Can an ethical consumer still spend money with the NCT?

 

Nina Simone taught me to leave the table when love is no longer being served. Boy did I get the opportunity to put that into action when I posted a musing about possibly boycotting the NCT in light of its shady dealings with Starbucks who are now in bed with Nestle around New Years eve – more about this later. A bun fight of epic social media proportions ensued. Unfortunately the NCT are not the best at communicating updates on things like this. At the time despite being live on their website the deal with Starbucks is no longer on.

 

Some time ago the NCT shifted from the grassroots charity with mothers at its heart to a  corporate monster. Gradually moment by moment it became an organisation I could no longer support nor work for. My own final straw was the hostile take-over of the midwifery charity MIDIRS – more about this later too.

 

I want this piece to be a reference point for parents and well any consumers or birth workers who may be deciding whether to work with or give money to the NCT – I’ll try to keep it as factual as possible.  This is not an attack on the many practitioners who work really hard to support parents and babies and each other while in the midst of this organisation. You have my heart and I honour you – I repeat this is not an attack on you but a list of information about the organisation you work for. If it feels offensive that I am speaking some harsh truths there is something for you to exam around whether you should be continuing to work for them – don’t shoot the messenger. This is the #metoo era. Institutions and idols are falling all around us unexpectedly.

 

After the vitriol I experienced online in the wake of what was just an offhand thought I have been off researching. Unfortunately the lovely woman at the NCT who I have been emailing with hasn’t provided me with all I needed despite asking repeatedly so some of the information here is what I’ve gleaned from my own research and some is from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

 

I might add here that as well as the horrible energy I received on Facebook I was also private messaged by a truckload of unhappy NCT practitioners who remain in the organisation despite their reservations because 1) they want to make change from the inside and they value the history of the NCT (as do I) and 2) they can’t afford to leave their job for their principles. I salute the hard work and love I see many of my colleagues working in the NCT dish out to families all the time. Again this is not a personal attack on you. Seriously hats off to you and if there is anything I can do to support you I will.

 

Here are the issues below. Make of it what you will.

 

Bell Pottinger PR 

 

Bell Pottinger were hired to carry out PR work for the NCT. They have been involved in a “race hate” campaign in South Africa – read more here.

 

They also advised the NCT to force resignation from some of their trustees to essentially take the rap for the corporation after a tragic baby death in one of the charities Bednest’s – an alongside co-sleeper. The tragedy was ruled as accidental.

 

NCT members and practitioners tell me there was bullying. Including Nick Wilkie CEO threatening to suspend their membership in the event they refused to step down which would effectively mean they could no longer serve as trustees.

 

A campaign led by 13 local office holders, antenatal teachers and other volunteers tried without success to persuade the leadership to reinstate the trustees, hold an independent inquiry or arrange mediation.

 

They are now in administration following the South Africa scandal.

 

Starbucks

 

When I wrote my initial Facebook status musing the NCT still had live pages on their sites that spoke of a current relationship. This relationship lasted two years but actually ended in February 2018.

 

Starbucks was involved in horrible racism in 2018. Read more about it here. There is of course also their tax avoiding.

 

They are now in bed with Nestle and if you don’t know what they get up to go hang out on google and have a look. They are literal baby killers.

 

There are all sorts of other concerns around Starbucks including their factory farmed milk containing bovine growth hormone and all kinds of other goodies to think about.

 

However to stress the point they no longer have a relationship with them. They just did have one in the past.

 

Nick Wilkie

 

Some have a problem with him being the first man to run this charity. Up until he took over it was always woman centred and run. Not a huge problem just a shame. There is major under-representation of women in the UK’s top charities. Read more about this here.

 

I was told all sorts of other things about him by the practitioners but it’s all hearsay and I’m reluctant to include any of that here. What I can tell you though is he’s clearly not so popular among them. From all the many messages I have received they seem like a very dedicated bunch of women who are working for a very oppressive organisation. Not one wished to be identified in any way.

 

Johnson and Johnson

 

Johnson and Johnson have been involved in countless court cases that have ruled in favour of the accuser. They centre around women with ovarian cancer whose parents used their baby powder. The main jist of the pay out is that they knew of the cancer risk to the babies yet continued to sell their product. Read more about that here.

 

The NCT no longer have an active relationship with Johnson and Johnson but it was alive and well even after all these court cases. They will not state why it ended. Of course we know in light of the bad press above working with a charity like the NCT is a great press move.

 

Pukka/Unilever 

 

Unilever are associated with forced child labour, rainforest destruction and animal testing.

 

The relationship is currently active.

 

Clarion/The Baby Show 

 

The NCT partner with The Baby Show and this show is owned and run now by Clarion. Clarion also happen to run a very nasty arms fair. It’s nasty because its arms of course but it’s most concerning as it seems to be arms with no scruples at all. You can learn more about the fair here. Sellers are criticised for selling weapons that are designed to bring not just death but torturous harm. See the seller’s here. Buyers are criticised for authoritarian regimes and wars. Read about them here.

 

Blackstone own Clarion. The Blackstone CEO heads up Trumps advisory committee.

 

Unicef left The Baby Show when Clarion took over.

 

Even Bounty left in protest.

 

For me this is the big one. On this original post and it’s fall out the general justification seemed to be it’s okay to do something awful to get good ends. Basically look away from all the black and brown dead and injured people and focus on the all the lovely white middle class parents and babies it helps. I have pictures of dead Muslim babies in my social media feed daily killed by arms that are bought and sold at this fair.

My nature is to continue to stand against injustices as I did with South Africa back in the day and continue now with Grenfell. It’s who I am. Writing about these unethical links is important. I haven’t been able to find it elsewhere so I’m prepared to put myself forward as the forum for information. I am asked frequently and now I can just send a link.

This comes not only from the awful companies the NCT are choosing to partner with in recent years but because I have a steady stream of dissatisfied parents (as well as some very satisfied) and an even longer list of women who wanted to work or study with the NCT but felt unwelcome, unfairly treated. Women telling me about images of their people being used to sell the product but those same people were not made to feel welcome. I continue to receive messages from women telling me of problems with social media influencers who have links to the NCT giving awful advice, racism in promotional films (the latest being the only woman of colour in the film being the single mother!) and other crimes.

 

We are halfway through our Edinburgh and London groups for this years Red Tent Educators course – at least 75% of the applications mentioned dissatisfaction with the NCT and around half spoke of feeling unaccepted, covert racism and other horrors. My own experience in the NCT was shocking – I left when the employee (who specialised in hostile takeovers) made a successful hostile takeover of the midwifery organisation MIDIRS – the same day the editorial team all left in protest I saw the editor limping towards me with crutches – I couldn’t align with an organisation that functioned in such a nasty way. The whole terrible saga is detailed here.

 

I will continue to speak the truth which may be that sometimes the breastfeeding line can be really useful. Sometimes the classes can be wonderful and informative, led by an exceptional educator and bringing you a peer group you may not have had. However, I may suggest that folk think twice about giving their money to a company with spurious links to literal baby killing companies. I really can’t believe that I have to defend that point!

 

Boycotts work – it’s a simple fact. If you don’t agree with them, I suggest you take the energy that is fueling the discussion and take it to the NCT and ask them what they intend to do about their relationship with Clarion, about their diversity problems in light of this article rather than shooting the messenger.

 

If you are interested in campaigning against Clarions arms events you can find out more here https://www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk

 

They’ve also been breaching the WHO code on the marketing of breast milk substitutes – you can read all about it and sign a petition here.

 

Their own president had enough this year. She left as one of the charity’s leaders over changing policies, a corporate management structure and a “culture of fear”. – you can read more about that and the NCT’s response here.

 

The aim of all of this is not to shut the NCT down but to stop it supporting awful corporations and behaving badly so it can do its work more effectively without doing harm. I’m sorry for those who don’t see that. The argument that its a grassroots organisation is no longer valid now it has a £15 million turnover a year. I have reflected over the last few months since the original post – I am sorry for those who feel hurt but I am not sorry for putting my head above the parapet and calling a spade a spade. I will not be having huge debate over this but am prepared to add or remove information if you have any more to contribute. I wish everyone a peaceful year full of ethical companies and safe babies – it’s all love.

 

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