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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Strategic CSR - Water

The article in the url below contains an interesting statistic:
“Globally, we now drink as much packaged water as we do milk.”
This is followed by another fact that I still find hard to get my head around:
“At 30 litres per person per year, bottled water is the second most popular liquid refreshment after carbonated drinks – a market that it is set to supplant carbonates this year if predictions prove correct.”
So, we are drinking more water and, sometime this year, we will start drinking more water than carbonated drinks. That sounds like it should be a good thing, apart from two things: First, it is a bit depressing that carbonated drinks (read sugar) are currently the “most popular liquid refreshment” in the world, and second, there is still the problem that the kind of water we are drinking is not the right kind (i.e., increasingly it comes out of a plastic bottle rather than a tap). While the expansion of bottled water is understandable in many cases:
“Bottled water’s global boom is arguably driven by fear, firstly among developing world consumers who worry about water quality from the tap, and secondly among developed world consumers about the health impacts of sugary drinks.”
This does not remove the negative environmental impact this industry has:
“Yet the prospect of global sales hitting 233bn litres this year brings another set of fears. ‘The problems of waste, inequity, high economic costs and impacts on local water resources are intrinsic to the entire industry,’ says Peter Gleick, president of the US-based Pacific Institute and author of Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind our Obsession with Bottled Water.”
The main point of the article, however, is to draw attention to the stupidity of shipping water overseas, when almost all developed countries have sufficient local supplies:
“Over one fifth (22%) of water sold in the UK is sourced overseas, according to the Natural Hydration Council, a business membership group. Most comes from northern Europe, although some from as far away as Fiji or the Himalayas.”
And then there is the issue of the waste generated by the bottles in which the water is shipped:
“Plastic dominates. The industry’s big players, such as NestlĂ©, Danone, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, are all pursuing efforts to increase recycled content in polyethylene terephthalate (PET). But progress is slow. Coca-Cola, for instance, averages 34% of recycled PET across all its bottled drinks. … The figure for Danone’s main water brands is a mere 9%.”
As I tell my students, two industries really annoy me – diamonds (that is another story) and bottled water. While a triumph of marketing (heavily driven by deception and, in the case of diamonds, guilt), the result in both cases is a distorted market that does very little to advance human progress.
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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The madness of drinking bottled water shipped halfway round the world
By Oliver Balch
July 9, 2015
The Guardian Sustainable Business