A Swiss court has found Nestlé guilty of spying on anti-globalisation group Attac. After the announcement of the judgement last week, Nestle and a Swiss security company, Securitas AG, have been ordered to pay compensation to the non-governmental organisation (NGO).
In 2003, Temps Present, a Swiss TV channel, broadcast a story that a Securitas employee has infiltrated an Attac work group in the canton of Vaud to obtain information on behalf of Nestlé. In 2008 Attac filed criminal and civil claims against Nestle and Securitas AG.
In 2009, the criminal case against the two was dropped but the civil action continued. It concluded with the court ordering Nestlé and Securitas AG to pay compensation of 3,000 Swiss Francs, approximately 2,400 euros per claimant.
Nine activists who attended the 2003 meeting in Vaud had brought the case. “We are very satisfied that the civil court condemned Nestlé’s and Securitas AG’s spying activities,” Attac said in a statement.
A Nestle spokesman reacted by saying: “Incitement to infiltration is against Nestlé‘s corporate business principles.” The company also expressed “disappointment” over the judge’s decision.
History of clashes with NGOs
Swiss-based Nestlé, which sells 67 billion euros worth of products a year including Nescafé coffee and Kit-Kat chocolate bars, has a history of clashes with activist groups.
In the 1980s, the world’s biggest food company went through a series of disputes with non-governmental organisation that led to boycotts over sales of baby milk in Africa.
Since then, Nestlé has been trying to repair its damaged profile by cultivating stronger ties with NGOs.
The expansion of social networks has boosted consumers’ consciousness and Nestlé has focused on corporate social responsibility by embracing initiatives in such areas as saving water resources and restrictions on child labour.
Nevertheless, this latest case involving an NGO could damage the food giant’s image afresh.