Nestle water ads misleading: Canada green groups

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian environmental groups have filed a misleading advertising complaint against Nestle disputing claims in an ad by the world’s largest food company that its bottled water has numerous ecological benefits.

A group comprising Friends of the Earth Canada, the Polaris Institute, the Council of Canadians, Wellington Water Watchers and Ecojustice said Nestle Waters Canada contravened the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards “by making false and misleading statements regarding the environmental impacts of its product” in full-page newspaper ad in October.

“They can spin the bottle all they want, but the truth is there is no green solution to bottled water,” said Joe Cressy, Campaigns Coordinator, for the Polaris Institute, in Ottawa.

The groups also allege the ad -- which said “most water bottles avoid landfill sites and are recycled”; “bottled water is the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world”; and “Nestle Pure Life is a Healthy, Eco-Friendly Choice” -- is contrary to guidelines that have been set by Canada’s Competition Bureau and the Canadian Standards Association.

John Challinor, a spokesman for Nestle Waters Canada, said his company looks forward to proving the accuracy of its claims.

“We welcome the opportunity to show that we have, in fact, been honest in our conversation with Canadians, with the media and with government of the environmental stewardship exercised by our industry,” Challinor said.

But Hugh Wilkins, staff lawyer at Ecojustice Canada, formerly Sierra Legal Defense Fund, said they asked Advertising Standards Canada to review the ad to determine whether it meets the requirements of the advertising code.

Wilkins said the advertisement does not back up the company’s claims about its recycling activity and the amount of the bottles recycled.

“This is part of a bigger problem of what we call ‘green washing,’” Wilkins said. “This is that producers are saying that they are doing things in an environmentally sensitive manner when the facts, on occasion, don’t support it.”

The coalition’s move comes as city council in Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, debates on Monday a city-wide ban on bottled water. The current motion would not only ban bottled water, but also commit the city to ensuring adequate access to tap water in all city facilities by December 31, 2011.

Canadian cities including London, Ontario; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; St. John’s, Newfoundland; Altona, Manitoba; and Metro Vancouver, British Columbia have passed restrictions on bottled water.

($1=$1.24 Canadian)

Editing by Jeffrey Jones