Nestlé leaves Canadians dry

A call for a Queen’s boycott in light of Nestlé’s exploitative actions

Companies and products owned by Nestlé include Nestea, Kit Kat, the Body Shop, Delissio and L'Oreal.
Products and companies owned by Nestlé.
Credit: 
Graphic by Ashley Quan

Nestlé’s exploitation of Canadian natural resources needs to be put to an end — and consumers like us have the chance to do it.

While Nestlé sucks an estimated 319.5 million litres of precious groundwater annually from B.C., west coast residents have been asked to limit their water usage due to a drought. 

Groundwater is a drinkable, natural resource that can be accessed through wells and pumping. It can take hundreds to thousands of years to accumulate or replenish and therefore can’t be considered a renewable resource by any means. 

This is why it’s important that the small amount of fresh groundwater we have is preserved and kept out of the hands of large companies such as Nestlé.

One of the most effective ways to gain the attention of large international companies, such as Nestlé, is to threaten profits. Boycotting their products can ultimately help Canadians prevent such companies from exploiting our natural resources.

Nestlé isn’t the only company who’s adopted this practice, and B.C. isn’t the only victim of natural resource exploitation. But the company’s high profile and current spotlight in the media makes this dispute a great opportunity to start a movement against large scale exploitation of natural resources without consequence.

Boycotting is an effective method of showing the government and industry our disapproval — and many people have already boycotted Nestlé products, bringing more attention to the issue. 

To that effect, institutions can make much more of an impact than individuals. For the Queen’s community to have any real influence over Nestlé, Nestlé products such as Nestea, Kit Kat and Rolo shouldn’t be provided or purchased anywhere on campus. 

If Queen’s were to issue a statement condemning Nestlé’s actions, this would have a far greater impact than individual action, because the school as a whole represents the buying power of thousands.

Standing up to Nestlé is a great start toward revolutionizing the food and beverage industry and getting government officials to more tightly control our natural resources.

Water covers about 71 per cent of Earth’s surface, but unfortunately, because we don’t yet have the technology to affordably make seawater drinkable, we’re left with just freshwater.

Freshwater is what runs through our taps, fills many of our lakes and rivers, and can be found under Earth’s surface as groundwater. 

Only 2.5 per cent of the water on Earth is freshwater, and this resource is becoming increasingly scarce over time. Allowing Nestlé unrestricted access to a precious freshwater source in B.C. is detrimental to all Canadians. 

If this continues, we’re limiting the freshwater available to us in the future.

Nestlé is paying something for the water they’re taking: $2.25 per million litres. That’s obscenely inexpensive considering Canadians are frequently asked to pay $2.25 or more for a 500 mL bottle of water. 

Nestlé sells Canadian freshwater for a large profit, in the form of a product that we can just as easily get out of our very own taps.

The key isn’t necessarily to charge for water as an unrestricted commodity, but to limit the amount companies are allowed to withdraw and charge a more reasonable fee based on this stricter amount.

Canada needs a nationwide mentality shift. Industry, government and the public alike must understand that water isn’t as plentiful as everyone seems to believe. It’s an extremely valuable natural resource that’s being depleted more quickly now than ever before.

The B.C. government is implementing water allocation limits, which is a step in the right direction. If the government can keep their grasp tight enough to restrict the amount of water being drawn out by these companies, that would be a significant start toward preserving our fragile groundwater preserves. 

Canadians need to make a stand against companies like Nestlé, and these companies listen best when profits are on the line. 

It’s an opportunity for any Canadian citizen to show that exploiting our natural resources is unacceptable and that we won’t support their company doing so.

Queen’s boycotting Nestlé products would get the attention not only of one company, but the whole food and beverage industry as well as the policy-making government. 

A change needs to be made and we have the power to help it start.

Leslie Egan is a fourth-year geological engineering major. She’s the co-president of the Water and Environmental Association of Ontario, Queen’s Student Chapter.

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