Greenwashing, Meet Water-Washing

Glass of waterOn December 2 and 3 in San Francisco, "international business representatives will discuss their use of water." The $1900 conference -- titled "Corporate Water Footprinting" -- gives major corporations an opportunity to "announce their new efforts to promote 'water neutrality,' the claim that they can return to local aquifers every drop of water taken for business." Speakers at the conference include executives from Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, MillerCoors and GE. Coca-Cola has already announced plans to become "the most efficient company in the world in terms of water use in the beverage industry," and eventually "water neutral." Yet some scientists question the very concept of water "neutrality." Jeff Conant of Food and Water Watch argues that the phrase is hypocritical marketing. "Multinational corporations like Coke and Nestle would like us to think that they are doing their best to protect our water," he writes, but "these corporations produce non-essential sugary products with the single-minded goal of generating profit. ... Currently, 12 percent of the world's population uses 85 percent of its water," and "lack of clean drinking water leads to nearly 250 million cases of water-related disease each year and between 5 and 10 million deaths." In related news, Canadian environmental groups have filed a complaint against Nestle, saying the company's ads calling bottled water "the most environmentally responsible consumer product," among other "eco-friendly" claims, are misleading.