Corporate Water Group Attacks Polaris Institute Over Bottled Water Report

Thursday, February 24, 2005

For Immediate Release

Date: February 24, 2005

Contact: Tony Clarke: 613-746-8374/613-237-1717;[email protected]

Anuradha Mittal: 510-469-5228; [email protected]

The International Water Bottle Association (IBWA) has launched an attack on the U.S. and Canada-based Polaris Institute, in response to its new report, Inside the Bottle, which dismantles water industry lies concerning the virtues of bottled water.

“This corporate attack shows that they are nervous,” said Tony Clarke, Director of the Polaris Institute and author of Inside the Bottle, “because they fear that the facts -- the data we have accumulated in a year-long study of the bottled water industry in North America, focusing on the industry’s big-4 players, namely, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Danone -- support our argument that we need to call a timeout from commercializing our commons and develop alternative models of providing drinking water for all, which are locally controlled and ecologically sustainable.”

Representing most of the major players in the industry, the IBWA issued its ‘response’ to Inside the Bottle on its corporate public relations web site on February 10, 2005, from its headquarters in Alexandra, Virginia. (http://www.bottledwater.org/public/2005_Releases/IBWA_Challenges_Polaris_Institute_Statements.html ) Titled “International Bottled Water Association Challenges Polaris Institute Statements About Bottled Water Industry,” the IBWA warns readers that the authors seek to “create doubt about the effective and comprehensive system of federal and state regulations and standards for bottled water in the United States and elsewhere.”

“The IBWA has put up a weak defense in response to the challenges outlined in our report. Their claim that bottled water is a well regulated industry, which does not drain groundwater resources, pays adequate fees for its water takings, packages water in safe containers, and provides all people with a healthy form of hydration, is both false and misleading,” said Clarke.

Clarke further noted that the IBWA fails to address a host of other challenges that the report posed, such as the industry’s price gouging practices; deceptive advertising techniques; irregular and inadequate water quality testing; use of environmentally unfriendly plastic bottles; poor track record in recycling; exclusive marketing contracts in schools, colleges and universities; and various devices used to undermine public confidence in tap water.

Both the IBWA’s statement and the response of the Polaris Institute can be found on the Institute’s website at www.polarisinstitute.org

Clarke went on to explain that “What I think has them particularly worried is our work with community-based organizers involved in bottled water campaigns from a variety of states across the country including California, Texas, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine and New Hampshire, who recently met in Traverse City, Michigan, February 11-13, 2005. And we found that the community groups are demanding a democratic debate in this country about what kinds of policies and rules should be put in place to govern bottled water takings, production and marketing.”

Polaris Institute, founded in 1997, is an education for action policy think tank. The Institute works with citizen movements to develop strategies and tactics that unmask and challenge the corporate power that is shaping public policy making on economic, social and environmental issues