Topic: big media
Oh dear, how did a celebrity profile of all good green things get Coca Cola's controversial, arguably greenwashed bottled water product into the Eco pages of the Sydney Morning Herald today? Especially when it's inserted under an article about ... greenwashing?!:
17 Sept 2008 Time to learn what's in a name When 'free range' is free for all, green claims can be dubious, writes Keeli Cambourne.
This is what the SMH said about bottled water and cross subsidy to Landcare earlier this year:
Ethics ... Nanette Lamrock has attacked the Landcare Australia and Coca-Cola Amatil deal.
Photo: Paul Mathews
The story reads (bold added):
Mount Franklin dominates the $544 million bottled water market and is an expert in marketing campaigns that tap into community issues: its pink lid campaign to pledge $1 for cancer research for every wish made through its website is one of the most successful marketing campaigns in recent history.
The chief executive of Landcare Australia, Brian Scarsbrick, said he was aware of "some" concerns about the deal but that the positives outweighed the negatives. "We are a middle-of-the-road environmental organisation and we like to work with big companies to influence them to a more sustainable position," he said.
Its spokeswoman, Sally Loane, said Coca-Cola Amatil was an industry leader in saving water, citing beverage industry figures showing bottled water accounts for just 0.01 per cent of aquifer reserves. "Any individual who claims we 'rape the environment' is speaking from the depths of ignorance. The facts reveal a very different picture. Can we do better? Of course, but we are committed to being a good corporate citizen, particularly when it comes to water," she said.
But the organiser of the Bottled Water Alliance, Jon Dee, said: "One has to ask the question whether Coke has done this deal to distract attention away from the serious environmental questions that are now being asked of the bottled water industry. In particular the issues of water sourcing and the climate, waste and litter impact of bottled water, as well as the extremely low recycling rate for plastic water bottles.
"Given the current level of criticism being levelled at the bottled water industry, even the less cynical could be forgiven for thinking that this is just a greenwash exercise."
And this is what USA based 'Brandweek' had to say about the bottled water market as financial turmoil crosses the land (bold added):
Sept 7, 2008
The market for bottled water may be drying up. Despite massive discounting, brands like Aquafina and Poland Spring are experiencing a sales drought unlike any the category has ever seen.
After almost a decade of triple and then double-digit growth, sales volume grew less than 1% for the first half of the year, per Beverage Digest, Bedford Hills, N.Y.
The chief culprit: the economy. Shoppers are less interested in paying for a product that they can get for free.
A secondary reason is that green-minded consumers have become active in railing against buying plastic bottles in bulk because many will end up in landfills. The fact that gallons of fuel are used to transport a product that is available through the plumbing is another concern. Finally, there is a widespread belief that PET bottles leech toxins into liquids if frozen or heated up, a claim which is widely disputed.
"The category has felt the impact of the negative publicity it has been receiving lately," said John Rowan, editorial director at Beverage Marketing, New York.
In addition, the industry's sheer size has made such a slowdown inevitable, he said. "Bottled water is No. 2 in volume behind soft drinks. Something that big can't grow forever."
The industry's response so far has been deeper discounting. The average price of bottled water was down 6.6% at supermarkets for the four weeks through Aug. 10, per IRI. Dasani led the way with a 10% decrease.
A recent report by Brand Keys, New York, based on responses from 26,000 consumers in the first quarter, shows "value" was the No. 1 attribute consumers were seeking in a bottled water, beating out "purity." Such findings, coupled with the widespread price cutting, has raised fears that the category has fallen victim to commoditization. "I was walking home last night and saw a sign with 'water 99 cents' crossed out and replaced with '89 cents.' So there it is. How much is water worth?" said Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff.
One beneficiary of the commoditization has been private label. Sales for such brands rose 17.2% for the first half, per Beverage Digest.
There is considerable trading down to private label and tapping into the cheap 24-bottle case segment, said Gerry Khermouch, editor of Beverage Business Insights, West Nyack, N.Y.
Khermouch said Coke and Pepsi have no one to blame but themselves."To a certain extent, Coke and Pepsi decided not to chase that unprofitable business. This, of course, is ironic as even basic bottled spring water was premium priced until Coke and Pepsi entered and turned it into the latest front of the cola wars."
Coke and Pepsi's solution has been to shift its resources behind enhanced water brands. Ad spending in the U.S. for Coke's Glacéau Vitaminwater was $39.5 million in the first half (excluding online), per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. This exceeded the spend behind all of the regular bottled water brands combined.
Of the top regular water brands, Aquafina led the pack, spending $5 million on media for the first half of the year. Its efforts are directly aligned with its sponsorship of Major League Baseball. PepsiCo more than tripled its budget for SoBe Life Water, compared to the first half of last year, spending $22 million. "Consumers are seeking variety. Flavored and enhanced waters are a great answer to that demand," said a Pepsi rep.
The enhanced water category grew 18.4% in the first half.
Kim Jeffrey, CEO of Nestlé Waters, Greenwich, Conn., acknowledged bottled water was "experiencing slow growth compared to historic levels. Nielsen data shows our category is highly susceptible to an economic downturn."
Jeffrey is confident it will rebound: "Seventy percent [of bottled water consumers] came from other beverage consumption. They didn't come to our category from tap water."
John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, agrees. "If the economy improves and consumers begin to feel better, we're going to see at least some increase in the growth rate of bottled water again," he said.
Nevertheless, Mark DiMassimo, co-founder of Tappening.com, which promotes drinking tap water, said a cultural shift has occurred: "Instead of being a badge for health and status, bottled water has now become a badge for environmental wastefulness. And, cost sensitivity is coming up fast. It's caught in the same storm as Starbucks is. It felt good to be a little extravagant a few years ago. Now, it doesn't feel good to waste money. [Especially considering that] being charged for water is like being charged for gravity."
* Postscript #1 18 Sept 2008
We left a message yesterday for the SMH environment editor Marian Wilkinson (who we hold in high regard too) about the apparent contradiction above. Today we noticed this in the Business pages media and marketing Thursday page by Paul McIntyre
18 Sept 2008 Steps on the green scale | smh.com.au
waxing lyrical again about the issue of greenwashing and quoting Jeff Angel of Total Environment Centre on 'the need for a high level of rigour'.
We found this profoundly ironic given Angel was prominent in 2008 in arguably greenwashing - via support for the Iemma Govt's Unsworth Committee Inquiry Report - of a proposal to privatise this state's energy industry. Angel would say it was only qualified support but Angel having been in the lobbying business for 30 years we say he well knew he would be used as a green figleaf, and the conditions he proposed would likely be duly shelved (and they were at least as we understand it).
Dr John Kaye MP of the Green Party famously issued a press release repudiating Angel for collaboration with the Iemma sell off alleging airbrush of climate change policy implications of an otherwise anti green Govt led by ostentatiously brown ex treasurer Michael Costa.
This mainstream Big Media coverage of the green washing issue just gets more weird by the story.