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PepsiCo’s Water Claims in India: Some Hard Questions to Answer

PepsiCo’s Aquafina bottled water marketed in India bears the label making the claim of having achieved ‘positive water balance.”

The label says:

Giving Back MORE WATER Than We Take
We call it “Positive Water Balance”.
To help save a precious resource that is fast depleting in India. Through rain-water harvesting, community water-sheds, and water conservation in agriculture, we at PepsiCo India saved 836 million litres* more water than we consumed in 2009.
To know more, log on to www.tomorrowbetterthantoday.com 

*As confirmed by an independent audit

Credit: India Resource Centre

Is there more to it than meets the eye?  India Resource Centre, the NGO which has been campaigning against the likes of Coca-Cola Inc to achieve water justice for communities in India has issued a press release questioning the claims. Without credible answers to these, one would have to dismiss the label as nothing less than ‘bluewash.’

Pepsico’s Water Claims in India Misleading and Deceptive: Report by India Resource Centre

New Delhi, India. November 30, 2011  Pepsico is claiming that it has achieved “positive water balance” in India.  Pepsico prominently states on its bottled water in India that Pepsico is “Giving Back MORE WATER Than We Take.”

Pepsico’s claims are erroneous, misleading and deceptive.  The company does not give back more water than it takes.

A detailed report was released today by the India Resource Center and the Community Resource Centre examining Pepsico’s claims.  Pepsico’s claims of “positive water balance” do not hold water when subject to scrutiny.

Pepsico’s claims fail for a number of reasons, some of which include:

1. Pepsico Has Severely Understated the Amount of Water it Uses in India.  Pepsico’s “positive water balance” claim is based on the company’s assertion that it used just 5 billion liters of water in 2009.  Our calculations, however, estimate that Pepsico is responsible for at least 50 times more water than it admits.

The audit assuring that Pepsico had achieved “positive water balance” stated that Pepsico used or counted as “debit” 5168 mml of water (or 5.168 billion liters) in India in 2009. And Pepsico claims to have saved or counted as “credit” 6004 mml of water (6.004 billion liters) in 2009, hence a positive balance of 836 million liters.

Pepsico only added up the water used in their beverage and food factories, and such a measure is completely inadequate for measuring a companies’ water impact or footprint.

It takes 21.82 billion liters of water to produce 75,000 tons of potatoes that Pepsico used in India. And yet, Pepsico reports using only 5.168 billion liters of water in India, about 4 times less.

From our research, we can estimate that Pepsico uses at least 90,000 tonnes of sugar annually.

It takes about 2,374 liters of water to make 1 kilogram of refined sugar in India, according to the Water Footprint Network6, the initiative that Pepsico claims to be a “sponsoring partner” of.

As a result, Pepsico is responsible for 214 billion liters of water used in production of sugar alone used in its products. And yet, Pepsico reports using only 5.168 billion liters of water in India, about 40 times less. (From India Resource Centre’s detailed report)

2. Pepsico’s Water Balance Accounting is Illogical and Flawed.  In its accounting for “positive water balance,” Pepsico has declined to take responsibility for the water used in the supply chain of its products, such as potatoes grown through contract farming for Pepsico alone, or the sugar used in its products.  At the same time, Pepsico liberally takes responsibility for saving water outside the supply chain, and in agriculture in particular.  Close to 80% of the “positive water” that Pepsico claims to have saved do not come from water reductions in their supply chain or operations.  Instead, Pepsico is paying others to save water, and using that to claim that Pepsico has saved water.

4.7 billion liters of water that Pepsico says it “saved”, or 78% of the total water it claims as “credit” in the audit, comes from their promotion of Direct Seeding among farmers in paddy fields in India (as opposed to transplanting method). Pepsico has paid for the entire “agricultural intervention”, including the seeds, the seeding machine and consultancy.

Pepsico itself has NOT reduced its own water usage along its supply chain to claim these credits. Instead, Pepsico has paid for others to save water – and used that “saved” water to claim that Pepsico has saved water, and therefore Pepsico should be credited positively towards its water balance.

78% of Pepsico’s water savings come from such a disingenuous intervention and accounting.

Although Direct Seeding decreases water use in paddy farming by 16% when compared to transplanting, Direct Seeding also requires more herbicides and pesticides and for this, “PepsiCo recommends use of post-emergence herbicides manufactured by reputed companies like Bayer CropScience, Dupont India and Pesticide India.” Direct Seeding also requires more diesel, according to a study provided to us by Pepsico. (From India Resource Centre’s detailed report)

 


3. Water Issues are Local Issues – Pepsico Doesn’t Get It
.  Having a “positive” relationship with water entails water stewardship at the local, watershed level.  To our surprise, only 15% of the water conservation projects conducted by Pepsico are in the same watershed where Pepsico operates.  Of all the water that Pepsico says it saved in 2009, only 2% came from “in-plant water recharge and harvesting.”

Credit: Nadia Khastagir, India Resource Center

4. One in Four Pepsico Plants Operating in Water-Stressed Areas in India.  A primary measure of a company’s water sustainability practices is to examine whether the company is operating in areas that are already water-stressed.  Of the 34 operating Pepsico plants in 2009, 9 plants – over 25% – were located in areas that the government has classified as water stressed (semi-critical, over-exploited and critical) – hardly a picture of a “positive” water company.

In addition, there were serious concerns raised about the amount of wastewater generated by Pepsico, 2.56 billion liters alone in 2009.  Pepsico’s wastewater finds no mention in its audit and its accounting of “positive water balance.”

“Pepsico’s claims of positive water balance makes a mockery of the science and logic behind water stewardship. It also insults the Indian public by making claims that are erroneous, misleading and deceptive,” said Nandlal Master of the Community Resource Centre from Varanasi who has campaigned against Pepsico plants in India.

“Pepsico’s claims of positive water balance are nothing more than a public relations exercise to blunt the growing and real criticism of its water management practices in India and elsewhere,” said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center.

“These are business and reputational risk management maneuvers and their claim of “positive water balance” aims to give Pepsico the right to use “positive” or additional water, much needed as it plans aggressive expansion in water-challenged India.  All this while not doing anything substantial to conserve water themselves, such as in their factories and supply chain, or limiting the needless growth of water guzzling soft drinks or the unhealthy junk food they peddle. We refuse to accept such logic and practice.”

The detailed report, “Deception with Purpose: Pepsico’s Water Claims in India” is available at http://www.indiaresource.org/news/2011/pepsipositivewater.html

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org

 

***********

Our bigger question is also whether bottled water is required at all, given the wasteful use of plastic,  and the fossil fuels required in its distribution, apart from the use of a community’s water resource.  In addition, given that processed beverages and foods are mostly a concoction of artificial chemicals, harmful sugars and salts (that are unhealthy for consumers and the environment), labels only serve to detract rather than answer the fundamental question of whether products such as these are indeed required for society’s wellbeing.

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Posted by on Dec 5 2011. Filed under Green Action, Water/Marine Life. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “PepsiCo’s Water Claims in India: Some Hard Questions to Answer”

  1. Valid points raised, and needs to be addressed especially the last para

    “Our bigger question is also whether bottled water is required at all, given the wasteful use of plastic, and the fossil fuels required in its distribution, apart from the use of a community’s water resource. In addition, given that processed beverages and foods are mostly a concoction of artificial chemicals, harmful sugars and salts (that are unhealthy for consumers and the environment), labels only serve to detract rather than answer the fundamental question of whether products such as these are indeed required for society’s wellbeing.”

    However, significant number of Indians, including the people who contributed to this column, could possibly be using bottled drinking water. I do not prefer to consumer bottled drinking water, but that is not the habit with many. Can you tell me, amongst the packaged water/ bottled water manufacturing companies in India, which is the company that is the most socially and environmentally responsible? If you can do such studies, a consumer can prefer to buy those products that are socially and environment friendly.

    Criticism, without providing alternative solutions, is useless.

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