Water Bottle Free Possibilities

One Week After Renewing PepsiCo. Contract, Concordia Says Water Bottle Free Campus Still Possible

Extending a proverbial olive branch to student leaders, campus activists and the press, Concordia’s administration sent an e-mail detailing the future of water bottle negotiations on campus a week after renewing an exclusive beverage contract with PepsiCo.

“Given the magnitude of the dossier, the looming deadline for its expiry, and given that it was clear that no definitive decision would be reached with respect to bottled water on campus before such expiry, the decision was made to extend the contract,” wrote Roger Côté, the acting VP Services and successor to Michael Di Grappa.

“Despite this decision, the students’ concerns were not overlooked or ignored,” it continued. “I genuinely regret the perception [of the university] on the part of the students that resulted from the sequence of events [in renewing the contract.]”

Though declining to elaborate further in an interview with The Link, Côté maintained that there was hope for a water bottle free campus, as a clause in the PepsiCo. contract was created before signing.

“The renewal agreement with Pepsi contains a provision which, if necessary, would permit the University to prohibit the sale of bottled water in businesses [that are] operated and controlled by the university on campus as well as the sale of bottled water through Pepsi’s vending machines located on campus,” he wrote.

Chris Mota, a Concordia spokesperson, also confirmed in an interview on Nov. 1 that banning the sale of bottled water on campus was “still wide open for discussion.”

“Signing with Pepsi does not mean we are going to keep bottled water in our business operations,” she said, adding that new and retrofitted water fountains will shortly be making their debut on campus.

Despite the e-mail, student groups will continue to pressure the administration to “walk their talk” about sustainable practices at an administrative level.

“Banning bottled water on campus is a false solution only if it allows the administration to say that they’ve met student demands and that’s the end of it. There are much larger issues here that need to be addressed as well as bottled water,” said Laura Beach, the TAPthirst co-founder who was at the forefront of the student movement on campus last week. “What about the other recommendations from the Environmental Advisory Committee?”
Meeting in May, the EAC—as mandated by the Services department—outlined that no individually packaged bottled water should be sold on campus. The EAC also suggested that beverage contract negotiations should abide by both the University’s Strategic Plan and the Environmental Policy VPS-5, recommending that the contract ensure healthy, environmentally and socially conscious products, and suggesting 30 per cent of all products be supplied locally.

Their recommendations were formally sent to the administration on July 7.

Morgan Pudwell, Concordia Student Union VP Sustainability & Promotions, also said she hopes that the e-mail and water bottle clause—despite being a “very nice gesture”—turn out to be more than administrative lip service.
“It was good to see the University is taking a step in the right direction, but they’re going to have to do more than that. We’re going to actually have to get to the table and talk,” she said. “[Going] bottled water [free] wasn’t all that the students wanted to see happen or were asking for.”

In the e-mail, Côté said the administration is “hopeful that the student representatives will accompany the University representative to a meeting with Pepsi, which will be organized by my office.”

After replying to the e-mail on Friday, Pudwell said the CSU hasn’t heard any news about a confirmed meeting and is anxious to know “when we’re going to move forward and get to the table.”

In the meantime, the CSU and the Arts and Science Federation of Associations have organized a panel discussion on Nov. 24 with Tony Clarke, the Polaris Institute Director, and John B. Challinor, the director of Corporate Affairs for Nestlé Waters Canada, to discuss the issue.

The administration has been invited to attend.

Check out the panel discussion on water privatization, organized by the CSU and ASFA, on Nov. 24 at 6:00 p.m. in H-767.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 13, published November 9, 2010.