Tag Archives: international bottled water association

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.

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.

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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