Defining an organizational mission and its scope: The Nestlé case

Defining the organizational mission is one of the fundamental or quintaessential tasks of top management. The mission defines the organization, its aims, activities and outputs, its raison d’être in a nutshell, and hence establishes the boundaries of its scope. Organizational missions therefore focus organizational attention and accountability. Thus, broad and vague missions might not accomplish this function.

In 2004 Nestlé started to define its mission as “nutrition, health, wellness”, together with its motto or ambition “good food, good life”. Is it a good mission? Is it too broad?

Perhaps this mission statement is an attempt to explain or justify why Nestlé was (and still is to a significant extent) present in non-food businesses, such as its then ownership of the ophtalmologic company Alcon, its L’Oréal share or their JV Galderma.

Of course, the notions health and wellness have to be precisely defined, which will inevitably be somewhat subjective (i.e. subject to taste). But in any event health is a very broad concept which goes beyond nutrition and includes physical and mental dimensions which would allow Nestlé to expand into gyms, pharmaceuticals and medical services including psychological and psychiatrical assistance. Wellness is an even broader concept related to happiness, which can be achieved through things like entertainment or going to spas.

The choice of commas between the three mission terms – nutrition, health, wellness – as well as between “good food” and “good life” is interesting. A more focused statement which would then limit Nestlé’s mission to nutrition would be “Nutrition for health and wellness” or “Good food for good life”.

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