IOGT-NTO: World Water Week Helps Greenwash Big Alcohol
IOGT-NTO has issued letters to the organizers of World Water Week in Stockholm criticizing the presence of major alcohol companies at the event. In the letters, IOGT-NTO criticizes that World Water Week helps Big Alcohol to greenwash its image, despite apparent conflicts of interest and appalling Human Rights abuses of the alcohol companies involved.
World Water Week is the annual focal point for global water issues. It is organized by SIWI, the Stockholm International Water Institute. And it is supported by the government of Sweden and Stockholm City. In 2019, World Water Week takes place from August 25 to 30, in Stockholm. High profile alcohol companies that are using the event as platform are Bacardi, Heineken, Diageo and AB InBev.
In the letter IOGT-NTO expresses serious concerns about the involvement of the alcohol industry in World Water Week. IOGT-NTO makes three main arguments to highlight that involving the alcohol industry in World Water Week constitutes a major conflict of interest and undermines the very goal of World Water Week.
It is obvious green wash from the alcohol industry, which for both ethical and environmental reasons should not be allowed in this forum that stands for very the opposite,” writes Irma Kilim, Head of Drug Policy at IOGT-NTO.
IOGT-NTO has send the letter to heads of SIWI and SIDA (the Swedish Development Agency), as well as Stockholm city.
Greenwashing of alcohol companies
Three categories showing how World Water Week is helping greenwash Big Alcohol:
- Alcohol industry CSR campaigns are ineffective
- Alcohol production fuels water and food insecurity
- Human Rights abuses of the alcohol industry, such as Heineken
Alcohol industry CSR campaigns are ineffective
IOGT-NTO writes in the letter:
The alcohol industry’s CSR campaigns are a topic of interest to research, and a 2018 study shows that the main purpose of these campaigns is marketing and not actually making a positive difference in people’s lives. As many as 96.8% of all CSR campaigns internationally lacked scientific support. Only 27% of the campaigns recommended the target areas identified by the WHO as most important and 11% of the CSR campaigns had the potential to actually do harm.“
Alcohol production fuels water and food insecurity
In the letter, IOGT-NTO writes:
… alcohol causes major harm in various ways in our society. These have enormous medical, psychological, social, economic and democratic consequences. What is less known, however, is that alcohol production also causes harm to our environment. If we take water as an example, studies show that a glass of beer (25 cl) requires 75 liters of water supply on global average. The corresponding figure for a glass of wine (12.5 cl) is 120 liters.”
IOGT-NTO further highlights how the alcohol industry worsens the global water crisis:
884 million people around the world lack access to clean water and due to that 4,000 children die daily. This is happening at the same time as the alcohol industry is causing major emissions of chemicals into waterways in its production, around the world.
In Uganda, gin distilleries contaminate the Kiiha River, which provided many villages with drinking water, until it was discovered that the water was no longer drinkable, due to discharges from the 600 distilleries located along the river. In South Africa the drought was acute last year, so the municipal water had to be turned off in Cape Town, while the wine industry spread over ever larger land areas and used more and more of the water reserves.”
Human Rights abuses of the alcohol industry
IOGT-NTO further outlines the grave, systemic and appalling Human Rights abuses of the alcohol industry, by highlighting the findings of the book “Heineken in Africa”.
Irma writes in the letter on behalf of IOGT-NTO:
One of the companies that will be represented during World Water Week is Heineken. Journalist Olivier van Beemen has, after many years of research, published the internationally acclaimed and carefully supported book “Heineken in Africa” where he shows how the company has systematically violated human rights.
The picture emerges of a company that has close relationships with dictators, collaborates with warlords and has played a role during the Rwanda genocide. In Nigeria, the company’s CEO was close to being sentenced to prison in a case of corruption, but escaped sentence thanks to a deal made outside of the court. The company’s exploitation of young girls as so-called “beer girls” in Asia and Africa is widely known and has been criticized by international organizations such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the The Global Fund.”
From these short explanations it becomes obvious that there is a fundamental conflict of interest at work with Big Alcohol being involved and being given a platform at the World Water Week.
Therefore, Irma says that the purpose of the letter is to launch dialogue:
We hope for dialogue with the organizers to understand how they think and explain why we do not think that the alcohol industry should be invited.”
Download the letter in Swedish (PDF)