FIJI Water’s Success in the Crowded Bottled Water Industry
As a brand, FIJI Water was launched in the middle of the 1990s. In 2004, it was acquired by Roll International Corporation, owned by Lynda and Stewart Resnick. Having to compete in the crowded bottled water industry, already overflowing with diverse competitors, FIJI Water leaders had to come up with an effective brand management and promotion strategy. The business owners of FIJI Water embarked on a very active marketing campaign aimed at the promotion of the water, as well as the establishment and maintenance of FIJI Water’s brand image to distinguish it amongst the other bottled water businesses.
Being well-connected and known business people, the Resnicks utilized their connections in order to raise awareness about the brand among well-known celebrities and have the product placed at various high-end important political and cultural events. For example, the Resnicks made sure that some of the most famous celebrities mentioned FIJI Water as the brand of bottled water they appreciated the most. In addition, FIJI Water started to be featured on multiple popular TV shows and served official events such as the 2008 Democratic national Convention, music festivals, hosted golf tournaments, and the Emmy Awards, among other high-profile events. This presence helped establish the image of FIJI Water as being associated with luxury. At the same time, the water was widely sold in most supermarkets and department stores which made it affordable and accessible for members of the general public.
Practically, the popularity and success of this brand in a crowded industry were based on its association with the upper class, luxury, fame, and wealth. The product was promoted as the one approved and loved by famous people. When it comes to the promotion of goods and products, this technique is known as celebrity marketing. It is based on the engagement of famous individuals as spokespersons for a certain product. In this way, the positions of well-known people regarding the products become regarded as ‘expert opinions’. This action, in turn, adds value to the reputation of the promoted item or brand. In the case of FIJI Water, the power of expert opinion was enhanced by the presence of the water at high-profile events. This strategy helped to create FIJI Water’s image as the product chosen by wealthy people who have access to hundreds of other brands of bottled water but still preferred FIJI Water, recognizing its exceptional quality and outstanding taste.
Greenwashing – Its Definition and Meaning
In 2006, the leaders of FIJI Water started to embrace another marketing strategy that turned out to be rather profitable. Specifically, FIJI Water started to position itself as a highly environmentally-conscious brand, whose production operations were dedicated to carbon-negative manufacturing. Expanding this aspect of the brand, FIJI Water promoters started to place the product at various official environmental conventions and expositions such as the MySpace “Artist on Artist” climate change event. FIJI Water launched an active promotion campaign that emphasized its environmental commitment in terms of the brand organization and product.
Quickly, however, the brand began to face a large amount of criticism for its environmental impact and was accused of ‘greenwashing’. This accusation is very serious because greenwashing stands for a brand or organization’s self-presentation as more environmentally conscious than they are in reality. Practically, greenwashing refers to the creation of a false or partially fake image of a green brand in order to earn a better reputation, attract more customers, and increase profit. In other words, the practice of greenwashing is directly associated with misleading consumers, as well as an intentional misrepresentation of the brand and its activities. Many companies can benefit from greenwashing because it helps create a more environmentally concerned and virtuous image that is attractive to consumers, as well as investors. All in all, greenwashing can boost an organizations’ reputation and make them stronger competitors in their respective industries regardless of their specialization. Due to these reasons, many businesses tend to engage in greenwashing deliberately.
Even though greenwashing claims are constructed as vague and misleading statements, it is possible to tell whether or not greenwashing is present in a brand’s self-presentation strategy. In particular, in the case of FIJI Water, greenwashing was obvious because the bottled water industry is inherently environmentally unfriendly due to the production of tons of non-biodegradable plastic bottles and the fact that the water sold by this brand was extracted in Fiji, a poor country with a scarce supply of drinking water and frequent outbreaks of infectious and parasitic diseases caused by the lack of clean and freshwater. Greenwashing claims can be detected with the help of a critical analysis of the environmental impact produced by a specific brand and its comparison with the green claims that it uses in its promotional campaigns.
Additionality and Tests
Additionality is recognized as one of the fundamental concerns in regard to the carbon offset market. Practically, a carbon offset project is considered additional only if its benefits are calculated as additional to those that would occur for other reasons. There are several methods that environmentally-conscious organizations could employ in order to create carbon offsets. For example, some methods include capturing landfill methane, planting trees, and increasing the efficiency of fuels. Also, there is a way of measuring carbon offsets. For that, the estimated offsets are compared against the baseline scenario of emission levels that would have occurred without the carbon initiative.
Differently put, there is just one critical aspect that needs to be considered when testing the value of carbon offsets additionality. In order to see whether or not the created offsets are valuable, it is necessary to evaluate if the assessed offsets would not appear by themselves under a different scenario. Therefore, all the factors contributing to the cancellation of emissions need to be weighted so that it can be ascertained whether the offset project is truly valuable.
This approach to additionality testing makes sense because offsets that do not require any particular effort and can occur on their own should not be considered an achievement of a certain organizational project. Practically, the only purpose of these tests is to see whether or not an organization that claims to be creating carbon offsets makes an actual contribution. Under the absence of such tests, it would be possible for businesses to fake activities directed at the generation of carbon offsets and thus engage in greenwashing.
Lawsuit and Response
In 2010, FIJI Water faced a lawsuit in which the brand was accused of greenwashing, causing immense environmental damage, produced by the extraction and packaging of the water that could not be canceled by any carbon initiatives, as well as the misleading nature of the existing “carbon negative” claims. The negative impact made by FIJI Water was recognized by the government of Fiji as well. FIJI Water leaders needed to react to the situation and respond to the lawsuit. Additionally, the conflicts with the government of Fiji also forced the brand to make a choice as to whether or not the extractions should continue in the country or be relocated to New Zealand.
In regard to FIJI Water’s carbon negative strategy, it was claimed in the lawsuit that a forward-credited scheme was employed by the brand. According to that carbon accounting method, FIJI Water was able to engage in self-promotion by means of claiming credit for the removal and cancellation of emissions. According to additionality tests, the claimed removal may not take place at all, which makes it a misleading statement that powers the entire green commitment used to advertise the brand and its product.
In light of this lawsuit, the leaders of FIJI Water need to make a responsible choice. They should not amend the carbon-negative strategy completely. Instead, if they are willing to preserve their reputation as an environmentally conscious brand, they should, first of all, acknowledge the harm caused by the bottled water industry. Further, in addition to the carbon strategy, they should invest in biodegradable plastic for their bottles and bottle caps to cancel pollution. They could show a more concerned attitude towards the drinking water supply in Fiji, investing in some strategies for the local communities. Finally, a different carbon removal strategy needs to be applied as a replacement for the previous carbon accounting method.