Nestle accused of greenwashing water

A coalition of environmental groups is challenging advertising claims made by Nestle Waters that its bottled water is “the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world".

The group said it is filing a complaint under the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards against Nestlé Waters North America, claiming it contravened these standards by making “false and misleading statements” regarding the environmental impacts of its product.

The complaint relates to a full-page advertisement that appeared in the Globe and Mail in October. The coalition says this made a series of statements, including that: “most water bottles avoid landfill sites and are recycled”; “bottled water is the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world”; and “Nestlé Pure Life is a Healthy, Eco-Friendly Choice”.

The complaint also alleges that some of the statements in the ad are contrary to guidelines that have been set by Canada’s Competition Bureau and the Canadian Standards Association to ensure environmental claims are specific and verifiable.

The coalition includes Friends of the Earth Canada, the Polaris Institute, the Council of Canadians, Wellington Water Watchers, and Ecojustice.

Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth, said: “Based on our review of the representations made by Nestlé Waters in this advertisement, it is clear that they are not based on fact.

She added that Nestlé Waters states in its 2008 Corporate Citizenship Report that many of its own bottles end up in the solid waste-stream and that most of its bottles are not recycled even though almost all beverage bottles are recyclable.

Nestle was unable to provide FoodNavigator-USA.com with a comment prior publication.

However, John Challinor, a spokesman for Nestle Waters Canada, told Reuters: “We welcome the opportunity to show that we have, in fact, been honest in our conversation with Canadians, with the media and with government of the environmental stewardship exercised by our industry."

Green credentials

The term greenwashing has entered common parlance to describe environmental credentials highlighted for a company or product that are unfounded or irrelevant.

It comes as increasingly food companies are trying to address environmental concerns and many publish some kind of sustainability report to measure the impact of their business on the world around them.

However, best practices are still emerging to establish consistent measures and transparency, so reporting standards can vary and comparisons can be difficult.

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