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Water use – especially bottling water in plastic bottles and transporting it hundreds or thousand of miles to buyers wholly disconnected from the community at the water’s source – has been a source of controversey for years. But we may now be seeing a new confluence of legal risk, business threats, ESG impact – even the film industry is getting involved.

Not long ago, Bloomberg Green wrote about BlueTriton Brands, Inc., a private equity company operated by the company that owns Twinkie maker Hostess, controls a large share of the bottled water sold in the US, including Zephyrhills, Poland Spring, Arrowhead and Deer Park. According to the article, BlueTriton relies heavily – if not exclusively – on natural springs located in rural, sparely populated areas in at least six states: Florida, Maine, Colorado, Michigan, Texas and South Carolina, where

“… fragile ecosystems can be uniquely impacted by pumping. A report by Florida’s environmental agency in 2021 showed that while bottling consumes far less water than other industries such as agriculture, it shrinks spring flows disproportionately because it takes water so close to the source.”

The article offers more information about the company’s water use permitting status and legal challenges across the country. To be fair, BlueTriton has a sustainability report from 2022 that touches on these and other important topics. But on top of those legal issues, the business case of water bottling may also be weakening – at least for BlueTriton according to Bloomberg Green:

“Whether Zephyrhills or Poland Spring will produce as much profit as Twinkie is yet to be seen. At BlueTriton, multiple rounds of layoffs after the takeover [from Nestle in 2021] affected hundreds of workers. Environmental sustainability projects were sidelined after the acquisition to make way for streamlining efficiency and maximizing profits, according to three former employees…

In March, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the company’s credit rating, describing BlueTriton’s financial policy as ‘aggressive.’ It cited the additional debt BlueTriton has taken on to deliver profits to investors, such as a round of shareholder payouts at the end of 2021 financed by a loan of $250 million.”

Read the next blog for more on why water use may be coming to a head – and theater near you.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile