As Toronto City Council gathers to consider passing a city-wide ban on bottled water, a new coalition is challenging advertising claims made by Nestlé Waters that “bottled water is the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world”.
The group, which includes the Council of Canadians, Ecojustice, Friends of the Earth Canada, the Polaris Institute and Wellington Water Watchers, is filing a complaint today under Canadian Code of Advertising Standards against Nestlé Waters North America. The groups argue that Nestlé is attempting to mislead the public on the true impacts of bottled water. Copies of the coalition’s complaint against Nestlé Waters are available upon request.
The complaint relates to a full-page advertisement that appeared in the Globe and Mail in October and 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 groups argue that Nestlé Waters’ ad contravened the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards by making false and misleading statements regarding the environmental impacts of its product. 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.
“For Nestlé to claim that its bottled water product is environmentally superior to any other consumer product in the world is not supportable,” says Meera Karunananthan, National Water Campaigner, the Council of Canadians. “With this ad, we believe Nestlé has infringed the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards requirements of honesty, truth, accuracy, fairness and propriety in advertising.”
“We believe that the claims provide a misleading impression to the public of the environmental impacts of Nestlé’s bottled water,” says Joe Cressy, Campaigns Coordinator, Polaris Institute.
“The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards clearly states that advertisements must not contain inaccurate or deceptive claims, or statements,” adds Hugh Wilkins, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund). “The ASC has an important role in ensuring that claims in ads are substantiated and honest. We look forward to the ASC’s determination on whether this is such a case.”
“Based on our review of the representations made by Nestlé Waters in this advertisement, it is clear that they are not based on fact,” says Beatrice Olivastri, Chief Executive Officer, Friends of the Earth. “The truth is that many water bottles are not being recycled, a phenomena that Nestlé Waters itself – in direct contradiction to its own advertisement – admits in its 2008 Corporate Citizenship Report.” Olivastri points out that Nestlé Waters states in the 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.
The debate on banning bottled water at Toronto City Council will take place this afternoon. If the ban is approved, Toronto will join the 16 cities across Canada that have already voted to ban bottled water.