You are hereControversy Erupts as U of Alberta Appoints CEO of Nestlé to Water Committee
Controversy Erupts as U of Alberta Appoints CEO of Nestlé to Water Committee
See below for letter from Tony Clarke to U of Alberta President.
February 29, 2012
Ms. Indira Samarasekera
University of Alberta
Dear President Samarasekera,
I am writing to express deep concerns about the University of Alberta’s increasing involvement with the Nestlé Corporation over water issues. Not only is your University about to award an honorary degree to the CEO of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, but perhaps even more importantly, he is also being invited to become a prominent member of the water advisory council that you are in the process of establishing at the University.
For the past 14 years, the Polaris Institute has been engaged in research, education and action on issues of water justice and sustainability here in Canada and internationally. During this period, we have tracked Nestlé’s rise to the top of the global bottle water industry, which is now the cutting edge of the commodification and privatization of drinking water throughout the planet. Moreover, Nestlé is in the business of making profits off of the sale of water, not only through bottled water but most of its mainline products [including cocoa, coffee and pet food] which require massive volumes of water to produce.
As I’m sure you are well aware, water is the essence of life itself on this planet. No living entity can exist or survive without water --- neither humans, nor plants nor animals. For these reasons, we maintain that the fresh water resources on this planet belong, first and foremost, to both people and nature. It should be protected and preserved as part of the ‘commons’ for the life-giving benefit of all. Yet, we live in a world where water is increasingly being bought and sold in ‘markets’ by the highest bidders on a for-profit basis, led by water-based corporations like Nestlé. Indeed, Nestlé is actively involved with other water business companies at the United Nations in a program called the CEO Water Mandate, which permits these companies to gain more direct access to and control over freshwater supplies in countries around the world, under the guise of promoting environmental stewardship.
Meanwhile, Nestlé has a troublesome and well documented track record as a water corporation. Throughout Canada, Nestlé personnel have used bullying tactics with municipalities, school boards and universities to ensure that their bottled water products take precedent over access to public drinking water. In at least seven states in the US [Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and California] Nestlé has encountered strong local resistance and in some cases been the target of class action suits by citizen groups, mainly for its desire to control water sources or for misleading and fraudulent advertizing campaigns. And, in its home base of Switzerland, Nestlé is currently embroiled in another court battle, this time for spying on community-based groups engaged in challenging the company’s global operations.
On the basis of this and related evidence, I would submit that the CEO of Nestlé is hardly a credible candidate for the water advisory council that you are in the process of setting up at the University of Alberta. Indeed, one would hope that your University would hold itself to a higher standard, especially when it concerns the future of such a vital life-giving source such as water. If you would like to discuss any of the issues regarding Nestlé that I have raised in this letter please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
Dr. Tony Clarke