BlogHer ’10, Nestle Sponsorship, & Integrity

I’ve wanted to attend the annual BlogHer Conference for four years now, and I was so excited a month ago when my plans were finalized, so I could attend. It is being held in New York in August.   I was also very excited I would be going with one of my best friends, Amy from Crunchy Domestic Goddess.  Amy sparked my interest in blogging years ago, and she inspired me to start my own blog.   

Amy and I live in neighboring towns, so we have been working on getting our airfares, so we can fly to New York together.  While we were exchanging e-mails yesterday, she asked if I heard that Stouffer’s, who is owned by Nestle, was now listed as one of BlogHer’s ’10 sponsors?  I had seen a tag-line or two on it, but had not had time to read up on it.  Amy sent me Annie’s, from PhD. in Parenting, blog post, on this subject. 

As I read Annie’s post and did a bit more research myself, my excitement over BlogHer ’10 turned to disappointment.  Nestle is one of the most boycotted companies worldwide since 1970, for engaging in many questionable ethical business practices.  I personally have an issue with their constant efforts and marketing to undermine breastfeeding.  I avoid buying anything Nestle when at all possible.  Like Annie though, I don’t question others about it, or ask my friends if the chocolate chip cookies they made contains Nestle chocolate.  Like most big businesses, it is nearly impossible to avoid Nestle and their brands completely. 

Eating a chocolate chip cookie from a friend is different though, when faced with the knowledge the conference that I really want to attend is being paid for in part, by Nestle.  Another dilemma I have is my conference tickets were wait-listed.  BlogHer specifically said if they were able to get more sponsors, then more tickets would be available.  Nestle was not listed as an original sponsor. It isn’t too far of a reach to conclude the reason I even got a ticket in part, is because of Nestle’s sponsorship.  

I am frustrated that BlogHer would even consider, let alone accept Nestle as a sponsor.  I accept advertising for my blog through BlogHer, but I have specifically opted out of accepting any formula companies, such as Nestle.  BlogHer is aware of the boycott and the issues surrounding Nestle.  I would have rather not received a wait-listed ticket, and not have been able to attend the conference, than attend with this now black cloud of controversy surrounding it.

It bothers me BlogHer, which supports women in so many aspects, accepted Nestle as a sponsor, when their business practices hurt so many women and their children, especially the most vulnerable in developing countries. 

As a member of the American Cancer Society Blogger Advisory Council, there is an event in New York the day before BlogHer, they are sponsoring for me.  I will be in New York to attend that event.  That is a silver lining- I will be able to see firsthand some wonderful programs the American Cancer Society has, and have no moral quandaries about participating in it.

I wrote my beliefs about the blogging event Nestle hosted last October, and the responsibility we have as bloggers. Two sentences I wrote jumped out at me as I re-read my own words, in light of this dilemma:   

…as bloggers, we need to be responsible to something greater than just a company’s marketing campaigns.

People turn to blogs for honest and trust-worthy information.  If we allow ourselves to be “bought” by any and every company that comes a-callin’ should we be surprised when our collective reputation as a source of unbiased, accurate, and honest information is tarnished and eventually weakened?

Do I attend BlogHer and justify the reasons for myself?  How can I stand by what I wrote about being “bought” when for all practical purposes, I am doing the same thing, now that I am aware Nestle is a sponsor? 

There are bloggers who are boycotting Nestle who are still going to attend, and try to raise awareness on this issue. Others are boycotting BlogHer ’10.  That is their personal decision they have every right to make for themselves.  I am not saying they are right or wrong, but I am going to have to decide for myself what the right decision is.

I have missed BlogHer every year, and right now I feel I could missboycott BlogHer ’10 because Nestle is a sponsor, and I would be fine.  Yes, I’d be bummed, and I would miss out on a lot of good information, community, friends, and fun.  But I would also be able to know without a doubt, I did not compromise on an issue I feel very strongly about when it mattered.  Integrity is easy to maintain, when there is no pressure to maintain it. 

I am considering all my options, and will make a decision soon.  I have spent the last three and a half years, building a loyal readership of my blog, and I appreciate every reader I have.  I feel I have a responsibility to my readers as well.  I don’t want to be a blogger who writes about how important breastfeeding is to babies, women, and our society, and then attends a conference sponsored in part, by one of the biggest companies who undermines it on a global scale. 

One truth is the swing of the sentence, the beat and poise, but down deeper it’s the integrity of the writer as he matches with the language~ Don DeLillo