Bottled Life is a documentary film on Nestlé's bottled water business. While Nestlé was approached by the film's producers to comment on various questions, we decided not to engage in dialogue as we were under the strong impression that the film would be one-sided and not represent Nestlé and its employees in a fair manner.
The completed film unfortunately confirms this initial impression. Indeed, the content is the mostly misinformation and lacks objectivity - Nestlé has always been committed to managing water resources in a responsible manner.
We are always open to participate in discussion and projects where both sides have an equal opportunity to present their point of view.
Have you responded to the film’s allegations in the media?
Download Peter Brabeck-Letmathe‘s op-ed (pdf, 35Kb).
Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe’s response to the film: SF TV (in German), SonntagsBlick
(in German), et Le Temps (in French, registration required).
Is it true that you refused to participate in the film Bottled Life?
We did not engage in dialogue with the film’s producers as we were under the strong impression that it would be one-sided and not represent Nestlé and our employees in a fair manner. The completed film unfortunately confirms this initial impression.
Is it true that this is the wrong film at the wrong time?
No. Nestlé is always open to participate in discussions and projects that are objective and allow us to convey our position and our activities in a clear manner. Nestlé was not convinced that this would be the case with the film, Bottled Life. We have nothing to hide. Nestlé is a responsible company that is committed to compliance with all laws and regulations related to our business, including water use, consumer communication and codes of business conduct.
Is it true that you stopped supporting the water supply program in the Kebribeyah camp in Ethiopia?
The Jarar Valley pipeline project was a project initiated and lead by the UNHCR to improve the access of clean water to refugees living in the Kebribeyah camp.
Nestlé was one of the early donors for this project, a donation also supported by the provision of technical expertise in a site visit in 2004. A second site visit had been planned for 2005, but due to rising security concerns in the region this second mission was cancelled.
As the video mentions, the UNHCR were to mobilise other donors to take over the support for the project, with the overall objective being to hand the management of the pipeline over to the Ethiopian authorities. Today the pipeline is part of the Jarrar Valley Water Supply System and in 2010 the UNHCR further expanded the project by supporting the extension of the electricity grid to Jarrar Valley, thus improving both the capacity and the reliability of the Water Supply System.
Is it true that your activities deter governments from investing in public water supply infrastructure?
No. Bottled water is part of the packaged beverage market and is not in competition with public water supplies. Like all industries and consumers, we also rely on the safety of public water supplies as Nestlé and Nestlé Waters may be a customer of public water supplies. We therefore support policies that are fair for all water users and promote water safety and sustainability.
Does Nestlé control water resources?
No. We are a very small water user. Nestlé uses just 0.003% of global freshwater withdrawals and Nestlé Waters uses just 0.001% compared to 70% used by agriculture.
Is it true that bottled water companies pay little for the water they use and make a huge profit selling it?
No. Bottled water is a packaged beverage that incurs costs linked to raw materials, production, quality assurance, bottling, taxes, storage and distribution. In our case, we also invest in various water resource protection measures.
While the detailed price structure of our products is confidential, it is possible to provide a loose overview of the costs incurred by packaged beverages: one-third can be attributed to water and raw materials, one-third to production and one-third to distribution.
Did Nestlé deny a request by 200 people from the Bhati Dilwan village in Pakistan for access to water that Nestlé obtains from deep wells?
No, we would like to correct this statement. The people from the said village (near the Sheikhupura factory) did not ask for access to the deep well which we use, Rather, they asked for the company’s help to provide clean drinking water to this village.
Nestlé has helped to install three clean drinking water facilities catering for clean water provision to a population of around 21,000 people in the Sheikhupura region. (The first of these facilities was installed in the nearby hospital; another in a school close to the Nestlé factory; and the most recent clean drinking water facility was installed in the Bhati Dilwan community in July 2014, near our factory).
Additionally, Nestlé has built new classrooms, toilets and hand-washing facilities at two secondary schools (one for boys and one for girls) in Bhatti Dilwan.
Was Nestlé responsible for the drop in the groundwater level around the village of Bhati Dilwan in Pakistan, which has caused many springs in the area to dry up?
No. Nestlé Waters is committed to managing the water resources we operate around the world in a responsible manner. The Sheikhupura factory in Pakistan near the village of Bhati Dilwan operates only two deep wells for its bottling activity, which are continuously monitored.
Both wells are equipped with the instrumentation necessary to monitor the key hydrodynamic parameters (including flow rate and water level) on a continuous basis. This extensive monitoring allows us to identify any risks and to take immediate action to mitigate them to avoid negatively impacting the local aquifer system.
Groundwater in the Lahore region is primarily used for irrigation in the agricultural sector but also for industrial purposes and municipal water supply. At the Sheikhupura factory Nestlé Waters operates just two wells compared to the estimated 680,000 wells operated by other water users in the Indus Basin aquifer.
Does Nestlé use more water in Maine than the agricultural sector?
No. Nestlé uses less groundwater than that used in Maine’s agricultural activities. Poland Spring’s water use represents less than 1% of water used in Maine each year by industries, public water supplies, agriculture, ski areas and other water users that are required to report water usage. Poland Spring’s actual share of water use is even lower because not all water users are required to report their water use.
Does Nestlé “buy the peace” by subsidising and donating to local associations and projects?
No. Nestlé’s goal is to be a good neighbour and bring meaningful benefits to each community through our presence, and to create shared value that earns respect and trust. Through sponsorships, donations, and volunteering, we support causes and organizations that are important to local communities.
Our company creates shared value by creating good jobs and paying taxes that diversify the local economy, as well as through environmental stewardship, giving back and getting involved. The company has a long history, dating back decades, of giving back to local communities as part of our Good Neighbor Policy.
Is it true that Nestlé tried to force its way into Fryeburg by exhausting the town with law suits?
No. The Fryeburg Planning Board approved Nestlé Waters North America/Poland Spring’s application for approval of its load-out facility but a small group of opponents filed an appeal.
The Maine Law Court eventually upheld the Planning Board’s original decision to approve the water station.
Is it true that Nestlé’s lawyers draft local water withdrawal ordinances themselves behind the scenes?
No. Ordinances are drafted by town officials and the town attorney and go through a public review process. Board meetings are open for comment from the public and from stakeholders. All of Poland Spring/Nestlé Waters North America’s comments on water ordinances are made transparently and publicly on the record via this process.
Is it true that the people of Shapleigh have no say in whether or not Nestlé could take their water?
No. The people in Shapleigh did have the ultimate say as to whether Nestlé Waters North America could even test for water in their town. Beginning in early 2008, Poland Spring held four public information meetings at the Shapleigh Memorial School to answer questions and describe how the locally controlled process might work, and to provide information about the aquifer and the company so the public could consider whether to grant Poland Spring permission to test the town-owned site.
Is it true that Nestlé pulled out of Shapleigh because the public made it known they were unwanted or because it was not profitable for them to pump water from Shapleigh?
No. Nestlé Waters North America develops appropriate water resources in accordance with regulatory controls and with sound scientific methods. These water resources support the health and growth of the business, and our use of groundwater at any one site does not compromise the health of the aquifer.
We do not site proposed water withdrawal projects according to the strength or weakness of local ordinances or logistical convenience, but rather to the occurrence of high quality spring water, which is a function of regional geology. In fact, Poland Spring decided not to go forward in Shapleigh because the quantity of water available was insufficient to support development of a spring water source.
It is true that bottled water is just an example of successful marketing?
No. The origins of bottled water can be traced back to the earliest civilisations and the spa movement in Europe and the Americas, long before marketing was even invented. Indeed at Nestlé Waters, some of our brands have been bottled for over 100 years: Perrier has been bottled since 1863, Poland Spring since 1845 and Sao Lourenco since 1890. Bottled water still has its place in today’s society in which lifestyles are increasingly on-the-go: consumers choose to buy bottled water products because they appreciate the fact that they are convenient and portable, have a constant taste, don’t contain calories, and come with the Nestlé quality guarantee.
To empower consumers to exercise their right to informed choice and promote healthier diets, Nestlé Waters is committed to responsible, reliable consumer communication on our products. We operate in a highly competitive industry, where marketing of our products is necessary to differentiate our brands from those of our competitors.
Consumer communication and marketing are also the opportunity to raise consumer awareness about the advantages of drinking water as part of a healthy lifestyle, the specific natural origins of many of them, as well as the importance of recycling.
Is it true that Nestlé Waters takes advantage of weak regulatory frameworks in the countries in which it operates?
No. Nestlé Waters’ business is based on compliance with the Nestlé Corporate Business Principles (pdf, 1Mb) which guide our work with, amongst others, consumers, human rights, our people, suppliers and the environment.
Our business is also in compliance with all local laws and regulations related to our activities. Beyond this, Nestlé Waters respects the strict internal standards and guidelines pertaining to water resource management and protection to help ensure the long-term sustainability of the water resources we operate.
Still have a question? Please get in touch