Nestlé Boycott Flares Back Up After Company Outbids Canadian Town, Takes Over Water Supply

An international Nestlé boycott kicked off in Canada and much of North America after the transnational food and beverage company outbid a small Canadian town in order to take control of a local well. Those against the Nestlé takeover have dubbed the action a “water grab” as Nestlé continues to take over many public and private waterways throughout North America with the intent of bottling and selling water retrieved from local sources for a profit.

Many Canadians living near the Elora well were outraged over the Nestlé water grab because the drought-stricken Township of Centre Wellington was working to secure the spring water well for themselves in order to guarantee a water source for their growing population.

Nestlé put a conditional offer on the spring water well back in March 2015 and the Township of Centre Wellington came back with a counter-offer in July. Nestlé, who had first right of refusal on the counter-offer, decided to purchase the well anyway. Their plan wasn’t to help with the local drinking water supply amid the drought, though. Instead, Nestlé purchased the well with the intention of supplementing a plant in Aberfoyle so they could increase their bottled water output.

The Guardian reported that the reason the Nestlé boycott was called and is gaining so much traction stems from the company’s plan to profit from bottling the water and selling it retail when the town that was trying to purchase the well for themselves is experiencing drought-like conditions and in the future may need it to survive.

Despite having turned down the counter-offer, Nestlé maintains that they were unaware of the bid placed by the Township of Centre Wellington. After news that a Nestlé boycott was growing in popularity, the company placed this message on their website and also pointed out that the well was previously used for bottled water.

“Nestlé was unaware that the other offer was made by the Centre Wellington township, although, we have had productive discussions with the township since we announced our initial intention to purchase the Middlebrook Water Co. We now look forward to working together and continuing discussions with them for the benefit of the whole community.”

This most recent water grab is not the first time Nestlé has sparked controversy as they worked to secure water rights to local and often government controlled water sources in order to bottle and sell the spring water for a profit. Many boycotted the company and began working to stop plans to sign a contract with Oxbow Springs in Oregon that would allow Nestlé to draw 100 million gallons of water per year from the Columbia river gorge according to Alter Net. The plan, supported by Oregon governor Kate Brown was ultimately voted down with 69 percent of Hood River County voters rejecting the deal.

Opponents of Nestlé in Ontario have asked for the Nestlé boycott because they say that despite drought conditions throughout the region, the food and beverage company continued to pump out 4 million liters of ground water every day. The Council of Canadians, the group behind the boycott, blasted Nestlé for removing the water, also pointing out that they only pay about $15 per day for the ability to remove so much of the local water supply with the intent of bottling and selling it.

These water grabs with the intent to bottle and sell spring water back are not the only reason that Nestlé boycotts have been called over the years. The Daily Dot highlighted a handful of scandals that have elicited boycotts of their products over the years. One of the most shocking being the infant formula scandal of the 1970s.

The original Nestlé boycott erupted in 1977 when the company was accused of distributing their infant formula products to mothers in poverty-stricken countries. The formula wasn’t offered until children were weaned, though, and once mothers dried up and became dependent on Nestlé formula, they often couldn’t afford to purchase more of it, causing malnutrition and starvation among some of the poorest.

Nestlé has also been accused of using child labor and for supporting child slavery by continuing to purchase cacao from farms who utilize children on their farms. Additionally, Nestlé was accused of union busting by threatening to fire workers who attempted to organize in multiple countries throughout the world.

While many Nestlé boycotts have been called throughout the years, part of the difficulty in pulling it off is their reach into so many offshoots and sub-brands. Nestlé’s reach is very broad and many consumers are purchasing their products without even knowing it. That said, it is entirely possible to avoid Nestlé and support the boycott when a consumer is educated and committed to the cause.

[Featured Image by Ken Wolter/Shutterstock]