Corporate Accountability International

This is the structural change we need to prevent another Trump

As the impeachment of Donald Trump marches forward, it’s important to keep in mind that Trump is neither an anomaly, nor an accident when it comes to the forces that landed him in the White House. Corporate power made a Trump presidency possible, and Trump’s entire presidency has been about enriching and protecting corporations and the handful of wealthy, predominantly white men behind them. While impeachment might lead to Trump’s ouster from the White House, and the 2020 elections will be another key moment to alter the landscape, the change we need is deeper and more structural than a new president.

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Death Of the Happy Meal

A few weeks ago, USA Today announced: "Taco Bell will shock the fast-food industry on Tuesday by announcing plans to drop kids meals and toys at all of its U.S. restaurants.” CEO Greg Creed told the paper: “The future of Taco Bell is not about kids meals. This is about positioning the brand for Millennials."

Some were skeptical about the announcement, given that kids' meals only represent half of one percent of Taco Bell's overall sales. While increasing pressure on the fast food industry to stop marketing to children wasn't the main reason for the change, it's still a significant development.

That a large fast food company thought it could gain a public relations boost by showing off what amounted to a failed business strategy is a sure sign of success by children’s health advocates. Restaurant executives have heard the message loud and clear: Marketing junk food to children is a scourge on their industry and any move that distances your company from such negative PR is a good thing.

The move also leaves McDonald’s increasingly isolated in its steadfast refusal to change its ways. Taco Bell is not in fact the first or only company to abandon children as a target market. In 2011, Jack in the Box announced it was pulling toys from its kids’ meals, explaining to Reuters: "Our advertising and promotions have focused exclusively on the frequent fast-food customer, not children."

And this recent article from NBC News describes how, as fast food “grows up,” more chains are retiring old-fashioned, child-oriented mascots and themes for a more modern marketing approach. The article cites childhood obesity concerns as playing “a significant role” in this decision making. Also, mascots such as Ronald McDonald just don’t fit the modern world, particularly as more upscale food chains gain popularity. The article explains:

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New York State Cuts Bottled Water Spending

You may recall reading several months ago that the Think Outside the Bottle campaign had begun to call on governors across the country to eliminate bottled water spending in order to support strong public water systems.

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Communities Demand Bottling Giant Nestle Stop Undermining Local Control of Water

While Nestlé executives put on a good show of the corporation's green and good neighbor initiatives in Switzerland, communities sent out an SOS from the corporation's headquarters for its bottling operations in North America. Yesterday, Think Outside the Bottle organizers and community leaders from near Nestle bottling sites delivered 10,000 messages in a bottle calling on Nestlé to stop undermining local control of water.

We delivered these messages directly to executives at the Nestle Waters North America headquarters, speaking to CEO Kim Jeffrey about our concerns and demands. Nestlé is currently involved in water bottling disputes with communities in at least six states and Canada. From outside the shareholders' meeting the picture is an unpleasant one for the bottling giant: Bottled water sales down.

In the last year Nestlé's global bottled water sales declined by 1.6 percent thanks to the economy and mounting grassroots pressure for bottlers to change their practices.

New Colorado expansion meets resistance. Just this month, new plans to tap aquifers that feed the Arkansas River surfaced in Colorado, provoking determined community opposition.

Another run at McCloud. Nestlé recently announced plans to make another run at bottling water near Mt. Shasta in California, despite years of local resistance.

New England, new challenges. This year, New England municipalities have countered Nestlé's aggressive expansion by passing moratoriums on water bottling. Still, Nestlé continues to seek new bottling sites in the region.

Terry Swier of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation participated in the delivery Swier's organization is involved in a protracted legal battle with Nestlé over the bottling of water from a protected area in Northern Michigan. An early ruling determined that Nestlé's pumps were likely to narrow streams, expose mud flats and reduce flow levels.

"Nestlé is determined to run us dry in more ways than one and no amount of talk about being a 'good neighbor' will change that fact," said Swier. Nestlé's tactics for undermining local control of water goes well beyond the courts. It has done everything from engineering backroom deals to running manipulative PR campaigns to put a green veneer on its brands.

"When one tactic fails, Nestlé changes things up and tries another," said Shelly Gobeille, of Protect Our Water and Wildlife Resources in Shapleigh, Maine, who also traveled to Connecticut yesterday. "What doesn't change is the resolve of our communities to keep water under local control. We know all too well what happens when that changes."

Downstream from its bottling sites, Nestlé's green public relations machine is also a force. This leaves Think Outside the Bottle and allies wondering whether the corporation will follow through on other environmental commitments it has made on paper.

Grassroots pressure has forced Nestlé to commit, in word, to full source labeling and improved water testing disclosure. But 'green is as green does' may be a hard lesson for Nestlé to learn given the corporation's history has been, 'green is as green says.'  If Nestlé gets the message in the bottle, it'll change course and start honoring communities' right to protect their local water resources and follow through on its promises to consumers.

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