Statement by U.S. and Canadian Water Protectors on the Proposed Sale of Nestlé’s Water Bottling Business to Private Equity Firm One Rock Capital
February 2021 — Nestlé, the world’s largest corporate water bottler, is planning to sell its North American bulk bottled water business, which operates the brands Arrowhead, Poland Spring, Zephyrhills, Pure Life, Ice Mountain and others, to private equity firm One Rock Capital, according to news reports. This sale, for an estimated $4 billion, would be a massive private transfer of ‘water wealth,’ an especially ominous development in light of Wall Street’s accelerating interest in ‘water futures’ trading.
This past fall, our coalition of national advocacy groups and communities impacted by Nestlé’s water extraction and bottling demanded that several particularly troubled and controversial Nestlé Waters’ sites be returned to public ownership before any sale. We delivered a joint letter co-signed by more than 100,000 people in the U.S. and Canada to Nestle’s Swiss corporate headquarters in November 2020.
Now, the revelation of the proposed sale to One Rock Capital reveals the stark choices our communities and nations face to ensure real water security in the future for all life. Of greatest concern, this sale will continue the corporate control of water. The combination of decades of pollution, depletion of aquifers and effects of climate change make clean water scarcer. Tragically this combination of public risk and private greed creates the conditions where Wall Street seeks to transform water from being the source of life to a source of private wealth.
Now is the time for real leadership, now is the time to end the bottling of water for profit.
Nestlé’s motivation is clear: to shed itself of its responsibility for the plastic pollution and environmental degradation its water extraction and bottling has caused and the damage these scandals have done to their brand and bottom line. It is also clear that a private equity firm, freed of Nestlé’s reputational responsibilities, will seek to cut expenses at the cost of the limited promises its predecessor made regarding environmental sustainability and community benefit.
Nestlé must not be allowed to simply walk away from the consequences it has imposed on communities and the environment in Canada and the US.
First, because private equity deals like this are the least transparent and regulated of financial transactions, we call on elected leaders, regulators, advocacy groups and the media in Canada and the US to ‘follow the money’ and expose this deal to the highest levels of public scrutiny.
There are many questions to answer, such as who is involved as investors or partners in the deal, including whether Nestlé will remain part-owner of these companies and whether non-US or Canadian investors are party to the deal; what One Rock’s intent is for the companies, which control a significant portion of the bottled water market; whether the new owners will be bound by the environmental, social and community commitments Nestle has previously made; and how communities and their leadership will be consulted and involved in decision making about this most precious resource.
To Heal Troubled Waters
Make no mistake: water is essential to all life. It cannot and must not be ‘owned’. Water should never be for sale and its ownership should never be privatized. Public stewardship is required to ensure future water security for all life.
Communities in Canada and the US must seize this moment and make the following demands.
- Declare all of Nestlé’s current permits to take water (many of which are disputed) to be void and prevent their transfer to One Rock Capital or any potential purchaser.
- Declare a moratorium on any new permits to bottle water, from any source, by any corporation in Canada and the US.
- Advocate for community-based plans providing:
- Just transition for workers in the bottled water industry;
- Economic transition plans for communities reliant on tax revenues arising from water bottling facilities;
- Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples’ rights to water;
- Restoration of the sources of these troubled waters and renewed investment in public water infrastructure to ensure affordable, accessible and clean water for all.
The Story of Stuff Project (California)
Wellington Water Watchers (Ontario, Canada)
Our Santa Fe River (Florida)
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (Michigan)
Unbottle & Protect Chaffee County (Colorado)
Community Water Justice (Maine)
About This Campaign
For decades, Nestlé Waters — the world’s largest water bottler — has bought up access to public water across North America to turn our most precious public resource into a private commodity. Paying next to nothing in royalties, Nestlé makes billions of dollars a year selling our water. Over recent years, The Story of Stuff Project has supported and partnered with communities across the US and Canada fighting to take back public control of their water. With Nestlé now planning to sell its Nestlé Waters North America division, we’re shining a spotlight on six of Nestlé’s bottling operations that have generated fierce backlash resulting from the impact on the surrounding communities and their ecosystems. Visit our campaign page to learn more or add your name to the petition.
We’re demanding that Nestlé end the extraction and revert control over these troubled waters back to local community control. Add your name to the petition!