Nestle says, “The impact that we have locally has the potential to be felt internationally; the ideas that you bring to life today could shape our future”. I couldn’t agree more. The impact Nestle has internationally can also, of course, be felt locally.
Nearly half the entire Rohingya population in Rakhine state has been either murdered or expelled in what is the 21st Century’s most glaring case of ethnic cleansing; it is increasingly difficult to not characterize what is happening in Myanmar as a full-blown genocide. Nestle is one of the biggest companies in the world, even without its significant investment in Myanmar, they possess the kind of global influence that could potentially persuade the regime in Yangon to not only halt its pogroms in Rakhine, but indeed, to reverse its policy of repression against the Rohingya.
It is absolutely essential for the most powerful players in the international business community to back up the United Nations’ and the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State’s recommendations for resolving the crisis in Myanmar if they are ever going to bear fruit. We cannot talk about powerful players without talking about Nestle, the largest foods company on Earth. Any word from Nestle weighs heavily on the scales of policy-making, not only in Myanmar, but around the world. Their silence is just as significant.
When major companies like Nestle do not take a stand against genocide, it is interpreted by the regime as permission; and it will be interpreted by consumers as either indifference at best, or actual complicity and collusion at worst.
Nestle has been admirably responsive to public grievances in many instances, such as the recent campaign by Greenpeace over the company’s use of palm oil from Sinar Mas. They took many steps to address the concerns; steps that no doubt came at a considerable expense for Nestle.
Condemning genocide costs nothing.
What Nestle stands to lose by speaking out is negligible compared to what they stand to lose by their silence; and indeed, to what they stand to gain by taking a stand. The people in the Southeast Asian region care tremendously about the Rohingya issue; tempers are running high as the pogroms continue while the international community seems to remain largely ineffectual. A “Day of Anger” has been announced for November 5th, with protests planned in Malaysia and around the world. But directionless outrage and frustration can lead to very negative and even destructive consequences. It is time for the global business leaders like Nestle to take the lead in reining in the Myanmar regime by letting them know that multinational corporations and foreign investors do not approve, and will not tolerate the crimes against humanity being perpetrated against the Rohingya.
It is time for Nestle and other leading companies to align themselves with the call for peace and justice in Rakhine. It is time for Nestle to declare that “We Are All Rohingya Now”.