Nestlé retreating from Canadian operations, but water bottling continues

Save our water rally in 2018

It may not be a complete victory, but Nestlé’s sale of its Pure Life business in Canada to Ice River Springs this week is a win for the movement to protect water. The company has decided to sell its operations in Wellington County, Ontario and Hope, BC citing a business decision to prioritize where they are best positioned for success. The sale includes the Middlebrook well in Elora, Ontario which is not yet in operation but has been a source of concern for residents who intended to use the well for the township’s drinking water supply. Nestlé’s purchase of that well brought about a moratorium on permits to take water in Ontario for water bottling. 

Nestlé has said the decision did not come about from public pressure but the company’s operations in Wellington County had already decreased by 40% because of falling market demand. According to Wellington Water Watchers (WWW), “Nestlé’s decision to sell to Ice River is a direct consequence of sustained public opposition to the environmental damage caused by their water taking and plastic pollution.” This pressure included WWW’s All Eyes on Nestlé Campaign, which KAIROS supported in 2019. 

Details of the deal between Nestlé and Ice River Springs are yet to be revealed. There is concern that Nestlé is simply licensing its PureLife brand to Ice River Springs which would mean it will still make profit from these Canadian operations. There is also concern that Nestlé is trying to distance itself from international pressure campaigns to maintain its strategic partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SADC). 

While this decision signals that strong opposition to the industry is working, water bottling operations continue. Ice River Springs may be a family-owned Canadian company, but it is also one of the largest private-label water bottlers in North America. The company cites commitments to sustainable bottled water and the circular economy but at the end of the day water bottling is inherently bad for the environment and for communities. The goal remains an end to the water bottling industry altogether. Water is for life, not profit. 

To learn more about the implications of this decision and what happens next, register for All Eyes on Nestle – Is This Really Goodbye?, a webinar hosted by Wellington Water Watchers on Monday July 13 at 7 pm.   

Filed in: Ecological Justice


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