Secretary Clinton lambasted for Corporate Excellence choices

Food and water activists are raising a howl of protest at that old whipping boy… or girl of the left, Hillary Clinton for nominating three bottled water companies for corporate citizenship awards.

It is worth noting that none of those companies is named Nestle Waters North America, currently raising eyebrows in Colorado by pumping water from a spring near Buena Vista and trucking it to Denver for bottling under the Arrowhead label.

The water companies in question: Pepsi, Coke and Fiji were cited for their work in disaster relief, water conservation and local education and employment efforts.

Some, though, think the bad things these companies do outweigh the good. Here is a letter from Food and Water Watch to supporters, asking them to write to their Congress person or to Clinton herself to protest Clinton’s action.

Dear——–,

Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Fiji Water Don’t Deserve Awards from Secretary Clinton!

Tell Secretary Clinton that She Shouldn’t be Rewarding Bad Water Corporations.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Fiji Water take water from communities all over the world, bottle it, and make huge profits selling it back to us. Should they get an award for this? We don’t think so.

As communities fight to keep control of this basic human right, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s office is considering these water bottlers for “corporate excellence” awards. Tell Secretary Clinton that she shouldn’t reward bad corporate behavior.

We’ve been fighting water bottling plants in Maine and Oregon, and recently helped stop plans for a bottled water facility in Florida. Water is a precious resource that we can’t live without, and across the country, and the world, communities don’t want multinational corporations taking water from their communities to make a profit.

We couldn’t believe it when we found out that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is considering these big three multinational corporations as finalists for her “corporate excellence” award. These companies are more likely to be on our “corporate greed” award finalist list.

Can you help us send a message to Secretary Clinton that corporate greed and bad behavior doesn’t deserve awards? Take Action:

Thanks for taking action,

Sarah Alexander
Outreach Director
Food & Water Watch

The twelve finalists were selected from a field of 78 nominees. The State Department did not return an email asking for more details. In past years, the winner has been selected in early December.

Here is what the State Department had to say about three water companies:

Coca-Cola in Swaziland – for the beverage company’s work to improve local communities’ water, education, and health; promote entrepreneurship; foster local science and technology initiatives; and demonstrate exemplary employment practices

Fiji Water in Fiji – for the bottled water company’s disaster relief efforts; volunteerism; partnerships that focus on local health, education, and provision of water; and “carbon negative” approach to product lifecycle and conservation efforts

PepsiCo in India – for the beverage company’s fostering of environmental sustainability through water conservation efforts, which has benefited small and marginal farmers; supporting the health and well-being of local communities; and providing important employment opportunities through training with a focus on diversity and inclusion.

When it comes to honoring Fiji Water in particular, the protests become rather more pointed.

This, from www.Change.org:

As for Fiji Water, well, it’s hard to imagine a more laughable company (co-owned by the Resnicks) when it comes to corporate social responsibility. A story in Mother Jones revealed that while the company gets rich off selling and shipping water across the globe, locals in Fiji suffer from typhoid due to bad water supplies on the island, which is run by controversial military junta. Fiji Water owners have set up Cayman tax havens, Anna Lenzer reports. As for the product itself, well, it’s made with “Chinese plastic in a diesel-fueled plant and hauled thousands of miles to its eco-conscious consumers.” So yeah, you can ponder the environmental impact of that.

And, from Mother Jones itself:

UPDATE: News broke in Fiji today (11/18/10) that Fiji Water’s top official on the island, Director of External Affairs David Roth, was the reason for the abrupt resignation of the country’s acting prime minister, Ratu Epeli Ganilau. Ganilau shocked the island nation, which has been under martial law since 2009, by emailing his resignation to Prime Minister Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, who is traveling in China. Fiji Water is a huge economic force on the island, and the company has been criticized for tolerating Bainimarama’s military regime; see my in-depth report, below.”We had some differences over the David Roth issue,” Ganilau told the site FijiLive, without elaborating. Reports from Fiji indicate that a deportation order had been issued for Roth, and Ganilau resigned in protest. (Fiji Water has not yet responded to our request for comment.)

The fight comes at a potentially awkward moment for Fiji Water, which has just been nominated by the US State Department for its 2010 Corporate Excellence Award. The US Ambassador in Fiji has also been making “surprise” visits to Fiji Water’s charity events,”touting Roth’s work. US relations with Fiji have been cool, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced during her Asia tour that the US will be re-engaging with Bainimarama’s regime by locating a $21 million USAID climate change office in Fiji—a step some consider an attempt to counter China’s rising influence there. “We are going to be working together with Australia to persuade the military government in Suva to meet its commitment to bring democracy back to Fiji,” Clinton said.

To see video of a State Department official talking about the awards, click here.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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