Corporations like FIJI Water are forced into having Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Corporate Social Responsibility is the idea that businesses need to give back to society as much as they take away. Although companies like FIJI Water produce some type of product for consumers, in this circumstance water, they are compelled to give back as much as they take away. The issue companies have to deal with is whether they really have CSR, or if they are just green washing to make people believe they are socially responsible. “The 10th Edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary recognizes the word “greenwash,” defining it as, “’Disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.”’ Environmentalist make it their job to eliminate any green washing by bringing to light companies negative impact on society and proving outrageous claims to be over exaggerated or completely false.
Environmentalists compel companies to reduce, if not eliminate their carbon footprint on society through exposing how wasteful they are to society. Every company in order to be successful has to recognize this issue and do their best to resolve it, otherwise their company will tank. Companies like FIJI Water have to walk the fine line of CSR and green washing. FIJI Water LLC, has proved to be a tough competitor in the market of selling bottled water. They have overcome trials and set-backs and have kept their image of a premium quality brand of water. They have done their very best to become socially responsible over the years and had to use the idea of green washing to exploit their product.
How FIJI Water Came to Be
FIJI Water was started in 1996 by David Gilmour, one-time partner in Clairtone Sound Corporation Limited. FIJI Water is a U.S.-based business and brand of bottled water derived, bottled, and shipped from the Fiji Islands. It is available in 330ml, 500ml, 1 liter and 1.5 liter bottles. According to marketing materials, the water comes from an artesian aquifer in the Yaqara Valley of Viti Levu. A good way to identify what FIJI Water is all about is in their mission statement which reads, “FIJI Water, the world’s finest water, is committed to quality and excellence in our product, people, profitability, and strategic partners. We are dedicated to communicating the passion and unique properties of our brand to consumers worldwide and continuing to invest in the future while preserving and cherishing the pristine source.”
They have marketed their product towards wealthy people who could afford to pay more to drink water. Their main marketing drive was that the product was far from pollution, acid rain, and industrial waste in the island nation of Fiji. The way their product differed from other water bottling companies is that the FIJI Water was drawn from an artesian aquifer that lies hundreds of feet below a primitive rainforest. The idea being that distance and isolation is part of what makes FIJI Water so much purer and richer in taste than other bottled waters.
Corporate Social Responsibility
FIJI Water has a few marketing and CSR campaigns to help address the issue of social responsibility and to give their product more attention. FIJI water was seen as being extremely wasteful. To take a naturally occurring product like water and use the resources to ship it half way across the world was thought to be “water insanity”. “In response to this protest, the company launched a new promotion campaign under a slogan “every drop is green,” only to be immediately accused by environmentalist groups of engaging in green washing activities.” At the same time that this was happening, FIJI focused on its contributions to the local communities in Fiji.
As environmentalists’ criticism increased over the years, FIJI Water LLC launched a “carbon negative campaign, claiming that it was the first bottle water company to release carbon footprint of its products.” This was part of their push towards the slogan “every drop is green”. The Company estimated its total annual carbon footprint at 85,396 metric tons of CO2eq. They were also able to calculate their carbon emissions at each stage of the product from production to distribution. They started at the production of raw material to running the plant, to getting it to the markets, to even refrigerating the product.
It did this to try and eliminate as much carbon footprints as possible. The VP of the company, Mooney, argued that, “the only way consumers can turn their environmental intentions into good decisions is to give them the information they need regarding the emissions with the products they buy.” This made customers aware that they were actively looking at their operations and doing something about it. To most people, it didn’t really matter what, as long as they were trying.
The results of their work were impressive. They were able to accomplish the following: reduction in packaging by 20 percent, supplying 50 percent of the energy used at its bottling plant with renewable energy, optimizing logistics to be more carbon-efficient in transportation, restoring grasslands in the Yaqara Valley by planting trees, and supporting recycling programs for plastic PET bottles. With their new image as a socially responsible company they were more sustainable in the fact that they were giving back. They summed up their operations in a PR pitch: a sale of every bottle of FIJI Water would result in a net reduction of carbon in the atmosphere! The question remains, are they giving back enough? To ship a naturally occurring product half way across the world seems pretty ridiculous to those who care about our earth’s resources being wasted.
Conservation group didn’t buy it. This absurd claim, along with “every drop is green” was green washing at its finest so they thought. In Section 53 of the Commonwealth Trade Practices Act 1974 it prohibits a corporation from representing that “goods or services have sponsorship, approval, performance characteristics, accessories, uses or benefits they do not have.” They were in direct violation of this. The Greenwash Brigade were some of the most professional environmentalist that were known for exposing this kind of behavior.
In June 2008, they published an article titled “Fiji Water by the numbers,” which summarized the terrible environmental impact of the company. Some facts that came out of that were that there were 5,500 miles per trip from Fiji to Los Angeles, 46 million gallons of fossil fuel, 1.3 billion gallons of water used, 216 million pounds of greenhouse gases emitted. These were staggering amounts of energy, water, and fuel being used, especially for something that is naturally occurring!
The Impact of the Nay-Sayers
These conservationists had a big impact on the company in forming who they are today. Without bringing this information to light, nothing would be changed. They would just fly under the radar without being criticized. We need the nay-sayers to motivate companies to change so they won’t use up our limited resources. The fact of the matter is that every drop of FIJI Water is not green, every drop is imported! These environmentalist help prevent green washing and provide important research behind their accusations of companies. In 2007, Pablo Paster, an engineer and MBA, undertook a thorough and exhaustive study of the cost of bringing a liter of FIJI Water to America. His study found that, “In summary, the transport of that one kilogram bottle of Fiji water consumed 26.88 kilograms of water (7.1 gallons), .849 kilograms of fossil fuel (one liter or .26 gallons) and emitted 562 grams of Greenhouse Gases (1.2 pounds).” One can only imagine the effect that has on our environment.
Overall, Fiji was able to show flexibility in changing for the times. They established credibility among the community through addressing concerns of others. At first they tried to hide from the answers needed by consumers and conservationists and even used some green washing to help get their product through the tough, trying times. They used the idea of green washing to their benefit by making outrageous claims that had to be proven false initially, but in time they held to it as best they could. They had to be vague at first, but later specified their goal in operations.
Comparatively to most companies, FIJI Water has a great Corporate Social Responsibility in that they have done significant things to try and eliminate their carbon footprint through efficiency and planting more trees. Going forward, the company will have a hard time living up to becoming a carbon negative company. They need to keep on their path of fulfilling promises made to invest in renewable energy equipment and to off-set that with continuing to plant trees abroad.
FIJI Water has especially helped the local community surrounding Fiji. They have established good CSR with the five neighboring villages. They have supported children’s educations in helping them get a good start. In pre-schools they have provided equipment, educational material, teacher training and other support. In March 2002, the company voluntarily established an independently administrated community development trust fund and allocated FJ$275,000 to it. That is a great use of their resources. They also support village projects to improve hygiene and sanitation as well as provide portable drinking water. FIJI Water is a benefit to society as a whole. They have used their resources to give back to our planet and help others in need. More
[ 1 ]. James McMaster and Jan Nowak, “FIJI Water and Corporate Social Responsibility – Green Makeover or “Greenwashing”?, May 2009, Ivey Management Services. [ 2 ]. N.A., “FIJI Water,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiji_Water#History, 2012. [ 3 ]. N.A., “Mission Statement,” http://www.fijiwater.com/company/company-timeline/, N.D. [ 4 ]. Ibid.
[ 5 ]. James McMaster and Jan Nowak, “FIJI Water and Corporate Social Responsibility – Green Makeover or “Greenwashing”?, May 2009, Ivey Management Services. [ 6 ]. “FIJI Water Becomes First Bottled Water Company to Release Carbon Footprint of Its Products,” April 9, 2008, www.bevnet.com [ 7 ]. Ibid.
[ 8 ]. Ibid.
[ 9 ]. “FIJI Water Becomes First Bottled Water Company to Release Carbon Footprint of Its Products,” FIJI Water Press Release, Los Angeles, April 9, 2008, www.bevnet.com. [ 10 ]. James McMaster and Jan Nowak, “FIJI Water and Corporate Social Responsibility – Green Makeover or “Greenwashing”?, May 2009, Ivey Management Services. [ 11 ]. Heidi Sigelbaum, “Fiji Water by the numbers,” June 6, 2008. [ 12 ]. www.treehugger.com/files/2007/02/pablo_calculate.php [ 13 ]. McMaster and Nowak, “Natural Waters of Viti Limited – Pioneering a New Industry in the Fiji Islands.”