Drinking for the Earth

A few months ago, Tom Standage, author of A History of the World in Six Glasses, outraged members of the beverage community by suggesting (horrors!) that the money spent on bottled water in the U.S., a country that has developed marvelously safe municipal water supplies, could easily pay for the cost of developing drinking water in the third world.

Well, that ticked a lot of beverage industry people off, because, as we know, there are a lot of people making a lot of money off of bottled water right now, and the suggestion that that money might have a greater social impact than pure capitalism struck a nerve.

Now here comes Ethos water, which is at least trying to do good by doing well, donating $.05 for every bottle of its water sold to promote safe drinking water around the world. We were skeptical when it first came out, given the level of competition for drinking water, but lo and behold, they immediately went out and signed a deal with coffee retailing giant Starbucks to sell the bottles in their stores, and to secure a $10 million pledge towards the cause, as well.

Amazingly, that roll-up is continuing on to Starbucks partner in canned coffee, PepsiCo, which just agreed to distribute Ethos to more than 100,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada – ramping distribution up exponentially from the 5,000 Starbucks that had started selling the water.

Stoppard’s point can be interpreted as this: in the U.S., bottled water is more of an extravagance than a necessity. Ethos makes that extravagance a means towards satisfying global necessities, and everyone in on this deal deserves to be commended.

It would be great to see other giants, like Nestle Waters and Coke, get on board, as well. Everyone deserves an extravagance as affordable as bottled water, but it sure tastes better knowing it’s accompanied by extravagant charity, as well.