By Claire Bernish
(ANTIMEDIA) In the midst of an exceptional drought in California, Nestle is not only refusing to stop bottling water, but if the head of the company had his way, production would increase.
Nestle Waters North America CEO Tim Brown has decided to put profit over people in the face of devastatingly arid conditions that have caused one water company to begin rationing its supply. Starbucks has already halted its bottling in the state, but when Brown was asked in a radio interview if Nestle would follow suit, well, his reply says it all:
“Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase it, I would. The fact is, if I stop bottling water tomorrow, people would buy another brand of bottled water. People need to hydrate. As the second largest bottler in the state, we’re filling a role many others are filling. It’s driven by consumer demand; it’s driven by an on-the-go society that needs to hydrate. Frankly, we’re very happy they are doing it in a healthier way.”
The fact actually is, not only does Nestle continue sucking up California’s most precious resource, the company wastes 700 million gallons of it — 30% of the total it pulls from the ground — each year. Though the company has finally announced plans to curb the waste problem by 12%, this is hardly consolation for the more than 82,000 people who signed a petition demanding they stop bottling in the southern part of the state, or for the protesters who brought plastic pitchforks to form a blockade of Nestle’s plant in Sacramento.
With fines and rationing implemented to various degrees statewide, Nestle’s choice to continue bottling from scant resources epitomizes corporate thirst for profit over human rights. Government refusal to step in and stop the company has only added to people’s ire. Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water comes from the San Bernadino National Forest, and though the company has had longstanding rights to draw from a spring there, the US Forest Service hasn’t kept track of any environmental consequences. Even worse, the permit which grants Nestle the right to transport the water expired . . . in 1988. But what does Brown have to say about the outrage people have expressed about such corporate profit-seeking?
“We feel good about what we’re doing, delivering healthy hydrating to people throughout the state of California.”
Unfortunately, Nestle is not alone in the quest for profit over common sense. Local Sacramento station CBS-13 investigated Walmart’s bottling practices in the state and found it gets its water from quite a controversial place: the Sacramento Municipal Water Supply. Gallon jugs of “Great Value” Walmart water say as much in the fine print, which means huge profit for the company. DS Services of America purchases water from the city for the same 99¢ per 748 gallons rate that other commercial businesses and residents pay, but then bottles and sells it through Walmart for 88¢ per gallon. When calculated, this means $1 of Sacramento’s water reaps a profit of $658.24 for the two companies. A Walmart spokesperson had this to say about its refusal to stop bottling in the drought-stricken state:
“The drought in California is very concerning for many of our customers and our associates. We share those concerns and are tracking it closely. Our commitment to sustainability includes efforts to minimize water use in our facilities. We have and continue to work with our suppliers to act responsibly while meeting the needs of customers who count on us across California.”
It would seem obvious that Nestle and Walmart should take a cue from Starbucks, who moved bottling operations for its environmentally conscious Ethos brand to a location in Pennsylvania until drought conditions improve. Their Senior Vice President of Global Responsibility and Public Policy, John Kelly, described their decision in a statement last week:
“We are committed to our mission to be a globally responsible company and to support the people of the state of California as they face this unprecedented drought.”
Profit over public interest seems to have reached a new level with corporations gobbling up what should be a human right. Public relations expert Doug Elmets explained the best course of action in an interview with CBS-13:
“The reaction should be immediate. And that is to find another [supply] outside of California that can be able to meet the needs that they have and also the needs of the consumer.”
In the meantime, private profiteering in the face of rationing and fines for the people of California is nothing short of absurdly disgraceful.