Toronto Passes Bottled Water Ban by Sizable Margin in Face of Intensive Nestle PR/Lobbying Effort

Toronto joined a fast-growing club of Canadian towns which have put an end to city purchasing of bottled water and the sale of bottled water in city facilities:

The Toroonto Star: City council passes bag fee and bottle ban

And despite a determined lobby from bottled water companies to block the measure, councillors voted to ban the sale or distribution of bottled water immediately at City Hall and the city’s civic centres where contracts permit.

Bottled water at other city-owned facilities such as arenas and theatres will be banned by the end of 2011.

The final vote wasn’t close: 30 in favour of the bag and bottle measures, and 13 against.

We reported on the bottled water industry’s increasingly desperate lobbying efforts in a prior post, including the publication of an ad lauding bottled water as the “the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world” – a claim that prompted the filing of several misleading advertising claims.

Sadly, Toronto’s experience with Nestle Waters of North America mirror those of so many others; the city asked the companies for packaging alternatives more than year in advance, and got stonewalled in return – until the specter of an effective ban loomed.

In that situation, the water bottlers reacted predictably – misleading PR campaigns, last-minute lobbying efforts at the highest levels, etc:

But bottled water companies lobbied councillors hard throughout the meeting to try to amend the bottled water ban. Councillor Mark Grimes (Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) acted the role of go-between, repeatedly shuttling between water lobbyists in the public gallery and councillors on the chamber floor, trying to sell a compromise deal that ultimately failed.

Miller said he the level of lobbying was high, but said it was the timing that disturbed him most.

City officials had asked industry players for their ideas on reducing packaging a year or more ago, he said, and met a wall of resistance.

“We asked for data, we asked for partnership, we asked for ideas. And it wasn’t until our staff brought forward a comprehensive report that we saw any movement,” he said.

If Nestle was the good corporate citizen it claims to be in its greenwashed citizenship report (published uncritictaly here – read the comments below the post for an interesting perspective on Nestle’s “citizenship”), it would have responded to the community’s questions about waste and the undermining of municipal water supplies instead of firing a barrage from its PR & lobbying artillery.

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4 thoughts on “Toronto Passes Bottled Water Ban by Sizable Margin in Face of Intensive Nestle PR/Lobbying Effort

  1. Wouldn’t it be nice if the selectmen in Fryburg could stand up and stop purchasing Poland Spring water? Hey, can’t they just get it out of the tap!

  2. But isn’t Poland Spring giving away cases of water free in Fryeburg? What could possibly make more sense than pumping water from the ground, bottling it, and giving it back to the people in the town it was taken from?

  3. Oh no, the town is purchasing the water to the tune of $30/month, I understand.

    Poland Spring WAS giving away water only if you answered some questions correctly and went to pick it up at their office. The town is purchasing the water in 5 gallon bottles that are filled with water that is pumped in Fryeburg, trucked to Framingham Massachusetts, bottled in large bottles, and then shipped back to Fryeburg.

    Sounds “green” to me, right?? This from a very “environmentally conscious” company…. Sounds like a HUGE rip-off of the taxpayers to me!

  4. Just when you think it couldn’t get any stranger. What’s odd is that Poland Spring/Nestle thought the “free” bottled water had any value whatsoever being as it essentially came out of residents’ own pipes.

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