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In: Business and Management

Submitted By eshiminorou29
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Pages 5
The field of Business Ethics relies on a relatively small core of well-known cases of corporate behavior to illustrate the themes of the subject. Near the top of this list of familiar names (e.g., the Ford Pinto, Tylenol, and Bhopal) is Nestle´ S.A., the Swiss food conglomerate. Of all the business histories examined by students of ethics, Nestle´’s saga of controversy is perhaps one of most intriguing.
In the late 1960s, Nestle´ was criticized by social activists for its marketing of powdered milk formula for infants in less developed countries. The case became a cause ce´le`bre as Nestle´ became the victim of a well-organized boycott campaign.
The conflict has become a popular case study in the business school curriculum because it demonstrates the need that companies have to constantly preserve and enhance their legitimacy in the public eye. The discussion of legitimacy leads quite naturally into a discussion of issue management, and the consequences of mismanaging a public issue (Post 1985 p. 127).
Although Nestle´ was the subject of the boycott, the infant formula controversy may have initially been seen more as a dispute over generic bad practices within the infant formula industry rather than as a focused attack on one particular firm, a perspective that Nestle´ itself may have wanted to engineer. The original publication that stimulated the boycott refers to an industry-wide pattern of marketing of infant formula. (Muller 1974) To begin with Nestle´ was illustrative of an overall malaise, and it is conceivable that if it had not been the industry market leader then social activists might have initially focused their attacks on an alternative firm in the industry. Nestle´ was ‘‘the unwilling representative of the entire formula industry’’ (Frederick et al. 1992, p. 563).
C. Boyd (&)
Department of Management and Marketing, Edwards…...

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