By selling bottled water in the parks, and using the National Park Service logo in its marketing material, Coke is using “one national treasure to profit from another,” says Kristin Urquiza, Think Outside the Bottle campaign director for Corporate Accountability International.
Coke did not respond directly to any of Corporate Accountability International’s accusations, and instead provided a statement from the American Beverage Association that says people should be able to choose how they consume water in National Parks: from a bottle, a water fountain or refillable container.
“Many Americans appreciate the convenience and portability of bottled water and water beverages. In fact, they now play an important and healthy role in our nation’s beverage consumption patterns,” the statement says, adding that American beverage companies invest in green bottling, fuel-efficient fleets and recycling programs.
With 280 million visitors each year in parks, Coca-Cola, bottler of Dasani, has seen marketing and sales as a “vehicle to paint its eco-unfriendly product green,” according to Corporate Accountability International. The watchdog group says from 2007-2012, Coke’s revenue totaled more than $192 billion. Over the same period, Coke paid $2.5 million to the National Park Foundation for exclusive use of park logos in its cause-marketing.
When Coke discovered the Grand Canyon’s plan to phase out bottled water and sell reusable bottles instead, executives used their relationship with the National Park Foundation to water down NPS director Jon Jarvis’ national policy on bottled water, Corporate Accountability International says. Now parks must individually petition regional superintendents and overcome additional hurdles to go bottled water free.
Prior to phasing out bottled water last year, the Grand Canyon found plastic bottles accounted for 20 percent of its overall waste stream, or more than 500 tons of waste annually. The NPS branch chief of sustainable operations and climate change estimated that eliminating this waste could save parks as much as 30 percent of their costs for recycling removal.
Washington state’s Mount Rainier National Park and Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco have also initiated the process to go bottled-water free. Yesterday, the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors David Chiu announced a bill limiting the sale of bottled water on city property.