plan to draw roughly 65 million gallons of water from a spring in Colorado, despite fierce opposition to the deal.
Years of opposition to the plans of Nestlé in McCloud finally resulted in the company giving up on its efforts there. However, the company quickly moved on to finding new locations to take water and make a profit while destroying the environment (just an added bonus, of course).
The corporation controls one-third of the U.S. market in bottled water, selling it as 70 different brand names, including,
And water grabs by Nestlé as well as opposition continue to engulf towns and states and cities across the country, with one more recent case in Oregon.
Nestlé has been implicated in the kidnapping and murder of a union activist and employee of the company’s subsidiary in Colombia, with a judge demanding the prosecutor to,
In 2012, a Colombian trade union and a human rights group filed charges against Nestlé for negligence over the murder of their former employee Romero.
More recently, Nestlé has been found liable over spying on NGOs, with the company hiring a private security company to infiltrate an anti-globalization group, and while a judge ordered the company to pay compensation, a Nestlé spokesperson stated that,
Just like child slavery, presumably.
But not to worry, the spokesman said,
Peter Brabeck, who it should be noted, also sits on the boards of,
...warned in 2009 that the global economic crisis would be "very deep" and that,
On top of that, the food crisis would be "getting worse" over time, hitting poor people the hardest.
However, propping up the financial sector through massive bailouts was, in his view, "absolutely essential."
But not to worry, as banks are bailed out by governments, who hand the bill to the population, which pays for the crisis through reduced standards of living and exploitation (which we call "austerity" and "structural reform" measures), Nestlé has been able to adapt to a new market of impoverished people, selling cheaper products to more people who now have less money.
And better yet, it’s been making massive profits...
And remember, according to Brabeck, isn’t that all that really matters? This is the world according to corporations.
Unfortunately, while it creates enormous wealth, it is also leading to the inevitable extinction of our species, and possibly all life on earth. But that’s not a concern of corporations, so it doesn’t concern those who run corporations, who make the 'important decisions', and pressure and purchase our politicians.
I wonder… what would the world be like if people were able to make decisions?
There’s only one way to know...