Tag 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.

Ouch.

Bottled Water Industry Vilifying Tap Water In Attempt to Bolster Sagging Sales

“Good corporate citizen” Nestle never passes up an opportunity to spin its “good neighbor” message to the world, but according t0 a memo obtained by the UK Scotsman, Nestle’s part of a campaign attempting to vilify the quality of tap water.

The Scotsman obtained a 3-page memo written by a PR firm working for the Natural Hydration Council (the UK’s bottled water industry trade group that’s the equivalent of North America’s IBWA).

Nestle is a leading player in the group, and we’ll let the Scotsman’s reporter lay out the ugly details:

AIDES working for bottled water producers are planning to use scare tactics to protect falling sales in Scotland by attacking the quality of tap water supplied to consumers.

The tactics are outlined in a memorandum drawn up by a public relations company employed by the industry to be used in case “the media turns hostile to our cause”.

It suggests using data on contamination of public water supplies with potentially-harmful bugs, such as E Coli and cryptosporidium, to highlight the merits of drinking bottled water. Sales of bottled water have fallen nationally over the last year because of the effects of the recession on disposable incomes.

The memo, obtained by Scotland on Sunday, was written by a London PR company working for the Natural Hydration Council, an industry lobby group funded by three major bottled water companies. They include Nestlé, which markets Vittel and Perrier; Danone, which produces Volvic and Evian; and Perthshire-based Highland Spring.

The Scotsman quoted several passages in the memo which clearly indicate the PR firms plan to attack the quality of bottled water should media coverage turn “hostile” – but later the writer of the memo contradicts what he wrote.

It was sent to an Edinburgh-based communications company, 3X1 – which is paid by the industry to lobby on its behalf – to be deployed on the same day as the annual publication of Scotland’s Drinking Water Quality Regulator, last Thursday.

The regulator’s report concluded that the quality of Scottish drinking water remains “extremely high” with 99.75 per cent of supplies meeting safety standards. It adds that two tap samples in Scotland contained E Coli in 2008, an improvement on 2007 when five failures were recorded.

[ed: emphasis mine] This prompted Julie McGarvey, of 3X1 to write to her colleague James Laird, at Epicurus Communications in London: “Clock the E Coli data. Good to keep up our sleeve.”

Laird wrote back that he had already written a memo, based on an analysis of reports by the Drinking Water Inspectorate in England, that had “observations” that might be useful “should the media turn hostile towards our cause.”

He adds that the report offers “potential sound-bite notes that could be used for NHC un-attributable media briefings.” “Unattributable briefings” is lobby group shorthand for information passed to journalists on condition they do not name their source.

After reading the last paragraph above, now read the astonishing denial by the consultant who wrote the quoted memo:

Asked whether the examples of problems in the public water supply would be communicated to journalists, he replied: “Absolutely not. The NHC supports the consumption of all water, whether bottled or tap. There is no intent, desire or mandate to criticise tap water on behalf of the NHC.”

One word leaps to mind.

Sleazy.

Earlier, we chronicled the attacks launched on tap water quality by none other than Nestle Waters CEO Kim Jeffries and another UK bottler.

And even journalist and author Elizabeth Royte thinks its time to end the charade:

The bottled water industry continues to claim it competes not with tap water but with high-calorie and other processed drinks. The argument is getting a little tired.

And yes, one reason industries form trade groups like the Natural Hydration Council or North America’s International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is so water bottlers don’t have to get their hands dirty.

They simply pay others to do their dirty work for them.

We’ve noted in the past that the bottled water industry – facing tough economic conditions and opposition on environmental grounds – will increasingly turn to FUD tactics (Fearn, Uncertainty, Doubt) to drive sales.

In this case, the evidence fell into the right hands, but how much of this kind of thing is currently being planned behind closed doors elsewhere?

Why else would the IBWA hire former Tobacco Institute spokesperson Tom Lauria?

In the light of stories like this, it’s clear.

The real “product” of the Tobacco Institute was “doubt” – an ongoing effort to undermine good science detailing the hazards of smoking, confusing consumers and providing cover for the industry.

Expect to see more “doubt” sown by the bottled water industry about the quality of the water that comes out of your tap.

And when you do, recognize it for what it is.

via Bottled water firms turn to scare tactics – Scotsman.com News.

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”?

IBWA Spokesperson Shilling For Bottled Water Without Identifying Himself as Paid Employee

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the bottled water industry’s trade organization, and while we frankly expect the same from them we expect from Nestle (a willingness to do things others might find unethical), we were frankly shocked when they signed on former Tobacco Institute spokesperson Tom Lauria.

A tobacco industry spokesperson seemed like an odd choice for an industry intent on selling the health benefits of its products, but then again, bottled water’s facing real opposition, and it appears thatthat doubt has – once again – become the product.

Sadly, we’ve already seen the IBWA’s willingness to do what’s expedient. When the Huffington Post rain a Lisa Kaas Boyle article outlining the sales downturns suffered by an “increasingly desperate” bottled water industry, Lauria posted a long comment (2nd page of comments, scroll down) that was a perfect recitation of the industry talking points.

Yet Mr. Lauria utterly failed to identify himself as a paid spokesperson for the IBWA, nor – as of now – did he disclose his IBWA affiliation in his Huffington Post profile.

Amusingly, one respondent to his comment said flat out: “Sorry but you sound like a shill for the bottled water corporations.

Bingo.

It’s called stealth marketing, and most marketers find it distasteful, if not downright unethical. I’d feign outrage, but frankly, this is pretty much what I’ve come to expect.

Latest Bottled Water Industry Talking Point: “You’re Anti-Business!”

Bottled water industry representatives are suddenly cropping up all over the Internet, using their patented fuzzy logic to attack those who aren’t fans of bottled water.

It’s yet another sign that the gloves are off (as if Nestle Waters CEO Kim Jeffries’ statement slamming the quality of public water supplies wasn’t disgraceful proof enough), so the appearance of former Tobacco Institute spokesperson Tom Lauria (now shilling for the bottled water association [IBWA]) shouldn’t be a total surprise.

In this instance, Lauria went after an Ecopreneurist writer (Lauria’s text italicized): Bottled Water VIPs Think We Are Anti-Corporate, Capitalism-Haters : Ecopreneurist

A few days ago I posted about how the Director of Communications at Nestlé Waters North America took issue with a previous post about their CEO. This time, Tom Lauria, Vice President, Communications for the International Bottled Water Association responded:

…it’s the middle of day, and you’re running erands and you’re thirsty. You can buy a coffee or a cola but you want something healthy and refreshing, so you buy a nice cold bottle of water. Zero calories. Major hydration — it wakes you up! Any attempt by anyone to get people to drink less water is not in the public interest. Why are you targeting the packaged beverage with the smallest possible carbon fooprint? And it is clear people drink more water when they drink bottled water! At the end of day, there’s GREENSMOG…where anti-corporate types hide behind “saving the earth” to bash businesses because they hate capitalism.

Ahh, you nasty anti-Nestle activists – you’re not trying to protect your local water resources and local economies from a predatory multinational – you’re simply anti-corporate!

And shame on you Fryeburg citizens who forced poor Nestle to sue you five times because they wanted a 24/7 truck loading station in a residential area. You’re just anti-business!

And those opponents of Nestle proposed bottling plant in McCloud who woke up one morning to find their personal, private had been subpeonaed by Nestle – you’re just business bashers!

Of coure, after ten years spent spinning reality for the Tobacco Institute, Mr. Lauria’s perfectly capable of moving the bottled water debate far beyond the bounds of reality, and those with a minute or two to spare should consider heading to the discussion I referenced above and letting Mr. Lauria know what you think of the companies he represents.

And yes, expect to see a lot more of this cropping up.

IBWA Says Water Bottles Not Really Worth Recyling, But Proposes It Anyway

Suffolk County’s Water Authority is giving away 10,000 reusable bottles in an attempt to wean its customers away from bottled water – while at the same time, the bottled water industry suggests their plastic waste isn’t really a problem.

Put on your hip boots; this promises to get a little deep. First:

The authority launched a program yWednesday to encourage residents to
drink tap water by offering free reusable sport water bottles.

Agency officials said tap water is cheaper than bottled water — for
$1.46, roughly the cost of one 20-ounce bottle of water at a deli, you
can get 1,000 gallons of Suffolk tap water. Suffolk tap water is of
high quality because of rigorous testing, they said, and drinking it is
environmentally friendly because that reduces the number of plastic
water bottles that end up in landfills.

Naturally, the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) – the bottled water industry trade group – doesn’t see it the same way.

In fact, they try to suggest that removing 1.2 million tons of plastic from the waste stream (about 1.5 million tons are used annually by the bottled water industry) is hardly worth the hassle:

A spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association, an
industry trade group based in Alexandria, Va., disputed that, saying
plastic water bottles were a very small part of the landfill problem.

“Bottled water containers make up only one-third of 1 percent of the U.S. waste stream,” said Tom Lauria.

“There’s a whole lot that needs to be recycled to make a difference,”
he said, adding the industry was stepping up recycling efforts and
urging Suffolk to do the same.

Without even challenging the “one-third of 1 percent” claim, I’d like to welcome you to the IBWA’s Bizarro World, where we’re better off if we create plastic waste before recycling a small fraction of it.

Approximately 1.5 million tons of plastic are consumed each year by the bottled water industry, and various estimates suggest 80%-90% of it ends up in landfills – where it will stay for a good 1000 years.

The IBWA says 1.2 million tons of plastic isn’t enough to matter.

We say it’s a good start.

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