Fiji Water accused of environmentally misleading claims
It is, according to the marketing spiel, “drawn from an artesian aquifer hundreds of feet below the edges of a primitive rainforest”, untouched by human hand.
By Andy Bloxham
7:30AM BST 20 Jun 2011
The firm also claims to be the “the first major beverage brand to give a carbon negative commitment”, meaning that buying its product is actually good for the planet.
But a documentary investigation has concluded that Fiji Water, which is stocked by some of London’s most exclusive restaurants and enjoyed by Barack Obama and Scarlett Johansson, is far less friendly to the planet than it claims.
Fiji Water is owned by the Californian entrepreneurs Lynda and Stewart Resnick, who urge consumers to drink their brand to combat climate change.
The firm takes fresh water from the Yaqara Valley on the island of Viti Levu and ships it thousands of miles to the UK and US.
London’s Michelin-starred restaurant Nobu, on Park Lane, serves it, and Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridge’s sell it.
Celebrities on America’s West Coast, from Gisele Bundchen, the model, to Lady Gaga, the singer, and David Beckham, the footballer, are all photographed with it.
The brand is so successful that it has even appeared on the television shows Friends, The Sopranos and Desperate Housewives.
Its environmental credentials are key to its appeal.
In 2007, the firm promised to become “carbon negative” by reducing its carbon dioxide emissions and planting enough trees to give an overall benefit to the atmosphere.
However, an investigation for Channel 4’s Dispatches programme said the claims were misleading.
The firm plan was to plant four square miles of trees in Fiji by 2010 which would fulfil its claims for three years.
However, in March, Fiji Water’s environmental advisers, Conservation International, told Dispatches that only 1.4 square miles had actually been done – less than half the amount expected – with no indication of when the rest might be planted.
Peter Seligman, Conservation International’s Chief Executive, told the programme the carbon negative claim was based on “the concept of being carbon negative”.
He said: “Fiji Water is committed to offsetting the carbon that’s emitted in their transporting and in their manufacturing by reforesting and protecting other forests outside of that area.
“So that’s why we work with them because there is a real biodiversity and conservation benefit.”
Some analysts claim that producing and delivering a litre of bottled water emits hundreds of times as much greenhouse gas as a litre of tap water.
Phil Woolas, the former environment minister, has described bottled water as “morally unacceptable”.
The market is estimated to be worth over £2 billion in the UK alone.
This is not the first time that Fiji Water has been criticised.
In September 2009, the American investigative journalism magazine Mother Jones said its signature bottle was made from Chinese plastic in a diesel-fuelled plant.
It recognised that Fiji Water provides drinking water to some villages near the plant and put money towards clean water projects across the islands.
However, half the country has at times relied on emergency water supplies, with rations as low as four gallons a week per family.
Typhoid and parasitic infections are not uncommon and some Fijians have even smashed fire hydrants to get fresh water.
Fiji Water enjoys zero tax and when the government tried to impose one, the magazine wrote, it threatened to shut down its factories and move them abroad, which would have cost the islands’ economy around £1.8m a week.
Fiji Water claims to be responsible for about 20 per cent of the country's exports and three per cent of its GDP of £2,380 per capita.
A spokesman for the firm said: "In 2007, FIJI Water launched an environmental program that included our commitment to become a carbon-negative brand, working to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than we release into it.
"We analysed and published our bottled water’s carbon footprint and developed a program of environmental initiatives to enhance conservation efforts locally, and to implement projects and practices to reduce emissions across our product’s life cycle.
"As of 2010, FIJI delivered on its carbon-negative goal by initiating an extensive reforestation work in partnership with Conservation International."
Dispatches: Conservations Dirty Secrets is on tonight at 8pm on Channel 4.
June 21, 2011
Fiji Water Under International Spotlight (Again)
More flak for Fiji Water and the propagandization of their product. Tsk tsk tsk.
There is something seriously wrong if we continue to export this slow renewing and high value commodity when taxpayers can't even get running water in their taps and are instead patronizingly placated by every excuse under the sun.
Heads Up Central Bank folks. You might want to inject some realism into your "extract at any cost" economic projections.