Have you heard about the Nestle/Google partnership? Nestle has been the subject of a boycott on the basis of their formula marketing practices for decades and lists of products to avoid are available.
While I avoid buying Nestle products for the most part (there are often alternatives, after all) and believe it is appropriate to ensure that their products are not used at places like lactation conferences, I wouldn’t say I boycott them. I am certainly not as hardcore as some people are. But I’m not so sure that, even for those hardcore people, a boycott of Google is appropriate.
In the United States, Hershey’s owns the rights to KitKat; obviously, they have a financial relationship with Nestle that enables that to happen. Specifically, as per the Hershey Company FAQ:
Hershey also has an agreement with Societe des Produits Nestle SA, which licenses Hershey to manufacture and distribute KIT KAT and ROLO confectionery products in the United States. Hershey’s rights under this agreement are extendible on a long-term basis at Hershey’s option, subject to certain conditions.
However, Hershey has not been subject to any sort of boycott, although after the Google KitKat announcement, some have implicated Hershey as a co-consipirator. People are even dumping their Android phones that are not yet running the KitKat OS and need never run it, since you can defer upgrading to the new operating system and wait until the next one if you’d like to avoid whatever nebulous ties there are to Nestle.
The Baby Milk Action Nestle boycott list says something interesting to me:
We list products from which Nestlé profits. So Nestlé ice cream is listed because, although Nestlé sold the company, it continues to receive payments for use of the brand name.
According to this source, no money exchanged hands in the Google/Nestle deal; it’s a cross-promotion effort. One could argue that profits might be made based on this cross promotion, but aren’t profits being made for Nestle via Hershey? They wouldn’t have an ongoing business relationship if it wasn’t profitable.
For that matter, wouldn’t it be prudent to boycott all retailers who carry Nestle products? “But,” you may say, “That would be everyone!” Yes, it would. So where should the line be drawn?
In my opinion, the line should be drawn before Google. How many people who are working hard to help mothers, babies, and families are using Google to communicate with the world? How much advocacy is taking place on Google+ or through Google Groups? How does dumping what is arguably the most heavily used communications platform help communicate with those people who have absolutely no interest or stake in the Nestle boycott?
It seems clear to me that if the aim is to avoid directly increasing the profits of Nestle, avoiding use of Google based on this deal makes no sense, and may, in fact, do more harm than good. One could argue that it’s important to make a stand and hold one’s philosophical ground. If you can reach the same number of people while entirely avoiding Google, be my guest, but I would rather spend the time it would cost to avoid Google in a manner that is more profitable for breastfeeding advocacy as a whole.