Tag Archives: bottled water ban

Nestle Waters Keeps Hitting Brick Wall Fighting Canadian Bottled Water Bans

It hasn’t been a great year for Nestle PR Operative John Challinor, who’s seen setback after setback in Canada – where municipalities are banning bottled-water sales on city property.

Rather than waltz in, threaten a few jobs, and then misdirect the conversation towards the evils of sugary drinks, Challinor’s been running into opinion articles like this:

TheSpec.com – Opinions – Nestle protests bottled-water ban

Councillors were unanimous in their enthusiasm for a ban once problems are resolved, and asked staff for a report by fall on how to do it. Some asked, why go after water bottles only? Why not plastic pop and juice bottles? Staff replied, “You can’t turn on a tap and get orange juice or pop. It’s a beginning.”

Less enthusiastic — downright opposed, actually — was former Milton councillor John Challinor, now Nestle Waters Canada’s PR man, who has been travelling the country trying to allay ever-mounting municipal concern. He raised the health and safety issue of disallowing police, fire, and ambulance personnel the use of bottled water. Drinking fountains and refillable bottles aren’t practical or sanitary, he said, and referred to the committee’s stance as “nothing more than greenwashing, environmental symbolism, and bad public policy.” (Nestle’s PTTW cost $3,000 for processing fee, and $3.71 per MILLION litres extracted.)

Challinor said most Canadians would take a dim view in these hard economic times of impacting on industry employees “for no good reason.”

Let’s cite some. How about millions of litres of groundwater pumped from underground aquifers, interfering with groundwater flow. How about huge costs, and greenhouse gas emissions, of producing and shipping to distant store shelves — I’ve seen Ontario water in Arizona.

Councillor Rick Craven cited a figure of 250 times the energy to produce bottled water over municipal water, and Peter Thoem thought staff was being too timid in its recommendation.

It goes on, but suffice it to say that Nestle has suffered significant reversals in Canada, and while they like to pretend that such setbacks are minor, the cumulative effect is becoming significant.

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Bottled Water Market Expected to Decline Over Coming Year

The bottled water industry is facing difficult times; the easy, double-digit growth of prior years has disappeared (only 2% growth last year, and a decline is predicted for this year), and the backlash against bottling something that comes out of your faucet is growing:

Just a few years ago, beverage giants bet on a big future for bottled water. With U.S. sales growing near double-digit rates, bottled water was a hip and healthy alternative to soda.

But the downturn and an environmental backlash against plastic bottles caused growth in the $12 billion business to slow to 2% last year, with data provider Euromonitor predicting a decline this year. “The prime issues are the economy and the environment,” says Gary Hemphill, senior vice-president at New York industry consultancy Beverage Marketing Corp.

Now, dominant players such as Coca-Cola (KO), PepsiCo (PEP), and Nestlé (NSRGY) are trying to reverse the decline. They’re introducing new flavors, promoting lower-cost brands, and trying to go greener in an effort to stem the growing appeal of tap water. But it may prove to be an uphill battle, especially in developed markets where consumers increasingly fret about the energy costs and pollution generated by bottled water.

Once again, Neslte Waters CEO Kim Jeffries can’t resist the urge to do what Nestle formerly said they didn’t do – denigrate the quality of the water flowing from your tap:

But Kim Jeffery, chief executive of Nestlé Waters North America, balks at comparisons to tap, noting that Pure Life is filtered of chemicals and has added minerals. “Tap water is very different,” he insists.

Yes, tap water is very different. It doesn’t come in plastic bottles (which are rarely recycled), and it costs less than gasoline. Whoa, dude.

Read the whole article at Businessweek: Coke and Pepsi Try Reinventing Water – BusinessWeek.

Nestle Waters Canada Accused of Misleading Readers in Opinion Piece

This is rich stuff. Those familiar with Nestle’s desperate attempts to avert municipal bottled water bans in Canada will know of spokesperson’s John Challinor’s repeated assertions that 60% of Nestle’s plastic water bottles are recycled.

In a response to that assertion, a Guelph (Canada) resident points out that 60% of the bottles aren’t recycled – Nestle’s simply misleading readers.

Instead, he suggests the 60% figure tossed around by Nestle refers to the percentage of people who have access to recycling – not the percentage of bottles actually recycled.

If true, StopNestleWaters.org is shocked (shocked!) at the misinformation provided by Nestle’s spinmeisters.

Shocked.

Here’s the letter:

Dear Editor – Re: “Nestlé extensively tests its water supply” letter to the editor, Jan. 19.

John Challinor, Nestlé Waters Canada’s director of corporate affairs, conveniently attempts to dismiss the public’s concern over plastic water bottle pollution by merely tossing around misleading statistics.

First, please note that the 60 per cent figure reflecting access to recycling is not the same as a percentage figure showing the percentage of Nestlé water bottles sold that are actually recycled.

Second, note that the 60 per cent figure also reflects the fact that 40 per cent of Canadians do not even have access to recycling were they even inclined to do so.

Third, the Stewardship Ontario statistic used does not actually mean that very few Nestlé water bottles end up polluting the environment. Indeed, it could be taken as reflecting the fact that most of the bottles sold to the public actually do not end up back into the home where municipalities can deal with them, the bottles being tossed elsewhere in the environment.

My point is simply that if you walk the Canadian trails I walk, if you fish on Canadian rivers after spring runoff, if you visit the lake shores of Canada, or if you walk with me along the ditches that line some of our Canadian roadways, you will get the strong impression there are even more than 650 million water bottles to worry about, no matter what the Nestlé’s corporate affairs department says about their belief that their plastic water bottles are only a convenience, not a problem. I see them on the ground nearly everywhere I go.

If I were to defend Nestlé, I could go no further than to point out their use of plastic water bottles is only part of the problem. The fact that they sell them to people is also the problem. The plastic water bottle’s availability is the problem.

It just happens that the name Nestlé is showing up on our trails and shorelines and roadways like a bad billboard.

They are innocent. Or are they?

I am disappointed they are not helping us all find a solution to the problem.

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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New York City May Ban Bottled Water Purchases: Taxpayers Could Save $2.1 Million

Municipal bottled water bans are in place in a dozen places in Canada; now bottled water companies (like Nestle) are facing a similar ban on taxpayer-funded purchases of bottled water in New York:

New York City may close tap on bottled water

City Councilmen Eric Gioia (D-Queens) and Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) will introduce a bill next week that would stop city agencies from buying bottled water and water coolers for workers at city agencies.

The city spends $2.1 million annually on bottled water, according to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.

“New York City has some of the cleanest water in the country, and we should use it,” said Gioia.

He noted that the move would also save on storage and disposal costs and help the environment by reducing waste and truck traffic for water-delivery services.

In the face of multiple municipal bans on bottled water purchases – which, given the revenues involved are likely more symbolic than hurtful to Nestle’s bottom line – we can still expect Nestle Waters of North America to begin ratcheting up the rhetoric, and soon.

As I noted in this post, Nestle’s spokesperson in Canada is sounding increasingly desperate to avoid further bans, and the unpleasant prospects of a New York City ban – on the heels of bans in San Francisco and Seattle – will likely provoke a USA response.

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Nestle Desperately Trying to Reverse Canadian Water Bans

Nestle Waters – and the entire bottled water industry – have suffered a devastating series of setbacks in Canada as one municipality after another institutes bottled water purchasing bans.

Designed to save taxpayer dollars, reduce the stream of plastic flowing into landfills, and boost confidence in municipal water systems, Canada’s bottled water bans are causing Nestle’s operatives to break out in a rash.

Spokesman John Challinor has appeared all over Canada, repeating Nestle’s mantra that bottled water competes with sugared drinks – an assertion they often make, but never prove.

Challinor’s efforts are taking on an almost desperate tone – witness this story from the Toronto Star:

Let’s make a deal on bottled water, firms tell city

Intensive lobbying is continuing over Toronto’s proposals to curb packaging waste, from water bottles to shopping bags, in advance of Monday’s city council meeting.

The mayor’s office has turned down pleas from the bottled-water industry to rescind a proposal to ban bottled water from city buildings as of December 2011.

In return for allowing bottled water in civic buildings beyond 2011, the industry is offering to mount a pilot program in a dozen Toronto locations to boost recycling of bottles, cans and paper.

The companies would also pay for a public education campaign on recycling, and commit to reducing the plastic content of their bottles before 2011 by 10 to 15 per cent.

Challinor said Rathbone relayed the proposal to the mayor’s office, where it was rejected. But the bottlers haven’t given up.

“We’re talking to all members of council today and through the weekend,” he said, in hopes of finding sympathetic councillors to raise the offer on Monday.

At StopNestleWaters.org, we’re going to take an ongoing look at the bottled water industry’s attempts to get its feet back under it – both directly, and through proxies.

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Globe and Mail Editorial In Favor of Bottled Water Bans

From an editorial in Canada’s Globe and Mail (online edition):

Toronto — A 25-cent deposit on plastic bottled-water bottles might put a tiny dent in the vast quantity that ends up in city dumps (Firm Introduces 25-Cent Deposit To Combat Water-Bottle Litter – Oct. 2). But it doesn’t address the more fundamental reasons why municipalities and school boards across Canada are banning the sale of bottled water in public facilities with adequate drinking fountains. Our councillors and school trustees recognize that it doesn’t make any sense to promote or facilitate the sale of a substance that costs pennies a litre out of the tap.

This is not about freedom of choice. It is about discouraging a bad lifestyle. People are slowly realizing the world does not need bottled water, and our schools and town councils are right to ban it.

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London, Ontario Bans Bottled Water Sales on City Property: Movement Set to Grow?

In a move that must have ruined the mornings of bottled water executives all across North America, the city of London, Ontario (Canada) banned bottled water sales on city property.

The critical issue here isn’t the ban; it’s the industry’s response. But more on that in a second. First, the story:

A decision by the largest Canadian city yet to ban bottled water could see a tide of other cities making the same move, says a city councilor leading the push to get rid of bottles here in Vancouver.

Citing environmental concerns and a need to promote city tap water, the city council in London, Ont., voted this week to ban bottled water from its properties.

“I think this is going to continue right across the country,” said Vancouver Coun. Tim Stevenson.

Staff at the City of Vancouver have also been looking at ways of eliminating the sale of bottled water and increasing the number of drinking fountains around the city.

How does Nestle Water of Canada respond? In a statement so ironic it’s gained instant “Hall of Fame” status here at StopNestleWaters.org, their spokesperson called it “greenwashing.”

But one industry rep says a ban in Vancouver would be political “green washing.”

“It’s quite frankly environmental symbolism and it doesn’t result in meaningful progress in terms of the environment or health,” said John Challinor, director of corporate affairs for Nestle Waters Canada, which holds a 35-per-cent share in the Canadian bottled water market.

It’s tempting to write Challinor off as simply a paid corporate flack, but his statement is worth examining.

After all, there are few bigger experts on greenwashing than a Nestle executive, and we tend to agree that London’s ban hasn’t really resulted in the kind of “meaningful progress in terms of the environment or health” we’d like to see.

What would constitute meaningful progress?

How about municipal bans on bottled water purchases across North America?

Now that – my dear readers – is exactly the kind of progress Mr. Challinor was no doubt referring to.

After all, buying bottled water is a wasteful use of taxpayer money, especially when the stuff runs largely for free out of the tap, and taxpayer dollars typically subsidize landfill operations – where anywhere from 75%-85% of Nestle’s plastic bottles end up.

We’d like to thank Mr. Challinor for his unique insight. With any luck, we’ll see more “meaningful progress” soon.

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