In a blog published on the US Huffington Post site yesterday, the CEO of the Swiss-based company admitted the revelation that Sigg bottles made before August 2008 contained “trace amounts” of BPA had breached the trust of its customers. Last week, Wasik also apologised for the move in a letter on the company's website.
The fall-out yesterday also saw Sigg’s first commercial casualty as US company Patagonia, which sells outdoor clothing and gear, announced it had terminated its relationship with the firm. A Patagonia statement said it had asked Sigg in 2005 if its bottles contained BPA and had been told they did not.
Wasik said Sigg first took a decision to work towards removing the controversial chemical from its fashionable metal water bottles in 2006 – with the first BPA-free containers rolling off the production line at the end of last summer.
“We were right to make the announcement. But I was wrong to have waited this long,” said Wasik, as he admitted he was still learning how to be a green CEO.
He added: “People have trusted Sigg and my decision breached that trust. I wish I could turn back the clock and fully disclose the BPA content in our liners.”
Wasik said he had been flooded with emails from angry customers following the BPA admission expressing anger, betrayal and disappointment.
“I realise that my actions compromised Sigg''s relationship with our loyal customers,” he added.
The company also said it would provide cash for an “independently managed grant program to help fund BPA and chemical research that will help eliminate confusion and concern about this issue”. In a further damage limitation move, Wasik said it would post full details about ts new bottles, including the liner and cap on its website.
BPA is a chemical widely used in polycarbonate plastic baby bottles, sippy cups and the linings of some food cans. Its continued use in food packing has become highly contentious after the publication of numerous studies linking it with health problems including diabetes, cancer and obesity.
Threat to shareholder value?
The current storm is sure to underline the commercial sensitivity that BPA inclusion if food and drink packaging and containers can represent.
Earlier this year, a coalition of investors warned the Food and Drug Administration that continued use of BPA in packaging could threaten the shareholder value of food and beverage companies.
Green Century Capital Management, part of an alliance representing over $26bn in assets, said: “Companies may face reputational, competitive, or market exclusion risks from using BPA.”
In its statement, Tuesday, Patagonia announced “a termination of all co-branding and co-marketing efforts with Sigg”.
“It has come to Patagonia’s attention from recent news reports that a Bisphenol A (BPA) epoxy coating was used in most aluminum Sigg bottles manufactured prior to August 2008, despite earlier assurances from Sigg that the liners of their bottles did not contain BPA,” added the company.
The outdoor leisure firm said it had tried to pulled advertisements from two magazines featuring Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder and owner, holding a SIGG bottle with a 1% for the Planet logo on it. The ads were successfully pulled from the publication Outside but unfortunately, Backpacker had already gone to print, said the company
Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s VP of environmental initiatives said the company began examining the issue of BPA four years ago.
“Once we concluded there was basis for concern, we immediately pulled all drinking bottles that contained BPA from our shelves and then searched for a BPA-free bottle,” he said.
“We very clearly asked Sigg if there was BPA in their bottles and their liners, and they clearly said there was not. After conducting such thorough due diligence, we are more than chagrined to see the ad that is appearing in Backpacker, but we also feel that with this explanation our customers will appreciate and understand our position.”