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Fiji Water Sued Over Carbon Credit Greenwashing

Are the bottled water behemoth’s statements about producing a carbon-negative product false?

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It has been a difficult few months for Fiji Water. First the bottled water company threatened to pull out of Fiji, potentially leaving the country even more economically unstable than it already is. Now the company is being sued in a class action lawsuit complaining that Fiji’s statements about producing carbon-negative bottled water are false.

According to Reuters, the lawsuit alleges:

Defendants convince consumers to buy their “FIJI” brand of bottled
water–and to pay more for FIJI than for competing brands–by
advertising and labeling FIJI as “The World’s Only CARBON NEGATIVE
bottled water.” In other words, Defendants claim that they remove more
carbon pollution from our atmosphere than they release into it. In
reality, however, FIJI water is not “Carbon Negative.” Instead,
Defendants justify this claim by employing a discredited carbon
accounting method known as “forward crediting.” Thus, Defendants do not
remove more carbon pollution than they create; they simply claim credit
for carbon removal that may or may not take place – up to several
decades in the future.

Unlike carbon credits that are doled out based on existing carbon reductions (i.e. carbon credits issued for a tree-planting program that is already in place), forward crediting allows buyers to purchase offsets that haven’t yet been produced (i.e. credits issued for a tree-planting program that has yet to begin). This is, according to the Stockholm Environment Institute, the riskiest type of carbon credit transaction because buyers pay for credits upfront without any guarantee that carbon removal will actually occur.

Fiji says on its website that the consulting firm ICF International verifies its emissions data every year, and that a partnership with well-regarded environmental nonprofit Conservation International guarantees the quality of its carbon credits. The lawsuit, which is being filed by Newport Trial Group, may have a difficult time succeeding in the face of these claims. But as we have explained before, Fiji is a troubled company. The brighter the spotlight shone on its practices, the better.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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