It’s caved in on palm oil, but its baby formula is also controversial, notes Joanna Blythman

So that's one up for the orang-utans. A three-month guerilla campaign, conducted largely on social networking sites, has brought Nestlé to its knees. Kit Kat fans didn't take too kindly to Greenpeace's spoof Have a Break? ad that showed an office worker biting into a Kit Kat containing an orangutan finger that dripped blood on to a keyboard.

All of sudden, having dragged its feet over sourcing sustainable palm oil, Nestlé has set a deadline for cancelling contracts with companies supplying oil from felled rainforests. About time, too.

Nestlé's cave-in is all the more spectacular because it has extensive experience of resisting consumer action. For more than three decades, it has been the subject of a co-ordinated international boycott, spearheaded in the UK by the tenacious Baby Milk Action.

It says that in breach of international standards, Nestlé aggressively markets babyfoods in developing countries, so undermining breast feeding and contributing to the avoidable death and suffering of infants. Nestlé has been targeted by child health campaigners because they believe it is responsible for more violations of World Health Assembly marketing requirements than its rivals.

Last week, Baby Milk Action held an annual boycott demonstration at Nestlé's UK HQ in Croydon to highlight how the company has rolled out logos on products in 120 countries claiming its milk "protects" babies, when the evidence shows that in countries without clean water, babies fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breast-fed ones and, in conditions of poverty and poor sanitation, to die as a result.

According to Unicef, improved breastfeeding practices could save some 1.5 million babies a year. But many women give up breastfeeding too early because they are wooed by formula milks that appear to be modern and guarantee a Western standard of child health.

Although Greenpeace had to drag Nestlé kicking and screaming to clean up its palm oil sourcing, the company will doubtless try to make green capital out of its decision. When it has been forced to give ground on the baby milk front, it has tried to spin this as "taking the initiative'. But ethical consumers aren't naive. Nestlé will always be a tainted brand until it genuinely changes the way it does business. Campaigners will continue to invoke dead orangutans, even dead babies, until they get results.

Joanna Blythman is a food journalist and author of Bad Food Britain.