The panel members were: Adam Graves, President, Nestlé Waters Canada; Andreanne Simard, Natural Resources Manager, Nestlé Waters Canada; Catherine O’Brien, Senior Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Nestlé Canada; Jennifer Nikolasevic, Supply Chain Logistics Lead, Nestlé Waters Canada; Sam Gordon, Factory Manger, Nestlé Waters Canada
On April 10th and 11th Nestlé Waters Canada hosted two Community Information sessions. The meetings were held at the Puslinch Community Centre and the Hillsburgh Community Centre and were attended by Puslinch and Erin residents as well as local community members. The panel consisted of Nestlé Waters and Nestlé Canada leaders who took written questions from the audience in attendance as well as questions submitted via email to [email protected].
The following are the questions and answers that were asked live at the Community Info Sessions, as well as questions that we did not get a chance to address due to time restrictions and questions we committed to providing more information on. We have also included any questions we received immediately after the sessions.
If you have any questions please reach out to [email protected]
Questions asked in the Puslinch Community Information Session – April 10th
1. What happens to the plastic that isn’t recycled and ends up in the ocean day after day?
Catherine O’Brien: Nestlé has made a significant commitment around our packaging. We acknowledge that there are issues with plastics being found in the environment, but as a company we have committed to making all of our packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.
At Nestlé, we are exploring alternative packaging and we are making sure that we have the right infrastructure to ensure our packaging is reusable and recyclable.
The PET used in our water bottles is highly recyclable and sustainable. We are putting our efforts into making sure that all our water bottles are being recycled and we are advocating for harmonized recycling system. We are working with our partners to make sure that everything made is recycled – as part of the circular economy. We do have to work with and rely on others to help make this happen, but we have made a strong commitment to recycling and take a leadership role in this.
2. What are some of the community events you sponsor? What kind of things do you look forward to helping with in the future?
Adam Graves: Community comes first. The community benefit fund we started because the community said they didn’t see a direct benefit from the water taking in Erin. The money goes into the fund and the money can be used without our say. It is used for infrastructure in the community.
Andreanne Simard: In Aberfoyle for example, we are involved in many events. Friends of Mill Creek is a program we are involved in where we help high school students in Mill Creek restore the community. I can’t tell you enough how committed we are. I live here and it is of utmost importance.
Adam Graves: Additionally, we work with the University of Guelph. We provide support and skills for students that they can use in the community and for future employment. This gives them direct application of their skills they are learning in school. This is an area that I’ve personally gotten more involved in and plan to work more on in the future.
3. Do you get third party scientists to verify your data? If so, who?
Andreanne Simard: We have multiple third-party scientists we work with and who are here today. We provide our technical results to many different stakeholders during our technical sessions prior to submitting our annual report to regulators. Additionally, we provide the report to the townships we operate in for feedback. They will have their third-party consultants review the data and provide their comments and feedback to us and the regulators. We are highly regulated, and reports are on the website so anyone can read them and provide input.
4. What are some of the future plans for the Aberfoyle factory? Any plans for more jobs or in reducing jobs?
Sam Gordon: We are looking into expanding our capabilities, specifically we are beginning to look at sparking water so we do not have to import as much as we do now. Currently, we are looking into getting capital investments and funding. We want to expand and provide employment opportunities to those in the community.
Adam Graves: Additionally, we employ 210 employees from the Puslinch area. One of our main goals is to ensure that our company is fit for purpose and sustainable so we can ensure that all our employees have a bright future from an employment stand point.
5. How many trucks go in and out of your factory everyday?
Jennifer Nikolasevic: There is a misconception out there that we have hundreds of tankers leaving our Erin site and coming to Guelph. However, the reality is that we only have 1 – 3 tankers travelling between the facilities every day and 5 – 7 during the busy season.
6. Between 2013 and February 2019, five Nestlé employees in Columbia were murdered and the president of the union was the target of an attempted murder. All this because they were defended by the union which was negotiating a collective agreement. While the murders were committed by parliamentary forces, Nestlé was implicated and failed to protect its workers. Do you agree that Nestlé has a responsibility to protect its workers in Columbia and around the world?
Catherine O’Brien: I certainly agree that Nestlé has a focus and commitment to protecting workers around the world. I am not the expert on this situation, but I can get more information. It does go without saying that Nestlé is committed to protecting and supporting all of our workers around the world.
7. What does Nestlé Waters Canada estimate the cost is to society to clean up the litter of the 300 million single use bottles not recycled by Nestlé?
Catherine O’Brien: When it comes to Nestlé water bottles, the package is easily recyclable. Currently in Canada, the recycling rate for beverages is approximately 75% which shows that we have a great system already in place. However, there are improvements to be made in order to ensure that everyone is recycling, and we get the rate up to 100%. But the fact is our bottles have an excellent second use. We can take what is recycled and build it into new bottles that are made from more recycled content.
Our responsibility is to encourage people to recycle and to use as little plastic as we can, look at other sources of packaging and work together to make sure we have a great infrastructure to collect the bottles so that we can use them again. Our goal is the circular economy. We have a role in this, the government and individuals all need to play a role. We all want to work together to solve the issue.
8. Does Nestlé have any effect on the city water and the fact that Aberfoyle is still on well water? Is there any relationship?
Andreanne Simard: We are down gradient from the City of Guelph which means ground water is flowing from the north east through Guelph and down to Puslinch. The City of Guelph takes their ground water before it gets to us. In Puslinch everyone has their own private wells, as do I. We have a well at our facility where we do all of our monitoring to make sure we are not negatively impacting anyone’s water supply. The community’s water supply needs come first. We have been collecting information for almost 20 years and we have a really good data set. We want to make sure we are not negatively impacting anything around us.
9. The aquafer in Vitttel has been reduced by 30 centimeters a year. If this happened in Canada would you stop taking water?
Catherine O’Brien: We are not an expert on the business happening in France. It is very complex issue and it would take some time to go over the details. We are here tonight to talk about this community. However, we are happy to talk about this separately and connect you with the people who are experts on this issue.
Andreanne Simard: We are lucky in Aberfoyle and we have a tremendous amount of ground water. There are currently no declining trends here and we are not seeing a decrease in the aquifer. We are monitoring this closely and we are a very highly regulated site. At Nestlé community needs come first and we do not want to have any negative impact on the water supply. If we were to see a negative impact, we would revise and change our operations accordingly.
10. How much water is pumped in a 24-hour period, on average? How much is brought in from out of town?
Andreanne Simard: The pumping varies day to day. We have a permit and are regulated on the amount that we can take every day. On an annual basis we take about 50% of what we are allowed to take. We are well within the daily pumping limit.
Jennifer Nikolasevic: We have 1-3 tankers leaving from the Erin site to Guelph every day and in the peak season, when we are busier, it is approximately 5-7 tankers.
11. What is the difference in carbon footprint for plastic bottled water and water pipe fill (tap water)?
There are many potential and vague variables that would have to be considered in calculating the carbon footprint for a specific bottled water or specific tap water system. Given that all systems and bottled water are unique and variables differ widely, it would be inaccurate to compare the carbon footprints of the two options.
12. Why did Nestlé lay off workers last year? And will more lay-offs happen?
Adam Graves: The beverage industry in Canada is competitive and we are always looking at how we can best position our business for the future. We did have permanent reduction in our workforce last November at the factory, but that was to better position our business. We have 210 associates that are currently employed, and those folks are making sure that our business is fit for purpose. It was an unfortunate situation, but it is a part of the competitive reality of the industry in North America.
13. Has the water level in the aquifer dropped?
Andreanne Simard: We have been tracking this very closely. It has not dropped, and it has been sustainable for years. We are watching this closely not only in the deep aquifer unit but also from the upper units and the surface water. Our primary goal is to make sure there are no negative declining trends of any sort. The rate we are allowed to take was developed on science and multiple aquifer tests to determine what the sustainable rate is. Ground water is a renewable resource and it will replenish as long as it is properly managed.
14. Can you explain how much water is in a tanker?
Jennifer Nikolasevic: 10,000 gallons (roughly 40,000 Litres)
15. What is your company doing to create a plant-based bottle? What ways are you reducing plastic?
Catherine O’Brien: We are doing a lot of different things. We have a research centre comprised of 300 scientists at our head office in Switzerland that are working on food related research projects. Additionally, our biggest global initiative is our newly created Nestlé Packaging Institute where great minds are coming together to look into alternative packaging.
Nestlé also has many different partnerships around the world that are looking into plant base solutions. There is a lot of research and funding going to partners looking into finding solutions. This is a priority for us, and we have a lot of resources in this area.
Adam Graves: There is no product that is better for using recycled materials than the current Nestlé water bottle. We are committed to using 25% recycled materials across North America in our bottles by 2021, and 50% recycled material in 2025.
16. Why purchase the Middlebrook well? How many jobs will this create? Will you stop pumping in Aberfolye?
Andreanne Simard: Currently we have the Aberfoyle well which is permitted to run our whole operations and the Erin source that is permitted for 1/3 of the capacity of our Aberfoyle source, but there are no back-ups. The Middlebrook well would provide us with operational flexibility when we have to shut down our current wells for cleaning for weeks at a time.
Adam Graves: It is a contingency plan to make our business sustainable and ensure we have an alternate source. There are also parts of our portfolio where we look at blends of water and would allow us to do some differentiation in terms of taste profile.
17. Do you think you will get the permits renewed?
Andreanne Simard: We are fully confident that based on our data, the information we’ve collected and scientific evaluations with the City of Guelph that all data supports our permit renewals.
Adam Graves: That’s why we are here. We are confident in what we do and that the way we do it is the right way. Additionally, we are confident that we will be able to constructively engage with all our stakeholders, and go through the process to renew our permits.
18. How do you reconcile the ongoing use of single use plastic in these times?
Catherine O’Brien: The conversations that are taking place are clarifying what is referenced when you say single-use plastic. From our perspective, this bottle is not a single-use plastic because it can be reused and recycled. It is part of a circular economy and can be put back into the system to improve the sustainability of the packaging.
19. What are the results of your consultation with First Nations and who did you consult with?
Adam Graves: Parts of our engagement goes across all stakeholder groups, different levels of government in Canada and certainly across First Nations groups. We have meaningful and constructive dialogue with First Nations groups that is ongoing.
Andreanne Simard: We have been engaging with Six Nations of the Grand River and Mississauga of the Credit for almost 4 years now. We’ve developed really good relationships with them and we are each learning a lot about the other. We share all of our information with them and have had them toured the facility. It is something we take very seriously, and we will share all future work with them.
Catherine O’Brien: We have a very open relationship with both groups. We have asked for their opinions and their input and they have all been very positive and productive meetings.
20. Why did they walk in protest at your Aberfoyle gates? Did you engage with them after this happened?
Catherine O’Brien: You will need to ask them about that. We are a completely transparent company and we have put the offer out to many groups to sit down and have open dialogue with anyone who wants to.
21. You mentioned protecting the aquifer but what about the gravel pits? How are they not endangering the aquifers? How are you monitoring them?
Andreanne Simard: We are here to talk about our permits tonight. There are various other permits out there but you have to ask them on their process for monitoring and what their requirements are. We are very transparent about what we do and open to conversations.
22. How much does it cost Nestlé Waters Canada to provide one 500 ml bottle of water?
Adam Graves: Any information related to cost, you need to appreciate that we run a business, so cannot disclose costs in order to remain competitive.
Sam Gordon: The factory is very proud of the ways that we are trying to reduce costs and the things we do to create a sustainable factory for our employees and communities.
23. Most of your information is regarding quantity and not quality. Please speak to the Harden report presented to Puslinch council in August 2018. Stan Denhoed spoke about 1. Reversal of the creek draining service back into the aquifer 2. Higher sanitation levels in the Aberfoyle area not seen in other areas of the county. This is contamination has increased in the 2011 report, please explain. Also, continuous pumping is causing a draw-down around decommissioned wells and bringing contamination into deeper aquifers. This eventually will cause contamination in the local wells too. Please comment.
Andreanne Simard: Number one, the quality of our water is very important to us since we are using Spring Water so we can’t change the chemistry of the water. We want to ensure that the quality stays the same as it was years ago. I believe that the report that was talked about by Stan Denhoed refers to a potential risk that he saw, however it wasn’t supported by data at this point in time. I mentioned that all of our monitoring wells and our production wells are fully cased to the water producing zones or to the zone where we are measuring. We try to be as protective as we can of the aquifer, we are going to continue to do that and monitor the quality. It has been very stable for us.
24. Will Nestlé provide water refill stations for Puslinch community centre?
Adam Graves: If that is something that has been requested, we can certainly take a look at that idea. I can’t speak to whether it has been requested but it is certainly something that we would entertain if a proposal is submitted.
25. How many times can a Nestlé water bottle be recycled? How much money are they giving to Universities to better understand aquifers? How long does Nestlé expect to drain water from Puslinch?
Adam Graves: The plastic in the bottle is PET material and can be recycled as many times as the quality and the integrity of the bottle stays there. It is really about the stream and the care for the material and ensuring that is comes back in as close to form as possible. I wouldn’t say that there is a specific number, but as long as it is cared for as a renewable resource, it can be reused as many times as possible.
Andreanne Simard: In 2016, Nestlé gave the University of Guelph a $460,000 grant for ground water research. The university is managing how the funds are being used and we are keeping ourselves at arms length. We really wanted to help the community in which we operate in and get more ground water knowledge. The City of Guelph is great, they have a robust data set and a lot of monitoring is taking place. However, the townships that surround Guelph may not. Therefore, we wanted to help them collect this data. One of the benefits for working at a larger company like Nestlé is that we are able to contribute to the communities we operate in.
We are not draining anything as ground water is renewable resource. We are a water user just like anyone else in our community. The rate at which we take is based on science and research. We have a robust monitoring program where we are collecting data on an hourly basis and we’ve been doing this for almost 20 years. I am happy as a resident that we are doing this much research about the ground water. Not everyone can do it, and this is a great value that we add to the township and we continue to share it with the community.
26. So you say you give back to the community, what do you mean by that?
Catherine O’Brien: Nestlé operates under the philosophy of creating shared value (CSV). First this means bringing value to shareholders as a business and second is bringing value to communities in which we operate. The ways in which we bring value to Puslinch are by being a sustainable business that brings jobs, providing bottled water so that people drink this instead of other sugary beverages and providing data. We look at what’s the value for the business and what’s the value for society and those things need to go hand in hand.
Questions that we were not able answer in the Community Information Session
Q: Is it true that all water from the Hillsburgh well is bottled and sold under the Kirkland lake brand?
A: No, that is not true or correct. We use it as a blend in a number of our products. But not all is sold as Kirkland brand.
Q: In your Economic Contribution of NWC to Ontario it states the total direct, indirect and induced employment from NWC operation was 1,181 jobs. What are these direct + indirect jobs and what are the contributions to the economy? Please provide a breakdown.
A: We conducted an Economic Impact Study with our 2017 data. At the time, NWC directly employed 315 individuals in Ontario, indirectly employed 627, and by induced effect, employed 239.
Direct effect is defined as the annual direct employment and direct spending of NWC. Indirect effect is the annual employment and spending generated by NWC’s upstream suppliers resulting from NWC’s purchase of goods and services. Induced effect is the annual effect on the economy from household spending of those directly or indirectly employed by NWC and its upstream suppliers.
You can view the entire Economic Impact Study and the methodology here.
Q: Nestlé promoted job creation as a benefit of its operation. In Vittel employment has been reduced over the years from 4000 to 1000 today. In that time production quadrupled. Nestlé has publicly stated it intends to reduce employment in Vittel to 200-300 jobs. NWC recently announced permanent layoffs. Do you plan to make further reductions to your workforce?
A: We have 210 associates that are currently employed, and those associates are making sure that our business is fit for purpose, and remains competitive delivers sustainable results, and a promising future for all of our employees.
Question asked in the Erin Community Information Session – April 11th
1. When did you last review and revise your website FAQ’s? For example, there is a statement from 2011 that still appears (regarding the impact of bottled water on the environment – it is not able to provide one single cause). In February this year climate data was released about the cause of climate change being significantly caused by humans. Will you update your website?
Adam Graves: What I will say is that I stand proud of our science and facts. I can’t tell you exactly when our website was last updated, but I will look into this to confirm the date. We will come back to this question with an answer for you.
Update: Our website is updated periodically with new content specifically under the News and Features section. In 2019, our website will be under construction and migrating it to a new platform where all of the content of the website will be updated.
2. Please estimate the cost to local tax payers for wear and tear to the roads from bringing Hillsborough water to Aberfoyle.
Jennifer Nikolasevic: I can’t estimate that cost, however I can tell you that the number of tankers that leave from our Erin facility to our Guelph facility on average is 3 tankers per day, and in the summer, it is 5 – 7. Many industries use trucking companies to transport their goods so we wouldn’t be able to estimate our specific costs.
Adam Graves: On the tax contribution that we make, we contribute over 1 million dollars in taxes to Wellington County, which makes us the largest tax payer in the county. That is our contribution to the tax base, but I can’t say how that money is being used.
3. With Nestlé’s history of exploiting water sources, how do you expect people to trust what you say?
Andreanne Simard: I have 19 years worth of information to support everything that I presented. This data is what I base my work on and my credibility on. I am very proud of all the work that we do. Again, we monitor 50 locations for one well. I think we are the highest regulated sites in Ontario, and perhaps in all of North America. So, I am very confident with the information that we have collected to-date.
4. Is your PET local, and if so, where do you get it from?
Sam Gordon: At our site in Puslinch, we always try to buy local. I am happy to say that all the virgin PET we buy is manufactured in Montreal, as well as all of our CAPS that we buy are manufactured in Burlington. Everything we buy at this location is manufactured locally and we buy as much as we can.
5. How can you continue to produce so many single use bottles that are littering our water and land?
Catherine O’Brien: I think it is important to give context to our packaging and our commitment to improving recycling rates. From a global stand point we acknowledge that there is an issue with plastics in the environment. Our vision is that none of our products end up in nature, whether that be on the side of the road etc. Nestlé has made a commitment globally that all of our products are 100% recyclable or reusable by 2025. It is a big commitment, but the company is passionate about this topic.
From an Ontario/North America perspective we are also doing a number of things. Firstly, we are looking at how much plastic we use, and how we can use less. This can mean changing the materials we use and in other cases using less in a bottle. Secondly, we are looking at alternative packaging to plastic. Our research and development centre in Switzerland has just opened the Nestlé Packaging Institute where folks are looking at options for alternative packaging (bio-based, compostable, less layers in packaging). Additionally we have various partnerships underway to help tackle this as well.
We do take responsibility for the notion of increasing recycling. We have a fairly decent recycling system and it can be improved. We have a patchwork quilt system meaning that different municipalities recycle different things. We are advocating for a more harmonized approach, so that anyone in Canada can have the same opportunity to recycle and as packaging designers we can plan for that. There are consultations happening around recycling and we are playing an active role in those.
In Ontario, we pay 50% as a producer for recycling costs, and we are more than willing to pay 100% of those costs. We also participate in the management of that recycling to help us bring the rate up. Individuals also have a role to in recycling as well. At Nestlé we need to help with the communication to individuals encouraging them to recycle.
When it comes to plastic - It is one of the top two priorities of the company.
Follow up question – can you be more specific about the recycling rates in Ontario? Somewhere on your website it says that B.C. recycles 70%, and the rest of Canada is somewhere under 70. B.C. has a deposit program that is successful. What about that in Ontario?
Catherine O’Brien: It is an interesting question, because it is very difficult to get these numbers since every province recycles differently. My understanding is that for plastic beverages the rate is around 75%. When you extend that to other plastics (plastics are in everything that we use, from our clothing to our cars and everything in between) I have not been able to find the holistic number, so in this case we focus on the plastic bottle. It is great that it is 75% but it is horrible that there is still 25% that isn’t being recycled. However, this is a Canadian rate, we will have to get back to you with the Ontario number.
Update: In Ontario, the Blue Box captures nearly 80% of PET bottles at single-family homes.
6. Why are you not using an open mic tonight?
Catherine O’Brien: To make sure everyone has a fair opportunity. To make sure everyone has their questions answered. There is a lot of different formats and we are open to feedback. Everyone will have time after this panel to speak with each of the panelists directly.
7. The town of Erin is seeking a new well for the community. If it is true that Nestlé cares about the community, would you consider gifting this well to the community?
Adam Graves: Yes we would consider this, and any opportunity to partner with the community
Andreanne Simard: We are aware that the town of Erin is looking for a source of redundancy for their water supply system. In fact we have drilled two wells in the Credit Valley watershed side, which falls within the Hillsburgh area. We are more than happy to help with that and have explored that already.
8. How many tanker trucks does your factory use every day?
Jennifer Nikolasevic: There has been misconceptions over the years that Nestlé uses hundreds of tankers that go between the factory in Guelph and Erin. In reality, we only use 1 – 3 daily and during the busier times (May – Sept) we use 5 – 7.
9. There has been a lot of opposition lately to Nestlé Waters Canada lately, why should I believe you over them, that the water is safe?
Andreanne Simard: Every decision that we make is based on facts, science and data. That is information that is publicly available on our website and is reviewed by multiple third parties. It is also reviewed by the Ministry of the Environment. We also have technical engagement meetings every year, where we share our information and we get feedback before we submit our final annual report to the Ministry. We are proud of all of the work that we have done.
10. The Nestlé Water Canada website states that according to facts compiled by the environmental consultant Reclay Stuartedge, the recovery rate for plastic beverages containers was almost 70% across Canada in 2011. It was roughly 80% in BC in 2012. BC charges deposit fees for plastic beverage containers and it ranges from 5 to 20 cents per bottle. This makes a huge difference in recycling rates. What is the latest recycling figure in Ontario? (I.e. what percentage of bottles are not recycled)
Catherine O’Brien: We have a Canadian number but will get back to the audience with an Ontario number.
Update: In Ontario, the Blue Box captures nearly 80% of PET bottles at single-family homes.
11. Do you support a plastic bottle deposit system in Ontario?
Catherine O’Brien: At the moment, I would say no. The reason being that we have a very strong blue box program in Ontario so we should focus on making that better. Plastic bottles are sought after because they are highly recyclable, and they have a value. We believe in the notion of a circular economy where we take a water bottle and recycle it many, many times, and that is what is going to feed the notion of a circular economy. If you did take a bottle out of the bin now, you are taking a ton of value outside of the blue box, and that is going to reduce the success of the recycling program. We believe in continuing to create value in the blue box system and increasing recycling rates, instead of creating two separate systems.
12. What are your short and long-term recycling goals? And when will you achieve zero waste?
Catherine O’Brien: Our goal is to get to zero waste. Right now, as an example, each of our factories in Canada as of this year are zero waste to landfill sites. That is a huge accomplishment and a long journey that we’ve been on. Our goal would be to have 100% recycling. I don’t have an exact timeframe on this, but we want to make sure that this happens. We want to make sure that all of our recycling systems are accessible to everyone as well.
Adam Graves: Nestlé Waters has made a recent global commitment for 25% of our materials to be recycled materials by 2021. And 50% across North America by 2025. This is another testament to our commitment to the circular economy, and essentially making bottles from bottles.
13. Are you in favour of water bottle return systems?
Catherine O’Brien: We have answered that. But I would add that our goal is to find the best way to have bottles recycled. Whichever system proves to be the best system we would support. To our knowledge at this point the blue box program is the best option.
14. Is it true that all the water from Hillsburgh well is bottled and sold as Kirkland brand?
Adam Graves: No, that is not true or correct. We use it as a blend in a number of our products. But not all is sold as Kirkland brand.
15. I attended a rally at you’re Aberfoyle location, organized by Six Nations Youth. Nestlé is extracting water from treaty lands, will you honour Six Nations wishes and cease your water taking?
Andreanne Simard: Regarding First Nations, we have been engaging in meaningful conversation with Six Nations of the Grand River and Mississauga’s of the Credit for over 3 years now. We have learned a lot about them, and they have learned a lot about us. We have been sharing all of our information and have asked them for their feedback and concerns and we have quite frankly developed a very good relationship with Six Nations. We continue to share and value them as a partner and we have also visited their water treatment facility at six nations. They have a fantastic new water treatment facility, and they take water from the Grand River. The issue that they are having is the infrastructure and the delivery systems to parts of their community. We are working with them on this and trying to help them. I am very happy and proud of the relationships that we have built with them.
Catherine O’Brien: We have also been engaging with their land and resource team. That is the team from Six Nations that we have been having productive conversations with. If there are others that would like to speak with us, we are more than happy to speak to them as well and anyone who has an interest in water, because that is our passion.
Andreanne Simard: We have been engaging with their lands and resources team at the direction of Chief Ava Hill.
16. Single use plastic is no longer acceptable. Would Nestlé Waters consider using glass bottles instead of plastic?
Catherine O’Brien: I would say firstly that we do use glass for some of our products, but in general plastic for this product is far preferable. It is lighter and when we look at the life cycle of packaging from the very beginning to the very end (i.e. making the product and delivering the product and picking up the product) plastic, by far, has a lighter foot print.
It is the best option based on weight and recyclability. You can recycle most things, but it is only worth it, if there is an end market for the item – if you can make it into something new. When you look at PET plastic, it is the most sought-after secondary materials. That is why plastic has a value and we need to give it a value by delivering it through the system. Glass is not as sought after as much, so plastic is better in that regard.
17. How long will Nestlé stay in Hillsburgh? Is it until there is nothing left to take?
Andreanne Simard: We have been in the area for 20 years, and plan to be in the area for at least another 20 years. We use ground water, which is a renewable resource. We can only take as much as is being naturally being replenished. We monitor things very closely to make sure we don’t have a negative impact to any of our surroundings – ground water resources and ecosystems. I can’t stress enough, we want to make sure that the resource is here for future generations. Community water supply needs to come first to us. And for me, I live in the Puslinch community, I have my own private well, and I understand that there are some concerns. As a scientist, I understand all the work that Nestlé is doing and all the information that they have collected over the years and is shared with the communities. I am proud to work for a company that does that as not everybody does.
18. Are you taking all the water that is available all the time?
Andreanne Simard: In 2018 in Erin we took about 12% of what we are allowed to take, and in Aberfoyle we took about 50% of what we are allowed to take on an annual basis. It varies on demand and we are very efficient with our water use. For example, in Aberfoyle there is no municipal water supply so the well that we use feeds the entire factory of over 200 people for cleanings and washrooms etc. and many of the other businesses in that area have permits to do that same thing. I think we need to take things into perspective.
19. What is your anticipated timeline for the renewal permits to be submitted and posted?
Andreanne Simard: We have been working quite hard on these new scientific evaluations, one of which I described on the tier 3 work, since the new technical requirements came into place. We are almost there, we are aiming for an early summer time frame, and once these are posted the Ministry will accept public comment for 90 days. I’m sure everyone will know when that time comes, but we are aiming for early summer.
20. What does Nestlé estimate the cost is to society of cleaning up the litter and landfilling of the 900 million plastic bottles?
Catherine O’Brien: I don’t have a number on that. I think from our perspective; I have talked probably enough about our commitment to ensuring that as little as possible, hopefully none of our packaging ends up anywhere it shouldn’t be in what you referenced. We are committed to making sure our packaging is recyclable, supporting systems that collect recycling. That is what we are doing in Canada and other parts of the world. There is engagement and action in south-east Asia, working with organizations such as STOP, which is working hard to solve the issue of plastic ending up in the oceans. We truly believe we have a role to play and we know we are a big company and that comes with intense obligations and we embrace those. We play a role in trying to stop the situation. No one wants to see the pictures in the news, it is horrific. We think we have a role to play in promoting recycling and ensuring we build infrastructure to build a healthier environment. We are taking a seat at the table, but we know it will take collective action.
21. Does the Hillsburgh well drain from the Credit River watershed?
Andreanne Simard: Our well is located in Grand River watershed and the ground watershed divide crosses the 200 acres of our property, but we fall within the Grand River watershed. The aquifer it takes from is the Guelph aquifer. We have a well protection maps in our reports that we can go through in detail. We do work with the credit valley conservation authority quite a bit as well.
22. Recently I heard about your operations in Vittel, France. I understand that the aquifer has dropped by 30%, if that would happen here, would Nestlé stop taking our water?
Catherine O’Brien: For those who don’t know, Nestlé has operations around the world. We have a bottled water facility in Vittel France. I am not the expert on this situation, we do have colleague’s there who have more information that I can get for you. They are having challenges with their aquifer, for sure, and there is a lot of dialogue and work with the local government and community. I understand that it is complex situation, but Nestlé is at the table trying to find solutions to that issue, and if there is any other detail required then we would need to come back to you on that.
Andreanne Simard: It was pretty evident by looking at our graphs that our aquifer is sustainable, we are very lucky and fortunate. There is a tremendous amount of fresh water that is available. We do all of the monitoring that we do to make sure that our takings are sustainable and that there are no negative impacts. That is simply how we operate, we are highly regulated and would be the first to know if there were any declining trends of any sort.
23. How many people did you lay off and why? And are there any further lay-offs planned?
Adam Graves: We have a changing business environment and a competitive business environment. Unfortunately, we needed to come to a decision last November, where we had a reduction in our force of about 30 positions. We made that decision with our heart in our hands because we want to create jobs and opportunity for people, but our business reality meant we needed to adjust our plan. We always look at the holistic picture and we make adjustments whenever those are required. Thankfully we have 210 people employed at our Puslinch facility. We do hire additional people during our summer season, we are doing that now as we speak.
There are no plans to lay-off jobs in the future, but we always looki at our business reality.
24. Last evening in Puslinch, CEO Adam Graves was quoted as saying “I believe that the best way for us to engage as partners in the community is to have a respectful dialogue. We have to do a better job of telling Nestlé’s story. Telling our story is accompanying the facts with our story as you have my commitment to doing that in a transparent and purposeful manor”. This sea bird found on Midway island in the Pacific Ocean has a story to tell that really needs no words to tell accept death by plastic. What is Nestlé doing to reduce the horrific amount of plastic that is polluting our lakes, streams and oceans at sickening rates?
Catherine O’Brien: I think people are going to get tired of my message because it is consistent, and it is what we are focused on. I think that we look at that picture there and it is horrific and there is no way around that. Certainly we have no intention of our packaging ending up in situations like that. That is why we are taking action and trying to get it out of water ways and ditches. We have a great recycling system but it can be better. We take our role in this seriously and we are going to role up our sleeves.
Adam Graves: Everything that is depicted there is something that someone could consider single-use. Our water bottles – there is nothing about this product that is single use. It is designed to be used over and over again. The PET, the cap and the label. We need to understand that not all plastic is created equal and this is a plastic that is designed to be used over and over again. It is not a single use material. When something ends up in the environment it saddens me. When I walk with my wife and my girls and see trash on the ground, it breaks my heart, and I talk to my girls about that. It’s not single use, we have to know what is reusable and what single use is.
Catherine O’Brien: There are many different definitions of single use. There is an old definition and a new definition within the circular economy.
25. If we organized our own community meeting, to have our voices heard, would you attend?
Andreanne Simard: Absolutely. We always invite everyone who is interested in learning about us and I would love to be invited to other parties’ meetings about water sustainability.
26. How much does it cost Nestlé Waters Canada to produce one 500 ml bottle of water?
Adam Graves: The cost of a specific bottle – we compete against other producers who produce the same good, so I can’t speak to the cost of its creation. I can speak about the value that is created along the way. When you purchase a bottle of water, it is packaged, it is warehoused and it is transported, so there are a lot of costs. There are many value added steps between the water we take and the healthy hydration we provide as an alternative to sugary beverages. We are a global company and don’t disclose this detail to stay competitive.
Sam Gordon: we are always trying to be competitive on costs, especially for our employees, to ensure we have a sustainable business and that we can compete in the market place.
27. You say community comes first. What are you doing to support our community?
Andreanne Simard: I mentioned the community benefit fund, which was developed through a community relations process that we initiated globally. We donate to the Hillsburgh Theatre, the Erin radio and donate water to community events. I host office hours and we are very transparent and happy to get feedback. There are a few folks here who are our contractors and partners. Where we can go local we do, to make sure we have these partnerships.
28. The new wells by the library are not on the plan for Erin at the back of the room. Any reason why?
Andreanne Simard: We are monitoring these and looking for sources of redundancy to help the community. We are happy to help in any way we can.
29. There are many stories about the grief that Nestlé’s takings have caused on communities. Would you please address these concerns about your operations in Vittel France?
Catherine O’Brien: We are here tonight to talk about this community, not about France which is outside our jurisdiction. We can connect you to those experts.
30. What do you actually pay Erin per litre?
Andreanne Simard: It equates to about 50 cents per thousand litres, about 500 dollars per million litres. This is what we pay to the province and it is for the province to manage the permits. We also pay a similar amount to the town.
For the community benefit fund, we always want to consistently give back, so there is always $25,000 that we give back. In 2018 it was about $34,000 as it varies from year to year.
31. You spend $1 Million dollars in this area. On what?
Adam Graves: It is any number of goods and services. Landscaping, transportation and our vendors.
Andreanne Simard: We are the number one tax payer. We hire numerous local contractors in Puslinch and in the town of Erin.
Adam Graves: We try to purchase locally as much as we can. These are outside services that we need to help us run our business.
32. Four workers of Nestlé’s Colombia facility were murdered because they were involved in union negotiations. Do you believe that Nestlé has a responsibility to protect its workers here and around the world?
Catherine O’Brien: Absolutely we have an obligation to protect our workers around the world. That goes without saying. The situation in Colombia, we have nothing but sadness and horror, it is awful. According to my colleague it is being investigated and we are supportive of that. We don’t condone and are horrified by this.
33. If you are only using 12% of your allocated amount of the Hillsburgh well, perhaps that means that you don’t need it?
Andreanne Simard: We do need it, we use it, and it varies by the customer demand. In Aberfoyle we have a source, so when we have to do maintenance, we need to shut the factory down and Erin gives us flexibility to do that work.
Question we received after the Community Information Session.
Guelph gets low on water every summer, they have restrictions on use. Is you water taking having an impact on their water amounts?
We are down gradient from the City of Guelph which means ground water is flowing from the north east through Guelph and down to Puslinch. The City of Guelph takes their ground water before it gets to us. We have always said that the community’s water supply needs come first. It is important to note that the low water response levels are called by the GRCA based on surface water conditions and we take our water from a deep bedrock aquifer which is relatively drought resistant. The City of Guelph currently calls low water restrictions during summer months due to water infrastructure limitations which in turns lowers their overall water usage.