World Breastfeeding Month is celebrated every August as part of a global campaign to raise awareness, engage, and galvanize action on the importance and benefits of breastfeeding. Because breastfeeding is not an option for everyone, shareholders advocate for company policies and compliance mechanisms to ensure that breastmilk substitute (BMS) products are marketed and distributed responsibly. For instance, per the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, BMS manufacturers should not promote or advertise BMS products in healthcare facilities or label them as superior to breastfeeding. Mercy Investment Services and its partners have engaged global BMS manufacturers, including Nestlé, Abbott, and Kraft Heinz, for several years on these issues.
As part of our concern for women and children, Mercy signed an investor letter supporting a Call to Action asking BMS manufacturers how they will fully comply with the WHO’s Code. Mercy also uses the 2021 Access to Nutrition Foundation’s BMS/Complimentary Food Marketing Index, which ranks the world’s nine largest BMS and complimentary food manufacturers on their Code compliance, in its engagements. Following shareholder engagement, Kraft Heinz adopted its first BMS responsible marketing global policy, and Nestlé has committed to expand its own policy and actively engage the industry on Code alignment.
Mercy Investment Services will continue to use the Code to guide BMS manufacturers to act out of concern for children and families.