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Molson Coors-sponsored survey finds water pollution key concern

August 18, 2009

molsoncoorsWhat is the latest and most important environmental concern these days? Global warming? Disappearing ice caps and rain forests? Reliance on non-renewable energy?

Wrong. According to a new survey sponsored by Molson Coors Brewing Co, water pollution ranked No. 1, followed by fresh water shortages, depletion of natural resources, air pollution and loss of animal and plant species.

The survey was commissioned by Circle of Blue, a nonprofit affiliate of the Pacific Institute, a water and climate think tank. It polled people in 15 countries, including the United States, Mexico, China and India, about their views on water issues including sustainability, management and conservation.

Molson Coors, maker of Coors Light and Molson Canadian beers, sponsored the survey as a first step in trying to understand how people in international markets — where it hopes to expand its business — view water. 

Molson Chief Executive Peter Swinburn said that as the company expands internationally, it must understand what a local community’s issues are and try to address them before spending money and building a factory.

“We’re a branded organinzation. We live by research and consumer opinion,” Swinburn said in an interview. ”To try and address a problem without going to consumers and understanding their perceptions is difficult to do.”

Of the seven ”focus” countries, consumers in Mexico seemed to take the problem of water pollution the most seriously, with 90 percent of respondents calling it a “very serious problem.” The rest of the countries ranged from 58 percent in Britain to 71 percent in Canada.

The survey included a “water concern index” which measured people’s concern about water issues by aggregating their concerns about water pollution, lack of safe drinking water, lack of water for agriculture and the high cost of water.

According to that index, Mexico and India were much more concerned than average. China and Canada were right above average. Britain, the United States and Russia showed below-average concern.

Swinburn said conserving water can improve its profit margins by reducing costs, while helping people get access to clean water increases the health and economic vibrancy of a community, making it a stronger potential marketplace. 

“From the microcosmic level of our margin through to the broader social impacts, it affects our bottom line,” Swinburn said, proving that risks related to the world’s fresh water supply ripple through the beverage industry.  

Another interesting point concerned responsibilty for ensuring clean water. Respondents in Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States said they believed that water companies were the most responsible, followed by the government, large companies, citizens, farmers and non-governmental organizations.

In Canada, China, India and Mexico, respondents thought the government should be most responsible.

Following the discussion on water, Swinburn took a few moments to answer Reuters’ questions about its business outlook for the rest of the year.


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