Volvic is an internationally-known brand of mineral water owned by Danone. Their “certified carbon neutral” logo and sustainability commitments on the packaging label, along with its monochromatic use of green colour, seem to promote their plastic bottled water as a sustainable product, both explicitly and implicitly. Bottled water itself is recognized to be harmful to the environment, from the CO2 emission during water bottling processes to plastic pollution. This raised the question of how Volvic can put emphasis on their product’s sustainability or whether this is just another case of “greenwashing”. Despite my initial scepticism, Volvic’s efforts and commitments for improving environmental and social sustainability evidently stood out from other bottled water brands, giving this product a score of 2.0.
Volvic mineral water is sourced from Chaîne des Puys-Limagne Fault, located in Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park in France. Rainwater is naturally filtered for around five years through six layers of volcanic rock, which gives Volvic water pristine purity and unique mineral composition. Their water consists of natural minerals such as bicarbonates, silica, and chlorides, with no applied chemical treatment.
Their plastic bottle is 100% recyclable but they are non-biodegradable, so the packaging can end up in landfills and oceans if they are not recycled properly. It is important to consider that many consumers do not recycle plastics which completely eliminates the benefits of the recyclability of Volvic water. Additionally, their current packaging is made of a minimum of 30% recycled plastic, implying that their packaging still comprises non-recycled ‘virgin’ PET. However, Volvic is committed to completely cutting the usage of virgin PET and using 100% rPET (recycled PET) by the end of 2025. This would cut 50% of carbon emissions compared to a bottle made from newly-made virgin PET. In 2020, Volvic in Germany, Switzerland, and the US successfully switched to using 100% rPET across their entire portfolio, which shows notable progress towards achieving their 2025 goal.
Their commitment to using 100% rPET excludes caps and labels, which raises the question of what they are made out of and how they are planning to improve them. Interestingly, they are not transparent about the materials that are used for the caps and labels - they only mention on their website that Volvic is “still working on the label and cap, which aren’t yet recyclable”. This played a large role in making my rating for this section 1.5 out of 3. Caps and labels should never be overlooked because their small yet durable plastics can easily be ingested by wildlife and be broken down into microplastics if they are not recycled and processed properly. Volvic and Danone’s efforts should also be put into using innovative and sustainable materials for caps and labels, which could potentially be the next step for Volvic to increase the sustainability of their product and improve the score in this section.
Volvic’s water comes from a natural source, so it should be no surprise that Volvic puts effort into protecting and preserving their catchment area. It is absolutely crucial for bottled water businesses to maintain the natural renewal of the water source by making sure that they do not take more than what nature offers. Volvic ensures sustainable and responsible management of water using their team of hydrogeologists who help conserve and protect the water resources. Additionally, Société des Eaux de Volvic (Volvic Water Company in France) has co-created a public-private partnership with the four local communities of the catchment area, called the Environmental Committee for the Protection of the Volvic Impluvium (CEPIV). CEPIV aims to preserve the rich biodiversity in the catchment area while promoting eco-friendly development of the local area (e.g. developing sustainable agricultural practices, enhancing pollution protection).
As mentioned previously, Volvic’s is 100% recyclable, but it is not completely made by rPET yet. The process of creating new PET and manufacturing packaging (e.g. preform injection and blow moulding) emits greenhouse gas. However, to minimise Volvic’s indirect and direct emission during its production process, Volvic has transitioned to 100% renewable energy in their natural mineral water bottling site in 2020. Volvic has also reduced their energy consumption by 20% since 2007 and reduced the amount of material required for their packaging. For example, their 1.5L bottle now uses 30% less material today than it did 20 years ago.
Volvic water is exported to over 60 countries and 31% of their carbon emission comes from transport, so they claim to have been working on ways to investigate lower carbon transport alternatives and distance efficiency. They appear to be putting effort into transitioning transport from trucks to trains in order to reduce their carbon emission. In the UK, 78% of Volvic products are travelled from the bottling site to the UK by train, which has a carbon footprint 7 times lower than that of trucks. Volvic also claims that the efforts by its supplier members of BSR’s Clean Cargo have helped Volvic reduce its maritime transport emissions by 40% since 2015. Considering that maritime shipping contributes to 3% of the total CO2 emission and is the 6th largest emitter, it is great to hear about their reduction in maritime transport emission and I hope to see further improvements. Overall, their efforts in managing their natural mineral water, using clean energy, and reducing transport emissions are impressive but there is definitely room for improvement, leading to a score of 2.0. For example, considering electric vehicles for short-distance transport could potentially be a way to reduce their transport emission further.
Volvic became a certified B Corporation in March 2020, with an overall score of 81.1 in the B Impact assessment. Their score of over 80 implies that Volvic meets “the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” Their efforts on preserving Volvic’s water source, investing in local projects, and promoting local employment, are just a few things that have helped them achieve this certification.
Volvic was also certified Carbon Neutral from April 2020 by the Carbon Trust. The certification indicates that Volvic is committed to decarbonisation and the neutralisation of remaining emissions through the support of environmental projects. For example, Volvic is in partnership with the climate solutions company, South Pole, and supports their projects that “protect two billion square metres of natural ecosystems in volcanic countries”. Their investment in initiatives that protect or restore nature has allowed them to offset their emissions and achieve carbon neutrality. Volvic has also transparently calculated its carbon emissions at every stage of its products’ journey, which is published in Volvic's Qualifying Explanatory Statement report.
Lastly, Volvic has been working together with Danone communities since 2019 to help provide access to 1L of safe drinking water to people in need for every 1L of Volvic water consumed. This is achieved through Volvic’s investments in social businesses that focus on bringing safe drinking water to areas in need. The impacts of projects and businesses they have supported, such as 1001fontaines (Cambodia) and dloHaiti (Haiti), have displayed significant improvement in social sustainability. The company’s commitments and efforts put into environmental and social sustainability are very impressive. However, as mentioned before, the lack of transparency for its bottle caps and labels is a bit concerning to me, so the score of 2.5/3 was given for this section instead of a 3/3.