Category Archives: ibwa

More Greenwashing From IBWA? This Time It’s “Fake Reporting”

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is no stranger to greenwashing (anyone who says bottled water is the most eco-friendly packaged beverage isn’t motivated by the planet’s well-being).

Now – in the face of “The Story of Stuff” viral video maven Annie Leonard turning her attention to bottled water – they’ve been forced to fire up the FUD machine (that’s Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt), in this instance, coloring the debate with what we (and Huffington Post blogger Jason Likins) charitably call “pretend journalism.”

Bottled Water Industry Combats Anti-Green Perceptions With Pretend Journalism (VIDEO)

The bottled water industry, fighting back against accusations that they are a significant contributor to environmental degradation, has released this magical video of glorious greenwashing, redolent of the famous video news releases in which Karen Ryan pretended to a journalist while promoting the Bush White House’s “No Child Left Behind” Act.

The New York Times’s Sindya N. Bhanoo reports that this video, sent out by the International Bottled Water Association, is a direct response to Annie Leonard’s The Story of Bottled Water (which you can read more about here). In the video, the IBWA touts the manufacturers of bottled water as “good stewards of the environment.” It features blissed-out coffeehouse acoustic guitar music, bucolic scenes of nature and a pretend reporter from pretend outfit “BWM Reports” pretending to pose pretend questions in pretend journalistic settings. The unnamed interlocutor serves up softballs, and happily nods along, like the Liz Glover Of Corporate Evil.


Water Expert Peter Gleick Calls Out IBWA for Misleading Statistics

Peter Gleick is an expert on water issues, and in his San Francisco Chronicle blog, he offers reasoned, intelligent, adult commentary about things like water rights, water conservation, and yes, the bottled water industry.

In this case, he takes aim at tactics of the IBWA (the bottled water industry trade association) for creating and publicizing irrelevant statistics:

In recent years, there has been growing public opposition to the construction of large spring water bottling plants in small rural communities in Maine, Michigan, California, Colorado and elsewhere because of fear, and some direct physical evidence, that such large plants adversely affect local groundwater levels, flowing springs and local wetlands.

In response, the bottled water industry, led by the International Bottled Water Association, launched a campaign (including testimony to state and federal legislators) arguing that there was no problem because “ground water withdrawals for bottled water production represent only 0.019 percent of the total fresh ground water withdrawals in the U.S.”

Ah, here rears the ugly head of the denominator problem. This number is probably very close to true. It is also completely irrelevant and misleading.

The proper denominator should not be total U.S. groundwater withdrawals, it should be some measure of local groundwater availability, or use, or yield — a much smaller denominator. In this case, a bottled water withdrawal may be a very significant fraction of local groundwater. But by choosing a big denominator, the industry was attempting to disguise a problem.

You can read the entirety of Peter Gleick’s post here: Peter Gleick: The Denominator Problem; Misleading Use of Water Numbers | Circle of Blue | WaterNews.

Frankly, we’re not surprised that the IBWA would rely on misinformation; despite the industry’s warm, fuzzy exterior, we’ve seen several instances where the association has attacked the quality of tap water – the classic attempt to create doubt about what comes out your tap.

It’s largely rubbish, but it’s par for the course for the IBWA – an employee of which was called out on this blog for posting industry talking points on the Huffington Post without identifying himself as an industry schill.

That was former Tobacco Institute spokesperson Tom Lauria (who pops up in the comments section below the post and levels on amusing charge after another), and if you wonder why the IBWA hired Mr. Lauria, it’s because – with their bottom line under attack by the recession and the bottled water backlash – creating doubt about the quality of tap water remains their only hope of sustaining an unsustainable, largely pointless product.

Need we point out that Nestle Waters of North America – the leading water bottler worldwide – is the big dog in the IBWA? And that Nestle CEO Kim Jeffries has been quoted as saying that municipal water supplies “go down a lot”?