Bursting Sodastream’s bubbles
[For a case study of Sodastream by Who Profits click here]
News Release, Stop Sodastream, Italy
The Stop Sodastream campaign received a response from Sodastream Italy, via the public relations agency Edelman, to the letter signed by over 1100 individuals and 30 groups calling on retailers and advertisers to terminate relations with the Israeli company due to its violations of international law.
We consider the points raised by Sodastream completely irrelevant as they fail to address the central question of violations of human rights and international law and complicity with the Israeli occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories.
We would, nonetheless, like to go through, point by point, the statements made by Sodastream to demonstrate the basis for our campaign.
1. “SodaStream is headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel, and manufactures its products in 12 production plants distributed in many countries, including factories in China (2), Germany, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Netherlands, the US and two in Israel, one of which is Mishor Adumim … “
Even if there were hundreds of “production facilities” all over the world, it would not change the fact that the factory in Mishor Adumim is built on land stolen from the Palestinians and thus violates human rights and international law.
In any event, Sodastream’s annual report clearly demonstrates that the factory in Mishor Adumim is also the company’s main production facilities:
At 15,256 m2, the plant is four times larger than the headquarters in Tel Aviv, and eight times that of the other Israeli plant at Ashkelon, which produces only flavors for soft drinks.
The plant in China produces only “certain components”.
The “production facilities” in Germany, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the Netherlands and the USA are mere sales and marketing offices and refill stations for CO2 cylinders.
Source: Sodastream International Ltd. Annual Report for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2010, “Manufacturing and Production,” p. 37 and “Facilities,” p. 40.
2. “… where approximately 160 Palestinians receive full social and health services in accordance with, and exceeding, Israeli law, including pension contributions and insurance. Labor law in Israel requires an employer to pay wages and contributions 4 times higher than those required by the Palestinian Authority. If you consider that, on average, each employee is responsible for 10 Palestinian dependents, considering the rate of unemployment in the Palestinian Authority (estimated at 30%), the company provides food and shelter to 1,600 people. In addition, SodaStream also provides benefits that include: daily hot meals, clothing, transportation and overtime pay for up to 200% as required by Israeli law. “
The fact that a company such as SodaStream, which profits from the Israeli occupation regime, considers itself a benefactor of the Palestinians is downright bizarre. Even if working conditions for the Palestinians at the Mishor Adumim factory were as described (something that has been proven false in the past by the Israeli organization Kav LaOved), the fact remains that, as subjects [of] an occupation regime, these workers do not enjoy civil rights (including the right of workers to organize) and are under constant threat of having their permits to work in the settlement revoked by the company at any moment.
Palestinian workers often have no choice but to work in the settlements, with high unemployment rates that are a direct result of the Israeli occupation. The 2011 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report explicitly links the decline in Palestinian agricultural and industrial sectors and the dire humanitarian conditions with Israeli government policies, in particular the confiscation of land and natural resources, restrictions on movement of people and goods, and isolation from international markets. Only a colonial mindset could claim to provide jobs to the very same people whose land and freedom have been stolen.
– Kav LaOved, “Palestinian Workers in Israeli West Bank Settlements – 2009″; “Employees at Soda Club fired without wages (follow up report)”
– Report on UNCTAD assistance to the Palestinian people: Developments in the economy of the occupied Palestinian territory
3. “Among the 700 employees at the Mishor Adumim factory are Jews, Palestinians, Christians, Russians, Ethiopians, Bedouins, and Americans. In SodaStream’s view, this is a splendid example of peaceful coexistence that will lead to economic prosperity on which everyone benefits. The company regularly celebrates the holidays of all and has fostered cultural exchange.”
To speak of “peaceful coexistence” between people who do not have equal rights and equal social, economic and political opportunities is absurd. Among Sodastream employees, there is a marked difference between the conditions of the occupiers and those who suffer under occupation. For example, just as in Apartheid South Africa the black majority was allowed to enter areas reserved for whites only in order to work, so do the Palestinians depend on the occupying power for work permits.
Furthermore, the Jahalin Bedouin, who had already been driven from their lands in the Negev in the 1950s, were then expelled from the very area where the Sodastream has its factory.
– Kav LaOved, “Palestinian Workers in Israeli West Bank Settlements – 2009″;
– Human Rights Watch, Separate and Unequal, “Jahalin Bedouin and Ma’ale Adumim”
4. “As you know, Sodastream recently decided not to expand the factory at Mishor Adumim, but rather to build one inside the Green Line. The construction is already underway, as decided by the Board of Directors.”
Committing to not to expand an illegal activity, which according to the company website, Sodastream has been carrying out since 1996, counts for very little. The fact remains that the main production facilities are located in an illegal Israeli settlement in violation of international law.
Source: Sodastream web site, History of the Sodastream Group
5. “SodaStream does not currently benefit from low rents and could rent other facilities in the uncontested territories of Israel for much less. The same applies to incentives, the company enjoys the same tax incentives as any other industrial area of Israel, regardless of whether it is located in the disputed territories or not.”
Sodastream’s annual report lists among its “risk factors” the possibility, due to negative publicity and boycotts, of having “to transfer a significant portion of manufacturing activities to a location outside of the West Bank” that would “limit certain of the tax benefits for which we are currently eligible”.
In fact, according to the web site for the Mishor Adomim Industrial Park, it is designated as “Development Zone ‘A'”, which enjoys the highest tax incentives from the Israeli state.
And finally, the Palestinian territories are occupied, not “disputed”, as recognized by the International Court of Justice, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, among others.
– Sodastream International Ltd. Annual Report for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2010, “Risks related to our Location in Israel,” p. 17
– Adumim Industrial Park, Business Benefits
– International Court of Justice: Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory;International Committee of the Red Cross; Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention: Declaration,
6. “With regards to Coop Sweden, yes it is true that on July 19 they decided to suspend sales of these products, however it is also true that, after a brief investigation, they then decided to put them back on the shelves.”
Swedish activists inform us that COOP Sweden claims to have the results of an investigation that justify, in their view, the marketing of Sodastream products. COOP Sweden has refused, however, to share the report with the Swedish activists. If Sodastream would like to provide us with the report, we would be happy to comment on it.
7. “SodaStream is also under tight control by the Office for Environmental Protection of Israel, leading to surprise inspections, and the company adheres to the highest environmental standards.”
It is well known that Israeli and international companies consider Israeli laws on environmental protection inapplicable with regard to factories in the occupied West Bank. According to 2009 report by the Israeli organization B’Tselem, Israel does not enforce environmental laws in the settlements and industrial areas in the occupied West Bank.
As for surprise inspections, according to Bloomberg Businessweek and the Corporate Watch website, the Sodastream Factory in Mishor Adumim is “the most heavily protected in the area, with multilevel electric fencing protecting its perimeters and cameras monitoring everything going on outside of them.”
– B’Tselem, “Foul Play: Neglect of wastewater treatment in the West Bank”
– Corporate Watch, “Occupation Industries: The Israeli industrial zones”
– Bloomberg Businessweek, “EU Eyes Exports from Israeli Settlements”
8. “Following the publication of false reports, the company also decided to host visits and inspections, in particular social audits, including the internationally accepted BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) audit, with the conclusion that they no corrective actions are necessary.”
Clearly, an auditing organization that certifies a factory located in the occupied Palestinian territories has no credibility whatsoever.
The Stop Sodastream campaign will continue to challenge the deceptions of Sodastream, organizing initiatives to reveal the truth that the company wants to hides and promoting a boycott of its products.
Stop Sodastream – Italy
By Theresa Wolfwood, Palestine Chronicle
It seems like a great idea – to buy a counter top device that converts tap water into sparkling fizzy water. Add a line of 100 flavours of sweet syrups; in the words of the sales clerk I spoke to, ‘it’s a fun thing.’
SodaStream (sometimes marketed as Soda Club) is sold around the world including in my city, often by big chain stores like Costco, Kmart and Amazon (USA); Sears, The Bay, and Home Outfitters (Canada); Tesco, Asda and Argos (UK); Migros (a large coop network in Switzerland); Carrefour (France & other countries); Edeka, Adler, and Karstadt, (in Germany where it is distributed by Brita, the international water filter company. Brita products are sold in Israel by SodaStream.)
The world’s largest producer of home carbonation systems, sold in 41 countries, SodaStream claims to be environmentally friendly because it uses its own reusable bottles, saving the production and transport of millions of disposable plastic containers and saving money and time for consumers .As some of the syrups use natural products, while others use sugar and artificial sweeteners, it is promoted also as “healthy” in natural food, eco-friendly, green and biological shops.
It sounds too good to be true – and so it is.
These products are labelled “Made in Israel”, the company claims to have factories elsewhere including China. An examination of the corporate annual report reveals that only some parts are made in China. (SodaStream International Ltd.; Annual report,” 30 June 2011).
SodaStream is owned by Soda-Club, an Israeli company founded in 1991 by Peter Wiseburgh and publicly traded on NASDAQ as SodaStream International under the symbol SODA with 2009 revenues of USA$ 142,842,000.
However, the products are not made in Israel at all.
SodaStream is manufactured in Mishor Adumin, (also known as Mishor Edomin) one of 171 illegal settlements within Palestine. Mishor Adumin is about 20 kilometres east of Jerusalem in a strategic area of illegal settlements designed to cut off Palestinians’ right of free movement between the northern and southern areas of the West Bank. Syrups are produced in another settlement, Ashkelon. (The device uses disposable carbon dioxide cartridges which are made in Germany and other countries.)
“These products are fraudulently labelled as “Made in Israel”, but are in fact produced in illegal settlements under the conditions of the military occupation in the West Bank, outside the internationally-recognized borders of Israel.” http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011
Environmentally-friendly? Think of the Palestinian residents and farmers of Mishor Adumin whose homes, fields, orchards and forests were destroyed to create this industrial settlement and the neighbouring residential settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim which today ranks third in population of all Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Over 1.5 million trees have been destroyed in Palestine by the occupiers as they insinuate their homes and factories into Palestinian land. More than 300,000 Palestinians are homeless as result of home demolitions in Palestine.
The environmental destruction continues. When I was in Palestine I witnessed fields, orchards and homes being bulldozed and levelled, preparing for the continuation of the wall and the construction of an Israeli-only super highway linking all the settlements around Jerusalem, including Ma’aleh Adumim and Mishor Adumin.
So how can SodaStream be green?
There is nothing clean about the production of this ‘fun’ product, either. Many of the workers in SodaStream factory are Palestinians, desperate for any kind of job. Independent research has revealed that workers are poorly paid, sometimes below the minimum wage, are threatened with job loss (in any Israeli-owned facility) if they complain about bad working condition, job insecurity or low wages. They are the occupied subjects of military rule, lacking legal rights, including the right to organize. (For more details, see here)
SodaStream has also been accused of fraud. The European Union grants certain tax benefits to Israeli goods imported into Europe, but that does not include goods produced in occupied territories. In 2010 the European Court of Justice ruled that its products manufactured in Israeli-occupied territories were not subject to the preferential import duty treatment as goods manufactured within Israel. In Germany shipments of these products have been stopped by customs because they are not labelled truthfully.
Resolutions #242 & #338 of the UN Security Council include statements that prohibit permanent settlement of occupied lands for domestic or commercial purposes; Israel continues to rob Palestine of land, resources and access. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 also states that, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, founded by 180 civil organizations in Palestine, has spread around the world. Solidarity groups everywhere are chalking up successes in consumer products and institutional investments, including national pension plans. (See: BDS: BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, SANCTIONS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights. 2011. Haymarket Books, USA by Omar Barghouti)
Meanwhile SodaStream claims with much publicity to have sold one million of its devices in socially-responsible Sweden. But in July, 2011 the Coop (Cooperative Stores Network) announced it would stop selling SodaStream products because they are made in occupied territory and their sale was in conflict with Coop’s own ethical standard as well as Global Compact, the UN ethical guidelines for businesses. In Belgium as well as other European countries BDS campaigners actively protest against the sale of SodaStream.
USA and Canada both have a Free Trade Agreement with Israel. That means, as in the European Union, certain taxes are not levied on partners. By allowing SodaStream to sell its fraudulently labelled “Made in Israel” products, illegally produced under military occupation, as free trade products, the company receives financial concessions under Free Trade agreements.
Boycotts are powerful tools for our international campaigns for human rights. Ahava Cosmetic Products are also made in an illegal settlement, Mitzpe Shalem, near the Dead Sea; they are no longer sold in major outlets in Canada and USA after boycott actions. As law respecting citizens we have a responsibility to stop the illegal sale of another luxury product with dubious health or environmental benefits, made under conditions that violate the human rights of workers and all Palestinians.
Theresa Wolfwood is a writer and activist in Victoria, BC, Canada. She visited Palestine in 2010 and Belgium in 2011. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.bbcf.ca.