Category Archives: nestle

While Californians Struggle With the Drought, Nestle Wants To Pump Even More Water From The Stricken State

About the only thing you can’t say about Nestle is that they’re inconsistent.

They’ve always been a corporate predator, and the remarks made to the Guardian (by the CEO of Nestle Waters of North America) suggest they’ll always be a corporate predator:

The boss of Nestlé Waters has said the company wants to increase the amount of water it bottles in California despite a devastating drought across the state that has triggered demonstrations at the corporation’s bottling plant.

Tim Brown, chief executive of Nestlé Waters North America, said the company would “absolutely not” stop bottling in California and would actually like to “increase” the amount of ground source water it uses.

Asked in a local radio interview if Nestlé would consider following Starbucks’ lead and stop bottling water in California during the drought, Brown said: “Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase it, I would.

Just to be clear; California is in the grip of a devastating, historical drought. Five of the last seven years have been drought years, and California’s residents are being told to cut their water use 30%.

For most, that means saying good-bye to landscaping, using buckets to catch the cold water coming out of the shower, idling farmlands (and those who work on them) — and waiting for the day that tap opens and nothing comes out.

Meanwhile, Nestle would pump more water if it could (and wasting approximately 30% of the water they pump).

It’s irresponsible in the extreme, but even more startling is the rhetoric coming from the company; not only are they seemingly overjoyed at the drought, they’d happily make it worse for California’s residents if only they could.

Nestle Taking Water From National Forest Land Using Permit That Expired 27 Years Ago

Nestle would like you to believe they’re a “good corporate citizen” — one that monitors the health of the aquifers it plunders and gives back to its communities.

Which makes you wonder exactly how it was they mined water from a National Park — under a permit that expired in 1988 — 27 years ago.

(No, that’s not a typo.)

From an investigative article in the Desert Sun:

Nestle Waters North America holds a longstanding right to use this water from the national forest near San Bernardino. But the U.S. Forest Service hasn’t been keeping an eye on whether the taking of water is harming Strawberry Creek and the wildlife that depends on it. In fact, Nestle’s permit to transport water across the national forest expired in 1988. It hasn’t been reviewed since, and the Forest Service hasn’t examined the ecological effects of drawing tens of millions of gallons each year from the springs.

Even with California deep in drought, the federal agency hasn’t assessed the impacts of the bottled water business on springs and streams in two watersheds that sustain sensitive habitats in the national forest. The lack of oversight is symptomatic of a Forest Service limited by tight budgets and focused on other issues, and of a regulatory system in California that allows the bottled water industry to operate with little independent tracking of the potential toll on the environment.

Nestle would like you to believe this is just a paperwork snafu, but in the same article, retired Forest Service Biologist Steve Loe had this to say:

“They’re taking way too much water. That water’s hugely important,” said Steve Loe, a biologist who retired from the Forest Service in 2007. “Without water, you don’t have wildlife, you don’t have vegetation.”

The Desert Sun’s article covers a lot of ground, including the usual Nestlespeak, which suggests everything is peachy with Nestle’s water-taking operations — despite the fact the state is in the grip of a record drought, and Nestle’s water use is increasing.

You simply have to wonder — in a state gripped by drought, why is the Forest Service selling water to a bottling company at all?

The habitat is very delicate, and there’s no way Nestle can argue that removing water from a drought-stricken habitat doesn’t affect fish and wildlife.

And what does the public get for allowing Nestle to plunder this precious resource?

$524. A year.

Save Our Water Sacramento Group Files Administrative Appeal Against Nestle’s Sacramento Plant

Nestle surely thought they’d snuck their Sacramento water bottling plant in through the back door (even a city memo acknowledged the company’s “penchant for secrecy”), but like so many other places, they’re now facing determined opposition.

Sadly for Nestle, the group uncovered a highly questionable permitting process, the appearance of a conflict of interest with a top mayoral advisor, and a development staff seemingly willing to keep the whole project hidden from public view.

In other words, it’s business as usual for Nestle – and at least some of Sacramento’s residents have discovered this sad fact:

Sacramento Press / Group to file Nestlé appeal

In a precursor to any potential legal action, a grassroots organization expects to take its next step in the fight against the Nestlé water-bottling plant by filing an administrative appeal with the city of Sacramento this week.

A Swiss public TV crew is coming to Sacramento Thursday to interview members of the group, Save Our Water Sacramento, which will re-screen the bottled-water documentary “Tapped” at 7 p.m. Thursday at Crest Theatre, 1013 K St.

Afterwards, group leaders will discuss plans to appeal the city’s designation of the Swiss company’s $14-million construction project as ministerial, rather than discretionary. A discretionary designation of a project that could possibly harm the environment triggers a requirement for an environmental assessment under the California Environmental Quality Act. A ministerial designation does not.

The California Environmental Quality Act also requires all administrative remedies be exhausted before a lawsuit can be filed, said Evan Tucker, a Sacramento resident who helps lead Save Our Water Sacramento.

“Those are supposed to exist as an alternative to litigation,” he said. “We can make our case to the city as to why the decision is incorrect.”

The group has been seeking an environmental analysis of the plant since at least September, Tucker said. City Councilmember Kevin McCarty asked the council last month to consider amending the city’s zoning code to immediately require special permits for water-bottling plants, but the proposal was never discussed.

Note the presence of a Swiss film crew; when a French film crew visited McCloud last year, I learned that Nestle’s reputation in Europe is less than sterling.

Surprise.

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Nestle’s Attempts to Woo “Mommy Bloggers” Results in PR Disaster as Company Refuses to Answer Questions

It seems that Nestle’s infant formula division employs tactics eerily similar to those used by their water bottling folks when confronted by inconvenient facts – including those that directly contradict the company’s own spin.

In the bottled water world, Nestle representatives have categorically stated they have never harmed a watershed or aquifer, yet a judge in Michigan clearly disagreed, and the company – faced with yet another losing effort in court – clearly agreed when they capitulated to a lower pumping limit in Mecosta County.

In other words, their representative lied, and it’s a pattern that plays out over and over.

In this case, it reared its head on a diastrous PR program aimed at promoting their products to “mommybloggers” who were wined and dined at a lavish seminar.

The Boycott Nestle Web site (focused on Nestle’s infant formula record [which is abominable]) recounted the whole sordid story:

But critics of the company countered that the event was a public
relations ploy in reaction to an ongoing boycott of Nestle for
marketing baby milk formula as a substitute for breast feeding in
developing countries.
In fact, before the trip, critics reached out to the bloggers invited to California and urged them to not go.
No one canceled.
As
the event got underway, the online conversation quickly turned into an
online battlefield. The company’s Twitter channel was so inundated with
anti-Nestle messages, and nasty accusations aimed at the attendees,
that it was essentially shut down. The company, caught off guard, let
the parents field questions aimed at executives until finally stepping
into the fray.
—Extract ends
I saw
several bloggers say they had been invited to the event and refused to
go. Not the same as canceling, but bloggers on the invitation list were
not all blind to the conflicts of interest in attending, even if
unaware of the boycott.
Nestlé is one of the
four most boycotted companies on the planet, according to an
independent survey, because it is found to be responsible for more
violations of the marketing standards for baby foods than any other
company.
The LA Times article is a little lazy
in characterising the posts to the #nestlefamily hashtag as
‘anti-Nestlé messages’ and ‘accusations aimed at the attendees’. The
vast majority of posts were raising concerns about Nestlé practices and
posting links to evidence (I became aware of the event through traffic
to our sites) and responding to specific requests from some attendees
for questions to put to executives, including the Chief Executive of
Nestlé USA.
Nestlé came online briefly and
offered to take questions. I offered to take part in a tweet debate
directly with Nestlé on behalf of Baby Milk Action, but this was not
taken up. Nestlé stayed on line for an hour or so, promising to come
back the next day to respond to questions, but did not.

The fact is Nestlé runs from fora where there are people with the knowledge to challenge its bland assurances that it markets formula ‘ethically and responsibly’ (a claim that the UK Advertising Standards Authority found to be untrue when Nestlé made it in an anti-boycott advertisement). It not only ran from the questions on Twitter, it now refuses to debate with Baby Milk Action, after we won a series of them from 2001 – 2004. Nestlé refused to attend a European Parliament Public Hearing in 2000, when UNICEF Legal Officer was present to address questions regarding interpretation of the marketing requirements Nestlé should be following (Nestlé claims its own interpretation is correct, while dismissing all others, including UNICEF). And Nestlé refuses to even set out its terms and conditions for participating in an independent expert tribunal into its policies and practices.

Nestlé prefers to direct people to its own website and provide written answers, but not defend them when these are scrutinised, perhaps hoping the majority will accept its assurances at face value. Those who do look closer generally come away more shocked and dismayed at Nestlé’s deceit as it tries to defend practices that contribute to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants.

Nestlé’s reticence to engage with informed critics can be understood given how its response to questions put by the PhD in Parenting blog has fueled concerns rather than dissuaded those looking at this issue. Nestlé’s answers have been posted in full on the blog, and can be found via:
http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/10/03/follow-up-questions-for-nestle/

As is often the case, Nestlé’s attempt to divert criticism became a PR disaster and gave International Nestlé-Free Week a boost in the US in its third year. The week aims to encourage boycotters to do more and non-boycotters to do something to increase the pressure on Nestlé. Boycotting has forced some changes and greater involvement can only help. See: http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2009/10/boycott-successes.html

Nestle, as it has been noted, promised to address questions, but clearly never did – at least when those questions became uncomfortable.

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Producers of “Tapped” Bottled Water Documentary Allege Nestle Trying to Limit Distribution

This statement from a Brookfield News Times interview with the makers of the bottled water documentary “Tapped” largely speaks for itself:

“A lot of major film festivals are sponsored by Nestle,” Soechtig said. “We were wondering why we weren’t getting into Cannes. We thought, is our film not good enough? Then we realized they have a hand in everything.”

Nestle asked the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute in Louisiana to not show the documentary, the Louisiana State University of Shreveport student newspaper, The Almagest, reported. The screening board denied Nestle’s request.

“I can’t help but think if they tried to pull us out of one town, Nestle has tried to pull us out of others,” Soechtig said.

The corporations have put pressure on commercial distributors, Walrath said, so he and Soechtig are distributing the film independently.

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More on Nestle’s Hiring of Key Advisor to Sacramento Mayor (and Potential Conflicts of Interest)

From s Sacramento News & Review Editorial Piece:

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Heads turned three days later when it was revealed that Smira had also taken a job working as a consultant for Nestlé Waters, the giant water-bottling company now building a bottling plant in south Sacramento.

So, uh … wait a minute.

There’s little doubt that Smira got the Nestlé job at least partially based on her political connections to the mayor. (Interestingly, he’s the one who greenlighted the water plant without a public hearing.) Like lobbyists, public-relations professionals use their connections to help them produce results for whoever they work for. That’s how it works.

But it’s weird to have key staffers (even volunteer ones) consider moving in and out of local public service this way, since a symbiotic relationship can develop between the two roles—and what’s good for the city is often not what’s good for an industry. That’s why there are anti-revolving-doors laws at the state and national level.

As the Smira case illustrates, it’s past time for Sacramento to take the revolving-door syndrome more seriously and strengthen existing laws that keep this tendency in check.

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“The public trust is washing away faster than water can flow out of one of your bottles” (Nestle Waters Accused of Poor Public Process)

Once again, Nestle Waters finds itself accused of poor public process – this time Nestle Waters of Canada is charged with hiding plans for a backup well from citizens. From the Wellington Advertiser:

The company announced its new plans for a well on Gil­mour Road at a public information session on Nov. 3 at Springfield Golf and Country Club on Gordon Street.

Yet several councillors took exception to advertising for the event, as well as letters sent to Gilmour Road residents, neither of which mentioned the plans for a secondary well. They say if that information was included, far more than a dozen people would have at­tended that meeting.

“The public trust is washing away faster than water can flow out of one of your bottles,” councillor Matthew Bul­mer said sternly. He agreed with fellow councillor Susan Fielding the ads were very “am­biguous” and said the letters to residents were even less helpful.

Letters were sent to Gil­mour Road residents the day before the meeting and neither the township nor the members of the newly established well protection committee – Bulmer, resident Dianne Paron, and Alan Dale of the Grand River Conservation Authority – were among the recipients.

“I’m concerned you’re trying to wiggle out of a very basic responsibility,” Bulmer said.

That Nestle stands accused of trying to sneak one past residents isn’t exactly news; they’ve been accused of the same thing in McCloud, Fryeburg, Sacramento, Mecosta County (MI), Florida, Wells/Kennebunk (ME), parts of Canada, and a whole host of other places.

While Nestle’s “good corporate citizen” routine is a regular part of its act, a closer look at the company’s actions belies the claim.

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Did Poland Spring’s Heavy-Handed Media Campaign Doom it in Wells?

This opinion piece from Maine’s Seacoast Online suggests Nestle/Poland Spring’s well-oiled PR machine may have worked against the company, with voters becoming increasingly disenchanted with what appeared to be a heavy-handed campaign:

While many of us were holding onto our spare change and waiting for signs of economic recovery, Poland Spring launched an all-out, full-color, full-volume attack on the small community of Wells and the surrounding towns. From the ads to the mailers to the calls placed by telemarketers, there was little respite even for those who tend to ignore local issues.

So, on Tuesday, the voters rose and carried themselves to the Wells High School, and there they delivered what many hope will be a crushing blow to the hopes of multinational giant Nestlé.

Those of us steeped in the tradition of newsroom skepticism aren’t so sure Nestlé or Poland Spring will be deterred so easily, which is why we just last week argued in favor of the Wells water extraction ordinance — it seems to us that even basic protections are better than none.

But whatever comes next, maybe Poland Spring will learn a few lessons, as Bloomberg has, about the danger of voter fatigue and the power of grass-roots organizing.

While the Nestlé folks were rolling out their glossy campaign, local organizers from across the region spent countless hours wearing through shoe leather, knocking on doors and reaching out to voters.

It worked, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that the effort will pay off in the long run.

Nestle desperately didn’t want this vote to go against them, and their big-dollar efforts reflected that desire. Still, in the face of strong grassroots organizing – the kind they faced in McCloud and Mecosta County – their glossy campaigns simply weren’t enough.

Press Release: Citizens Reject Wells Water Extraction Ordinance (“No” to Nestle)

Press Release
November 3,2009

Contact: Jamilla El-Shafei,organizer for Save Our Water and The Branch Brook Aquifer Coalition (email: jamillaelshafei@gmail.com)
Contact: Jean Foss, spokesperson for Protect Wells Water and member of The Branch Brook Aquifer Coalition (email: jeanfoss@earthlink.net)

Wells voters rejected a water extraction ordinance 3,194 no to 1,420 yes.

Jamilla El-Shafei, organizer for Save Our Water, a water justice organization which includes residents from Wells, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport,Ogunquit and Biddeford, who organized the opposition along with Protect Wells Water said “In spite of the Nestle Waters Corporation spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence the vote in Wells, the citizens are standing up to protect their water from corporate exploitation and sending a message: No to large scale water extraction and No to Nestle!

We are hoping that the State of Maine takes notice and that our legislators put water in the public trust.”

“Presently, surface water and ground water are regulated under two different bodies of law, yet they are part of the same hydrological cycle. We need to have one law which protects our water, the state’s most precious resource and place it in the public trust.”

Jean Foss, spokesperson for Protect Wells Water said “Rejection of the Wells ordinance, question #1, makes clear that the people of Wells do not want large scale water extraction. By this decision Wells groundwater remains fully available to the homes and local businesses that depend on it. Wells voters can credit themselves for turning out in numbers to vote on a critical and confusing issue.

Future assaults on our aquifers are likely as water becomes scarce. Citizens are concerned and increasingly well informed. They rightfully demand that our laws, both state and local adequately defend people’s access to clean and abundant water.”

As Vote on Wells Water Ordinance Nears, Nestle/Poland Spring Accused of Dirty Tricks

It’s almost as if Nestle/Poland Spring can’t quite walk the straight and narrow – even when all eyes are on them.

As a vote on Wells’ controversial water extraction ordinance nears, activists are crying foul – and alleging dirty tricks on the part of Nestle/Poland Spring.

First, Nestle printed and distributed fliers which listed incorrect poll opening and closing times.

Nestle claims an it was an innocent error, but opponents aren’t convinced – especially given Nestle’s willingness to meddle in local politics in other places (Nestle maintained they weren’t going to interfere in McCloud’s 2006 elections, but wrote a check to their candidates the day before the election).

Now, a leader in the fight to vote down the proposed Wells commercial water extraction ordinance alleges further misdeeds by Nestle/Poland Spring (in a Seacoast Online article):

I’m mad as hell,” said Jamilla El-Shafei, a water-rights activist from Kennebunk, who alleged that phone calls were made Oct. 20 to Wells residents telling them that if they wanted to reject the ordinance they should vote “yes,” when in fact a “no” vote would oppose it.

El-Shafei, who has spoken out against Poland Spring and its parent company, Nestlé Waters North America, said the alleged phone calls were outright wrong.

Some of the more than dozen people who spoke about the ordinance, reiterated that “yes” means in favor of the ordinance and “no” means against it. About 60 people attended the meeting.

In a subsequent email, she offered more detail:

Last week when some of us were canvassing the telemarketers (perhaps from Nestle) had just called folks before we came to the door. When asked about voting on the water extraction issue, when the residents said “I don’t want Poland Springs taking my water,” the telemarketers said “VOTE YES if you don’t want water extraction.”

People were really upset to learn that they were snookered, once we explained it to them. One man said “I am so mad I am going to call the papers.”

Later, she alleged intimidation on the part of a Poland Spring attorney:

On Thursday night, Save Our Water had a speaker from Hollis speak before the Terri Swier talk about them spraying chemicals from their waste water on fields in Hollis as well as other things and the next day Nestle’s Attorney Chip Ahrens from Pierce Atwood called the woman and intimidated her.

There’s no way to confirm what was said during the phone call or what Mr. Ahrens’s intentions were, but it’s clear that – as the pivotal Wells ordinance vote approaches – Nestle’s clearly concerned.

Should the ordinance – based on a Denmark ordinance that many allege was written by a Nestle-friendly consultant – go down before a vote of the citizens, a moratorium to prevent extraction would be extended.

More importantly, small towns that want nothing to do with Nestle/Poland Spring will realize they have options – and Nestle/Poland Spring can’t sue them all.

Christian Science Monitor Explores Nestle Issue in Salida (CO), Nestle Can’t Be Happy

While Nestle Waters of North America’s water extraction operation in Chaffee County, CO may have received a go-ahead from the county (despite the fact Nestle’s application didn’t meet the criteria), citizens are not happy, and the story drew the attention of the Christian Science Monitor, which included this passage:

For the better part of this year, Salida – population 5,400 – has also been the setting for a 21st century kind of battle – over water.

Here and there in windows and entryways are signs reading “Stop Nestlé” or “Nest-Leave.” They refer to a proposed project by Nestlé Waters North America, which hopes to pump water from a spring a half-hour north of here and sell it under its Arrowhead label.

Citing myriad concerns, a group of residents has objected vigorously. They worry about impacts to the watershed and to nearby wetlands. They say that climate change, predicted to further dry Colorado and the Southwest, warrants a precautionary approach to all things water-related. And, pointing to fights other communities have had with the company, they say they simply don’t want Nestlé as a neighbor.

None of the above is news to StopNestleWaters readers, and the response from Nestle’s operative is also predictable; opponents are “emotional” and Nestle’s only a target because they’re big.

This, of course, ignores the numerous conflicts Nestle’s incited in other rural areas, and it’s a shame the article itself doesn’t completely explore the roots of citizen dissatisfaction with Nestle.

Still, attention from national and international media (like the famous BusinessWeek article on Nestle’s battle in McCloud) are the very thing that Nestle would like to avoid. After all, the company is one the most-boycotted corporations on the planet, and they’re still facing an international baby formula boycott for their predatory tactics aimed at third world mothers.

National media attention they don’t need – even that which uncritically accepts the statements of their spokespeople.