Fiji Water: The Earth-Friendly Choice for Military Juntas Everywhere
Image from Beverage World
A recent exposÃ© in Mother Jones called "Fiji Water: Spin the Bottle" confirmed my common sense notion that drinking bottled water shipped from the South Pacific is a silly and wasteful idea. It also added myriad other reasons to not to drink Fiji Water.
Fiji has had 4 military coups in the last 25 years. The government du jour is lead by Commander (and now prime minister) Frank Bainimarama and President Ratu Josefa Iloilo. Because of a ruling last spring declaring the current government illegitimate, Iloilo suspended their constitution, appointed himself president and declared there wouldn't be elections until 2014. This totalitarian approach to government recently earned Fiji an expulsion from the Pacific Island Forum, an inter-governmental organization that represents the many independent island nations in the Pacific.
The author of the article Anna Lenzer was in the country when martial law was declared and was the subject of police intimidation. Amnesty International reports of Fijian freedoms, "there is a very strong military and police presence .[and there] is a constant and intimidating reminder that the new military regime will not tolerate dissent and will follow through on the warnings it has issued to critics."
In a response to Lenzer's article, the Fiji Water website claims of their relation to the recent political turmoil:
We bought FIJI Water in November 2004, when Fiji was governed by a democratically elected government. We cannot and will not speak for the government, but we will not back down from our commitment to the people, development, and communities of Fiji.
Besides conveniently sidestepping the specious circumstances that this "democratically elected government" came into power (i.e. through a 2000 coup), the company not speaking out about recent activity by Iloili et al appears like a self-preservationist strategy for a company that enjoys tax-free status.
In a rebuttal to the response to her article, Lenzer notes the contradiction between the company's touts of being a socially progressive company and its "no comment" policy on the junta's recent crackdown. She makes a good point saying:
It's worth remembering that there aren't very many countries ruled by military juntas today, and Americans prefer not to do business with those that are. We don't import Burma Water or Libya Water.
Purest Product Placements on the Planet
Behind the Fiji Water empire is a California couple named Lynda and Stewart Resnick, who bought the company in 2004 from a Canadian mining and real estate mogul named David Gilmour (no, he didn't play for Pink Floyd). The Resnicks are the same folks who convinced Americans they couldn't live without POM Wonderful brand pomegranate juice.
Image by Mother Jones
The Resnicks have successfully insinuated the FIJI Water brand (the capitalized name is trademarked) onto countless aspirational tabletops—from Obama to Paris Hilton to Mary J. Blige (who demands 10 1.5-liter bottles of room-temp Fiji Water before shows)—and events like the Emmys, the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, and Justin Timberlake's "Summer Love" tour. The chef Nobu Matsuhisa once stated in a cooking instruction that, "Each piece of lobster sashimi should be dipped into Fiji Water seven to ten times." Would Dasani destroy the integrity of the meat?
Fiji Water Will Solve Global Warming
Through their Fiji Green campaign , the company claims their water is 120% carbon offset. They achieve carbon negativity through channels like purchasing carbon offsets, a plan to have 50% renewable energy at their bottling plant and other measures.
Their enthusiasm for saving the planet is so great that Fiji Water's former senior VP of sustainable growth Thomas Mooney said in a 2007 Huffington Post article, "We'd be happy if anyone chose to drink nothing but Fiji Water as a means to keep the sea levels down." Yikes!
In a previous TreeHugger article, Michael Brune of the Rainforest Action Network stated it as plain as possible about Fiji water and all bottled water: "Bottled water is a business that is fundamentally, inherently and inalterably unconscionable. No side deals to protect forests or combat global warming can offset that reality."
The difficulty Fiji Water and many other greenwashers is they believe their own rhetoric. With Fiji Water, there seems to be a sacrosanct idea that bottled water is essential. It is not.
Lynda Resnick has stated that Fiji Water's main competitor—i.e. tap water—is "not a real or viable alternative," and that we "can no longer trust public or private water supplies" (why not sell water filtration systems in that case?). This delusional thinking, where market-driven motivation is confused with common sense creates a powerful message. No wonder it's the best selling water in America.
Via Mother Jones