Some of you may remember my piece on Fiji Water I did under my old handle: in Fiji, day in day out, over a million liters of fresh water are pumped from an aquifer beneath a rain forest on Vitu Levu, the largest island. It is odd when you think that a third of Fijians have no clean water and there are outbreaks of typhoid and dengue fever!
Three years ago, the Fijian government announced a tax on bottled water designed to conserve the island’s depleting natural resources, but they
caved in were forced to abort the project following pressure from the powerful water bottling lobby group. Fiji Water is currently owned by billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick who purchased the company from another billionaire, David Gilmour.
Why is this relevant you may ask? Fiji Water on Monday closed its operations saying it was being singled out by the military-led government for a massive tax increase.
So, were they not making money? According to Resnick's book sales of Fiji Water soon increased by 300% by 2008, becoming the largest imported bottled water brand in the United States. They even use President Obama's picture in some of their ads. However, responding to bad publicity regarding their brand and bottled water in general, Resnick introduced a promotional campaign touting an environmental policy and plans for a reduced carbon footprint through a series of press releases. Yes, you can see for yourself how "green" was their valley in the following video:
The Fijian Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, said last Tuesday that the company has paid minimal corporate taxes since it was set up. The company had had a corporate tax holiday for some time and had paid just $500,000 in corporate taxes since, he said in a statement. In turn, Fiji Water received some $2 million to $2.6 million dollars in VAT (value added tax) refunds because it is an export business. Nice work, if you can get it.
Last week Commodore Frank Bainimarama charged Fiji Water company with making untrue statements about instability in the South Pacific islands nation. Ah, yes, the usual bag of tricks, a la Halliburton. Now a Fiji Water statement issued by their L.A. headquarters wants to keep operating in Fiji and is willing to hold discussions with the government about...those pesky taxes. If Fiji Water does indeed close down its operation on Viti Levu, the company could move to New Zealand and (in September 2008 it bought a bottled water brand sourced from an artesian aquifer at Tai Tapu, in the South Island) Oy Vey! No problemos! Taxes too high? Moving along to "friendlier" pastures.
Apart from the obvious destruction that plastic bottles do to our planet, do we really need to buy bottled water that travels up to 10,000 miles to your table?
The business magazine Fast Company published an article in its July 2007 issue which reported, among other things, that Fiji Water's production plant relies continuously on diesel generators and that the high-grade plastics used to make the bottles are transported from China to Fiji, where the product is then bottled and shipped.
Wiki has a fairly good article on the environmental impact of the plastic bottles here.