Global Earth Day coalition drops SodaStream over complicity in Israeli occupation

soda-earthday-rev2-5

Today is Earth Day and just yesterday the Earth Day Network, a global environmental coalition with 22,000 partners in 192 countries, cut ties with SodaStream over its relationship to the Israeli occupation. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation sent out a press release with the news:

Earlier this month, SodaStream, which markets its home carbonating devices as a green alternative to bottled beverages, announced the launch of an awareness-raising campaign centered around the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Several articles reported that this “Secret Continent” campaign was developed with Earth Day Network (EDN), which works with more than 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify, and mobilize the environmental movement.

Groups in the United States and abroad mobilized in opposition to the partnership between EDN and SodaStream due to the company’s complicity in Israel’s military occupation, including the destruction that Israeli settlements have caused to the Palestinian environment. In response, EDN’s logo has been removed from the Secret Continent website and EDN no longer lists SodaStream as a sponsor.

“This Secret Continent campaign is a clear example of SodaStream attempting to greenwash its complicity in Israel’s occupation through a public relations stunt. SodaStream appeals to customers by marketing itself as environmentally friendly, but a product manufactured in an illegal settlement on occupied land cannot be ‘green.’ We applaud Earth Day Network for listening to the thousands of concerned individuals who contacted them and sending the message that companies profiting from human rights abuses have no place in the global environmental movement,” said Ramah Kudaimi of theUS Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

PENGON, the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network, added: “We are happy to see that Earth Day Network cut ties with the Israeli settlement manufacturer SodaStream. Israeli occupation and its settlement enterprise are not environmentally friendly. On the contrary, they are based on the pillage of our land and deplete and pollute our water resources. Over the last 40 years, the Israeli occupation has cut hundreds of thousands of trees to make space for their colonization. We call on all environmental organizations and activists to stand with us against the Israeli occupation and its systematic large scale destruction of our land.”

In related news, SodaStream’s occupation profiteering continues to make headlines in the U.S. The investment site The Motley Fool reported on recent rumors that SodaSteam is set to be bought but warned “A SodaStream Partnership Won’t Be an Easy Sell.” Rich Duprey writes for the site that the company “comes with baggage”, their illegal settlement factory is “a touchstone for controversy” and that potential partners including Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and Starbucks need to consider the “backlash of negativity by becoming a partner with SodaStream.”

From the article:

After an Israeli daily newspaper reported that SodaStream International (NASDAQ: SODA  )  was mulling over a partnership with a major beverage company, shares of the stock surged 8% as speculation surged over who the suitor could be. Although it seems inevitable someone would want to hook up with the company, because it’s the leader in home-based soda making, SodaStream comes with baggage the Keurig Green Mountain and Coca-Cola pairing never had to contemplate, so I’m not certain lightning’s about to strike twice.

Regardless of whether you think it’s valid criticism or not, SodaStream’s operations in an Israeli settlement in Palestine are a touchstone for controversy. Actress Scarlett Johansson’s appearance in a Super Bowl ad for the DIY soda maker sparked an uproar earlier this year and led her to step down from a major anti-poverty organization that criticized her promo.

Whether you agree the West Bank settlements in Gaza are illegal or not is really beside the point, though it obviously colors your opinion of a company that operates from there or does business with one that is, and it’s just that kind of polarization that will make corporate boardrooms skittish. So investors trying to read the tea leaves over which “major beverage company” is planning on partnering with SodaStream, assuming there really is one, also must calculate whether the company will want to be dragged into a debate with all the negative connotations, publicity, protests, and boycotts that will come with it.

Many companies will be feeling the heat today as Earth Day protests against SodaSteam are planned around country. One will be outside Zabar’s on New York City’s Upper West Side from 5 to 7 p.m.

SodaStream protest details

SodaStream protest details

Here’s the word on the protest from Adalah-NY and the protest’s Facebook page.

“I didn’t think you were worth it.”
—Owner Saul Zabar, when asked why he did not grant our meeting request

Let’s show him that it’s worth it to stop profiting from occupation! Join the NYC Coalition Against SodaStream* in front of Zabar’s on Earth Day to demand that Zabar’s stop selling SodaStream products.

SodaStream, the Israeli-owned water carbonation device, is made in a factory in an illegal Israeli settlement on Palestinian land. SodaStream appeals to customers by marketing itself as environmentally friendly, but a product manufactured in the occupied West Bank—where water is funneled to the settlements and Palestinians are left with only a quarter of what Israelis can use—can’t be “green.” Help us celebrate Earth Day at a fun demonstration featuring songs, bubbles, and petition gathering to show Zabar’s that there’s nothing green about stealing land and resources.

*The NYC Coalition Against SodaStream includes Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel; Jewish Voice for Peace—NYC Chapter; Jews Say No!; and Park Slope Food Coop Members for BDS.

Screenshot from burstthebubble.org

Screenshot from burstthebubble.org

Finally, be sure to check out this cool new website from JVP Seattle promoting the SodaStream campaign - www.burstthebubble.org.

(h/t Stephanie Westbrook)

Posted in Activism, BDS, Israel/Palestine, Occupation | Tagged ,

{ 18 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Sycamores says:

    great news from EDN.

    JVP new website is top notch, really impressive layout.

    • The web site is very well done – excellent presentation strategy to scroll down and have each speaker activated when in focus. Very effective and attention-grabbing.

      • Sycamores says:

        it’s like a power point presentation using javascript, cleverly done.

        Captive Workforce
        “sodastream is exploiting an labor force make desperate by occupation”

        sums it up perfectly.

        sidenote:
        ie9 browser will not open the website for me. Mozilla did no problem.

  2. ritzl says:

    Sodastream could greatly enhance its salability/market cap by simply moving its factory to a Palestinian area of the WB. But they won’t do that. You have to ask why.

    Short of an actual answer, you have to conclude that their current illegal location/activity is much more important to management than increasing shareholder value. (Or a possibly distant second, that the Israeli government/US taxpayer is subsidizing SS enough to compensate SS shareholders for this hit.)

    That’s the definition of a non-viable biz (i.e. failure).

    No one will invest in that short of a complete change in management and management philosophy.

    • LeaNder says:

      ritzl, whatever the precise complex economic issues involved. Is business in the West Bank subsidized for instance? I watched the “expertise” on pure investment advise levels occasionally lately. And the basic mood was invest, thumps up, underestimated/unexploited business value. OK, I only checked occasionally. Now these voices could have been acting based on information-actives of my PR colleagues working for Soda Stream, or they could have been more directly hired.

      Was Mme Johannson already hired in an effort to save a sinking ship in the hope of conquering a vast US market? Over here in Europe the product was close to everywhere, I noticed since BDS aware. … long before the Johannson issue.

      “A SodaStream Partnership Won’t Be an Easy Sell.” Rich Duprey writes for the site that the company ”comes with baggage”, their illegal settlement factory is “a touchstone for controversy” and that potential partners including Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and Starbucks need to consider the “backlash of negativity by becoming a partner with SodaStream.”

      In the world of business all of the above may not matter. It may occasionally be considered good investment to be simply given a chance to kill a competitor. But of course there are other tools.

      • JeffB says:

        @LeaNder

        The reality of the business is exploding revenues (consist growth at about 30% / yr) but margin pressure (11.2% 2011 to 9.5% 2012 to 7.4% 2013) from lower priced competitors. Real concern long term that as Coke ( Keurig Cold) and other major brands enter the market for these premade / homemade sodas they are going to be able to do what Soda Stream does much cheaper and margins will continue to fall. Soda Stream is picking up partnership like Sunny Delight and Ocean Spray but of course Coke is going to have better exclusives.

        The biggest issue Soda Stream has it is still a pain to exchange used CO2 cartridges for new ones. Supposedly Coke has solved that problem. That exchange is the primary cause of customer dissatisfaction. The whole settlement issue seems to be negligible impact financially. I would have thought the free publicity would help. I think the average MWer would think the negative publicity would hurt. It doesn’t seem to be having much impact at all either way. The controversy that investors care about is the 12m views of the uncensored commercial with “Sorry Coke and Pepsi”.

        Pepsi has been talking about a buyout and of course that ends any problem with scale at all. They also just say if the settlement factory becomes a problem they close it. The value of the company is in the brand control investors could care less about the factory.

        • LeaNder says:

          That exchange is the primary cause of customer dissatisfaction.

          JeffB: Yes, lots of rage and complaints around that issue over here that and bad logistics in the cartridge field causes quite a bit of anger.

          I think the average MWer would think the negative publicity would hurt.

          Not necessarily, I agree. But if the brand is successfully linked with a human rights stain that could change significantly.

          The value of the company is in the brand control investors could care less about the factory.

          Well yes, people like silly tools. I drink no soft drinks, only organic apple juice, natural cloudy. Or water. I would have no use for this tool.

          Brand? The syrup type thick juice added to water is a very, very old idea I remember from childhood, it was once a hype but has completely disappeared again by now. This seems to be partially an attempt at reviving the idea. The only difference is the soda, and that is exactly what apparently make the thing expensive. And also where the problems seem to start. People claim they were promised some deposit and return system, where they pay for the cartridge hardware only once and then only pay the refilling. But it often does not work that way. They have to buy a new one and additionally the shop keeps the cartridge they payed an extra high price for, they claim, since it would be a one time deposit only. That may help to sell extras but how long do frustrated customers stay costumers, in spite of Johansson?;)

          With some investments you make money with others you loose. The brand sure is well placed and everywhere, but I cannot see it as a great brand that on itself is worth much. But there you go.

      • ritzl says:

        Hi LeaNder. Disclaimer: I’m a small business owner. I don’t pretend to run in the “investment analyst” world. I’m just a casual observer like you. But I did raise a fair amount of private investment, so I am somewhat familiar with the considerations of money people. So a big FWIW…

        A lot of my view on SS’s prospects comes from a conversation here with Henry Norr. link to mondoweiss.net

        So last para first: “In the world of business all of the above may not matter.

        It matters a lot. Crucial, I’d say. Especially for a startup with a cash-out exit strategy. Annie and Hostage reported on Henry Falk’s parting UNHRC gift to Israel here: link to mondoweiss.net . It was a set of findings that doing business in/from settlements opens up business to all kinds of future, and perhaps worse, unquantifiable (at this point) liability exposure. Any company that buys SS would buy that exposure as well, if the factory remains in Ma’ale/Mishor Adumim.

        On relocation, SS is an Israeli company. They operate within a different set of circumstances. They’re protected, but even with that protection they seem to be choosing “Startup Nation” PR over shareholder value. From a SS perspective, they could find a way to shed the “baggage” that Motley Fool points out, by relocating to the Palestinian part of the WB – but they don’t. From a buyer’s perspective it’s hard to say where an internal trade-off settles out between the benefits of eliminating a competitor (or enhancing a competitive position wrt Coke) and the unknown costs of assuming an illegal operation. I think it’s safe to say that from either perspective, NOT shedding the “baggage” depresses SODA share prices.

        I don’t know if private “investment” in the WB is subsidized (I assume you mean Palestinian WB. Israel WB is heavily subsidized). It does seem, though, that the EU experience with public investment in Palestine (demolitions) is that the WB investment environment is unstable to the point of reluctance, even from that kind of “no-risk”/OPM*/subsidization perspective. The EU is starting to view their subsidies themselves as unattractive uses of resources.

        Then there’s Bashar Masri’s Rawabi, that $1B mega-development north of Ramallah. Who knows what backroom deals were made to make it seem initially feasible. But even there, and despite the priceless PR value for Israel (if 2SS peace is actually the objective) of the iconic $B at-risk buy-in to Israel’s-via-Kerry/Fayyad’s “economic prosperity as prelude to peace” scam, this is happening:

        Masri hasn’t been able to guarantee that water will be on tap next year for the first residents, and he concedes the project is two years behind schedule, held up by access to water and difficulties obtaining permits to build an access road through a part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control — the so-called “Area C” defined by the Oslo peace accords.

        “Frankly, I have no choice but to be confident about Rawabi — look behind me and you see the massive construction going on, and I can’t afford to stop at this point. Is it a risk? It’s a very high risk. Do I have guarantees I will get water? Absolutely not,” he said.

        (snip)

        Masri is scathing in his criticism of the fact that 60 activists came to the Rawabi construction site from Ateret, the nearby Israeli settlement, in 2010 to protest against it, saying it would lead to the end of the Area C status that Ateret residents enjoy. Activists allegedly also stole a Palestinian flag from the Rawabi headquarters. Masri has rejected offers of building supplies from settlements as well as Israeli overtures to offer advice on how to model Rawabi.

        link to ibtimes.com

        I don’t know how one can get from Masri’s experience to a “thumbs-up,” thought Palestine is certainly “unexploited” in the Palestinian biz development sense. It’s just not going to happen, for Palestinians.

        I agree, SJ was in fact hired to do exactly as you say. Boost/mask the sagging stock price/company value. But whatever “star power” she brought to the equation can not possibly mask all the above. To me that shows how flawed SS management is.

        Finally, and projecting out a bit, this whole SS experience and the fact that its “baggage” is being recognized by a popular financial analysis site like Motley Fool, casts a very dark and ominous cloud over the viability of Israeli start-ups in general. Entrepreneurship is so critical to Israel’s image and/or economic success that to me that is one of the soon-to-be recognized major achievements of BDS.

        Your questions covered a lot of important ground. I kinda hopscotched around. Sorry if I missed anything, and for the length.

        • Walid says:

          “Masri has rejected offers of building supplies from settlements as well as Israeli overtures to offer advice on how to model Rawabi.”

          Ritzl, maybe not from the settlements but where does one think the building supplies are coming from? Certainly not from its major Qatari partner and funder.

          From a Times of Israel article that also show that the project’s legal adviser is Mr Formaldehyde, Dov Weisglass; it gives a new dimension to collaborating:

          “… Bashar Al-Masri, managing director of Rawabi, said that though no Israeli companies have been involved in constructing the city, hundreds of Israeli suppliers provide it with raw materials such as cement, sand, electric components and plumbing. He estimated that Israeli businesses benefit from the Rawabi project to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a month. The only political principle Rawabi holds with relation to Israel is no cooperation with businesses in the settlements.

          “We buy from whoever gives us the lowest price,” Al-Masri said. “It makes no difference to us if the company is Israeli, Italian or German.”

          link to timesofisrael.com

          • ritzl says:

            No quibble on my part. I totally agree Walid. Masri’s suppliers are from or based in Israel. That, imo, was the initial feasibility deal. That was Masri’s buy-in. Occupation industry, and all that.

            And the cement and stone almost certainly come from Israeli-owned industry in the occupied WB.

            It always floors me how Israel can repeatedly get away with promising something that it never delivers, even if it’s in their own long-term interests, and even with its history of doing so.

            Masri is learning this. Too late. I wonder what his Qatari backers are thinking.

            At this point I have to believe that it’s a known/well-rehearsed strategy. Get the money/commitment up front and cancel the project mid-point – PR blitz to follow. We see it in all Israeli interactions, small and large. From water-well drilling to statehood.

          • Walid says:

            Ritzl, Bashar al-Masri comes from a good school, his father is Palestine’s richest man, Mounib al-Masri that controls mostly every business worth controlling in the Palestinian territories.

            Mounib al-Masri is also into pro-normalization with Israel as discussed on EI:

            link to electronicintifada.net

            Mounib’s grandson, Mounib al-Masri Jr, an American student was shot and crippled 3 years ago at Maroun al-Ras during Israel’s Nakba Day turkey shoot that killed 10 and injured 120. The State Department refused to get involved and the story was quickly hushed up.

          • ritzl says:

            @Walid, much to unpack there, and the whole Rawabi circumstance in general.

            Why did/does al-Masri get in bed with the Israelis, who crippled his son? Money/biz? I can see that, but it’s a bit of a cliché, imo.

            Why doesn’t/didn’t he understand Israeli duplicity going in? Why did he bet $1B on that not being the case? Why did he not protect himself, contractually (assuming he didn’t…) on all these water and permit issues?

            What does “normalization” mean to him? … Mean to him NOW, particularly (that article was from Nov 2012)? I can see where someone would try to “get along” to further biz interests, but clearly that hasn’t worked out.

            I guess my principal question is, where does Palestinian money fall on this issue, given the al-Masri family/biz experience. Money has a decided affinity to money, but is that possibly different in Palestinian terms, given the Palestinian experience coupled with Masri’s personal experience.

            Would he do things differently now?

          • Walid says:

            Probably not, ritzl.

        • LeaNder says:

          Thanks, ritzl, I’ll look into that. At the moment I am trying to mentally digest a series of links, documents, books by Hostage. Occasionally that leads to mental overload. Fascinating how well he knows the subject. I see your first link leads back to him again.

          I am not impressed by the brand anyway. But I’ll look into your collection ;)

  3. Taxi says:

    Bravo Greenies!

    En fin!

    Zionists murder humans and olive trees en mass:
    link to visualizingpalestine.org

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for finally officially voicing the colossal link between israeli’s brutal occupation and it’s catastrophic impact on Palestinian land.

    “… a product manufactured in an illegal settlement on occupied land cannot be ‘green’.”

    “This Secret Continent campaign is a clear example of SodaStream attempting to greenwash its complicity in Israel’s occupation through a public relations stunt.”
    link to endtheoccupation.org

    There you have it, Miss Scarlett Johansson: straight from the Green horse’s mouth. Maybe now you eat these words you so infamously uttered:
    [Sodastream] “has the ability to make a huge difference, environmentally.”
    link to haaretz.com

    And how about this old tickler: “I’m not an expert on the history of this conflict, and I’ve never professed to be. But it is a company that I believe in, that I think has the ability to make a huge difference, environmentally.
    link to telegraph.co.uk

    LOL! Eat them words, Scarlett – eat BDS shorts with a dash of bitters and a sprinkle of salts – eat eat eat or denounce! Repent!

  4. weareone says:

    Off topic:

    “The Campaign to End Ben and Jerry’s Business with Israeli Settlements”

    link to counterpunch.org

  5. Rusty Pipes says:

    Starbucks is already sold on the settlements — so buying SodaStream may not seem like much of a change for the brand.

  6. Kay24 says:

    Small steps, but heading towards the right direction. Congratulations to organizations like End the Occupation, and others, who work hard to help the Palestinians.