Archive for Bottled water

Coca Cola muscles out environmental concerns in the Grand Canyon

Posted in business, government, packaging, politics, sustainability with tags , , , , , , on December 2, 2011 by marketingheart

Pristine wilderness under pressure

Here’s a cautionary tale about the reliance by public bodies on private funding if ever there was one. Coca Cola has donated over $13m to the US National Parks, so, whether they really have any sort of commitment to environmental issues or not,  at the very least they must get the PR benefit of looking like they do, right?

So it comes as a surprise to read how the company turned psycho when the custodians of the extremely fragile Grand Canyon National Park declared a ban on disposable plastic water bottles…and successfully pressured the Parks to reverse the ban.

This despite the Parks having gone to lengths to work with the local retailers who would be affected by the ban. However, possibly assuming that if small retailers could overlook a minor dent in their sales in order to protect a world heritage site so could a global corporation, they neglected to deal with the bully in the room.

Nor the coward, apparently. Neil J. Mulholland, president of the parks foundation, said a Coca-Cola representative contacted him late in the process to ask for details of the bottle ban and how it would work. “There was not an overt statement made to me that they objected to the ban,” Mulholland claims. “There was never anything inferred by Coke that if this ban happens, we’re losing their support.” Nonetheless, he simply folded at the very idea and halted the plan to ban.

A Cocal Cola spokesperson said “Banning anything is never the right answer,” she said. “If you do that, you don’t necessarily address the problem.”

Erm, so banning plastic bottles doesn’t address the issue of discarded plastic bottles? I’m waiting to hear from CC exactly what their solution might be. It’s estimated that water bottles make up 30% of the Park’s solid waste. A ban isn’t a radical new idea – Zion National Park already has a ban. What perplexes me here is the value of water sales in the national Park vs the damaging PR generated by this story. CC’s behaviour seems like a mean, heavy-handed, ignorant, greedy over-reaction…entirely consistent with the idea of the corporation as psychopath.

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Feeling frugal? Direct your cut-backs at companies which don’t deserve support

Posted in food, government, Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 25, 2011 by marketingheart

Obviously working in marketing means that to some extent my fortunes are tied to those of the economy and the economy’s in turn are very much tied to the perpetuation of the endless growth of consumption which as we all know is unsustainable – in it s current form at least.

So even though the widely noted post-GFC increase in consumer frugality is probably not in my personal short-term interests, I applaud it nonetheless. I’m prepared to do with less in order to address the looming problems of the environment. To my despair however it seems an amazing number of people, perhaps the majority, don’t feel that way and are quite prepared to put their pockets ahead of the planet. That’s why they show unwillingness to pay more for sustainably produced goods, or vote for a carbon tax.

bottled water's dirty twicw to enlarge

This consumer frugality is very damaging to a system that is geared to the level of inefficient consumption as ours is. However, perhaps it points the way to the future. It provides two cues: first, consumers need to apply their cut-backs to the most wasteful and damaging products, and second, industries which have thrived on wasteful and excessive consumption need to refocus their efforts in such a way that they actually earn their right to the continued support of their customers, shareholders, employees and legislators.

In the processes we employ in manufacture an distribution we waste and enormous amount of energy and raw materials. The classic example is Fiji water, America’s leading imported water. This is an operation which pumps mineral water out of the ground in Fiji and ships it bottled all over the world. Bottled water is notorious for its position in top five lists of “what not to do” for the planet…. Fiji pumps water out of one part of the planet, encases it bottles made from Chinese plastic in a diesel-fueled plant, then encases it again for shipping, and at great cost ships it to other parts of the planet where clean water was already plentiful. In this case, Fiji Water extracts more than 3.5 million litres a month from its deep aquifer on the island.

Fiji is fundamentally flawed. Clearly it’s environmentally an unsustainable business but there’s more.

Fiji Water is an economic force on the island, and the company has been criticized for tolerating Bainimarama’s military regime. When one reporter travelled to Fiji to investigate the company, she was harassed by the militia, threatened with imprisonment and rape.

Near Fiji’s bottling plant is a small town called Rakiraki. The Lonely Planet guide warned that Rakiraki water “has been deemed unfit for human consumption.” No problem, there you can buy Fiji Water – for almost as much as it costs in the US. Much of Fiji at times relies on rationed emergency water supplies; dirty water has led to outbreaks of typhoid and parasitic infections. Patients have reportedly had to cart their own water to hospitals, and schoolchildren complain about their pipes spewing shells, leaves, and frogs. Some Fijians have taken to smashing open fire hydrants and bribing water truck drivers for a regular supply.

The country’s ongoing poverty and social problems make a mockery of Fiji Water’s claims about its support of the local economy. In 2008 in the face of weakening sales and the Fiji government’s threat to increase the company’s taxes (at that time they paid 1.5% of revenue in royalties) , they laid of 40% of their workforce. Last year, again in response to government tax increases,  the company threatened to close its facility and move to New Zealand. When the government responded by opening up the water source to competitive foreign bids, the company hurriedly accepted the increase and resumed production.

Clearly, if ever there was a place for consumer frugality to be applied, it’s here. If there was ever a business that illustrates a fundamentally flawed raison d’etre, its this.

Even though the company touts a range of environmental initiatives on its website (from using ships more than trucks for distribution to replacing all the light- globes by energy-efficient alternatives), it takes a disturbingly short term view when it says its “reforestation work in the Yaqara Valley will help ensure the health and quality of the water source for many decades to come”.

Decades? Perhaps that reflects the horizons of Fiji’s owners (billionaire industrial agriculturists couple Stewart and Lynda Rae Resnick), but the people of planet earth hopefully are thinking a little more long term.

Might help if Obama took a lead on this instead of publicly consuming the damn product.

The Story of Stuff

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2010 by marketingheart

The Story of Stuff

Image by net_efekt via Flickr

I’m a great big, huge fan. I even sat my kids down and made them watch it. Everybody should.

Annie Leonard is a genius communicator. Makes sense of the world and really incentivises taking personal action.

For an interesting take on the ethics of non-consumption, this is worth reading (‘To Buy or not to Buy’ by Dr Amanda McLeod for the St James Ethics Centre)
The Story of stuff, a must-watch