Water Scarcity and Stella Artois

Although access to clean drinking water isn’t of concern for most of the developed world, there are currently 2.1 billion people (or just over a quarter of the world’s population) that lack access to safely managed drinking water services. Of these 2.1 billion people, 844 million do not have access to any basic drinking water service (World Bank). What results from this are hundreds of thousands of deaths every year that could’ve been easily prevented through the successful efficient allocation of this basic resource. Not only this, but not having easily obtainable clean water negatively impacts key features of developing countries including agriculture, manufacturing, and job creation.

LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 14: Actor Matt Damon on set on December 14, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

As a result, the lack of a consistent clean water supply is greatly impacting developing countries’ abilities to facilitate economic growth. Besides directly effecting the health of both a nation’s citizens and industries that rely on clean water, this resource’s scarcity can lead to much more detrimental and long-lasting effects on a developing nation. Education, for instance, has been positively associated with access to clean water as many families without easy access to clean water are forced to send their children on multi-hour journeys everyday just to find the valuable resource. What this then results in is a dramatic decrease in the population of children actively receiving education in these water-scarce areas. It is for this reason that many socially-conscious companies, like Stella Artois, are actively attempting to aid the developing nations in which this issue is prevalent.

In Sunday’s Super Bowl, viewers witnessed a series of commercials dedicated to convincing audiences that a given company is ‘doing good.’ One such commercial, and effort, in particular connected to the issue of clean water in developing countries. Stella Artois and their commercial spokesperson Matt Damon announced a new program in which Stella Artois will donate money to clean water causes because, in Damon’s own words, “millions of people in the developing world walk up to 6 hours per day for water.” Stella Artois, now, is offering the opportunity to help provide sanitary water for such people. The company claims that by buying a limited edition Stella Artois Chalice, supporters can provide “5 years of clean water”.

Further investigating into the program shows that what Stella Artois really is doing is taking the cost of the chalice and spreading it out. They offer three different chalice options: The Mexico Chalice, the India Chalice, and the Philippines Chalice. Each glass comes with a price tag of $13, and of that $13, $3.13 are donated to Water.org, where the real positive change is made. Damon, a founder of Water.org along with friend Gary White, is looking to help these specific countries via this initiative. The company boasts amazing success, particularly via their New Ventures Fund, which claims that, given donations and current expansion and innovations, 7.4 million people will gain access to clean water by 2024.

Of course, Stella Artois and Water.org made a substantial investment in gaining Super Bowl commercial space. That benefits of that investment for developing countries, however, will likely far outweigh the financial costs of its production.

  • What other initiatives are there similar to this one to help developing countries?
  • Are companies responsible for helping with issues such as this one? Or, are they manipulating consumers via deliberately associating their brand image with social responsibility?
  • Can you think of times when initiatives like this have failed? When they have succeeded?


water.org, “New Ventures – Innovative Funding For Water & Sanitation.”. Accessed 5 Feb. 2018.

Stella Artois. Water. Accessed 5 Feb. 2018.

World Bank, Water. Accessed 5 Feb. 2018.

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14 Responses to Water Scarcity and Stella Artois

  1. the prof says:

    This reminds me of buying Boy Scout popcorn – a little bit goes to BSA, a lot to the vendor. So is SA making money off of these chalices, or are they costly to make / store / ship and (for this product!) the company isn’t into it to make money? Note that $3.13/$13 = 24%, so maybe it’s not egregious.

    • the prof says:

      Companies (and individuals) engage in greenwashing: yes, using the water refills on campus saves plastic. But do you then contribute some of what you don’t spend on water to provide others with water access? Maybe we should put a change container next to each, and look for a non-profit to use the money toward that end. (Damon’s may be well-run…if it’s a non-profit, then its financials are publicly available. I can show you how.)
      As it turns out, NPR did it for us: water

  2. John Gaugin-Rosenthal says:

    Budweiser had a similar campaign; they ran an advertisement during the Super Bowl that showcased their initiatives in providing canned water to communities that have been impacted by natural disaster (drought, hurricane…etc.). The company has been enacting CSR for over 4 decades and has frequently halted beer production to provide relief to devastated communities. While they will certainly benefit from tax write-offs and brand loyalty, they seem to lead the corporate world in benevolence; unlike Stella and many others who advertise that which they can take a cut of, Budweiser’s canned water will be donated. In terms or relief, the FEMA has a bad track record when it comes to dishing out federal contracts (a $150 million contract was offered and terminated when only 50,000 out of 18.5 million emergency meals were delivered). There seems to be a lack of efficiency in providing relief aid. Much reform will be necessary. Nonetheless, I believe that any sort of initiative on behalf of the corporate titans is extremely helpful.

    Source – New York Times

  3. ahny19 says:

    The TOMS shoes campaign comes to mind; for every pair of shoes purchased, the company pledges to provide a pair for a person in need. Stella Artois’ water-relief efforts are certainly not the first attempt by the private sector to embed social responsibility and charity within their brand. The gratification of alleviating water scarcity in the developing world paired with the endorsement of Matt Damon will likely lead to an increase in Stella Artois consumers. However, the apparent discourse of consumer sentiment on such acts of corporate responsibility is interesting. On one end of the spectrum, I imagine the applauding consumer, commending the drink company’s generosity and altruistic acts on behalf of the world’s poor. While on the other end is the apathetic skeptic, discerning a sheer marketing scheme to raise company revenue guised under a mirage of charity. Although I don’t quite identify with either position, does intention actually matter? Consider the (lack of) effect the private sector would have on social issues if such donation campaigns didn’t exist. Should the skeptic really be critical at all if poor countries are experiencing a net benefit?

    • pezzij19 says:

      Yeah I totally agree. Possibly the intention may not be great, but it’s still doing good as an end product. Sure Stella is making some money off the top, but if that’s incentive for them to keep giving, then by all means. If they just gave away water and money all the time in mass droves, it would likely not be sustainable. A company like Stella Artois didn’t come where it has through altruism. In ways it’s like the invisible hand. They want to do better in revenue through sales and brand loyalty, and this is an avenue they are doing it. They’re helping people in the end, and if it helps the company, then that’s no problem for me. Only is it a problem if they say they’re helping people and aren’t.

  4. Ezequiel Piantoni says:

    While I admire Stella Artois’ campaign, and would hope more companies did the same, I find a notorious inefficiency in this program. Of those $13 why are only $3.13 being donated? Are the COGS of these glasses that high or is Stella Artois getting a profit from this campaign (on top of the improved public opinion)? Why not buy a regular Stella Artois chalice for $8 ( https://www.amazon.com/Stella-Artois-Original-Glass-Chalice/dp/B01F36HZZI/ref=sr_1_2?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1518406790&sr=1-2&keywords=beer+glass ) and donate $5 in water.org? Maybe this is an example of the inefficiency in aid spending that U.S. has and Norway does not?

  5. Chase Wonderlic says:

    I will actually be surprised if the Water.com x Stella Artois campaign is remembered positively. The same goes for the Budweiser ad. The placement of the ads during the Super Bowl seemed to fly in the face of common sense: America tunes in for football and funny commercials on Super Bowl Sunday. That said, I have a hard time attributing the attempt to anything more than a chance for publicity and an improved reputation. In any case, Stella Artois and Budweiser aren’t even the ones making the direct financial sacrifices.They are calling on everyday American consumers to donate the extra dollars! Somehow, the generosity of the public is to the credit of a couple beer retailers! Hopefully, these companies will follow up with statistics that show how their viral videos made real changes for those in need. Positive outcomes for resource-scarce communities would be news worth sharing. I look forward to seeing more criticism of these attention-grabbing stunts and more appeal to effective development policies.

  6. chandlessa19 says:

    These charity campaigns put on by major corporations are often used as investments and advertising. Viewing these charity campaigns as both an investment and an advertising opportunity makes sense from a business standpoint, but seems like a scummy way for businesses to take advantage of people in need for corporate gains. A similar commercial was aired by Budweiser during the Super Bowl. The ad felt very self-congratulatory, trying to play on your heart as a way to get you to buy more of their beer. The campaigns do provide help to people in need, but the companies running them too often view generating capital as the main priority.

    • rietanob18 says:

      Thanks for the comment — this Budweiser advertisement was particularly interesting. Some have said that Budweiser paid ‘millions’ to advertise the company giving ‘thousands’ to help provide water for those in need. There is perhaps an interesting larger argument here: should we care about corporate social responsibility? Or, should companies make money, and individuals act responsibly outside of their work? Something to think about… most believe companies need to act towards helping those in need.

      • nshimyumukizas18 says:

        Ben raises a very interesting question: should we care about corporate social responsibility? In this case, should a brewing company like Stella Artois worry about water scarcity in developing countries? Or should Stella Artois just focus at running a profitable business? If you look at both sides of the spectrum, it would probably make sense to care about CSR and run a profitable business at the same time. One could argue though that ethically, businesses shouldn’t be making profits off poor countries problems such as the lack of basic needs like water.

  7. the prof says:

    Now if the owners of AB Inbev are great philanthropists with a focus on poverty, then running the company for profits may not be so bad. Should we though assume that there’s a shortage of benevolence in today’s world?

    To look at differently, I think we can assume that AB Inbev (Stella Artois) would be advertising no matter what they do or do not do to help others. So this comes down to a question of whether “greenwashing” their company lets them spend less (inclusive of water projects) because it makes their advertising more effective.

    If the money spent on marketing is unchanged, then we can’t conclude much.

    If they’re spending more, then it is perhaps putting dollars into CSR, or (cynically) that their marketing people are “greenwashing” internally (maybe we should call it “brown nosing” by “green washing”) to increase their budget, with no particular attention to the outside world.

  8. herndono20 says:

    I commend Stella for taking the initiative to organize a way to donate water to developing countries in need, despite their internal motive. In the end whether it is to increase the companies image or to really help those countries in need, something is still being done. However the statistic that for every $13 only $3.13 dollars being donated is concerning and reveals inefficiency in their methods. If they really wanted to help out they could take a fraction of every case of beer towards their donations. While this tactic definitely raises awareness of the issue, fact that you have to go out of your way to by a glass would significantly lower the amount of people actually taking action. Then there is always the issue of making sure these water supplies actually reach those most in need. Are there target regions within these countries they aid or does it go into the hands of their governments where it can be reallocated?

  9. Banks Pflager says:

    Stella’s initiative in this situation is one that is a really incredible marketing strategy for them. They target regular people who like drinking beer and allow them to donate while also receiving a piece of merchandise. This gives people a motive to help while actually receiving something they see valuable. The comments made in the post and in comments bring up an interesting question of whether they are doing this to receive tax benefits or maybe even increase profit because the demand for these chalices will be higher. Regardless of the benefits that come to Stella, this initiative is actually helping people. I think this is an incredible forward thinking way of marketing in terms of societal issues present today. Toms is a good example of a company that did this as well. Toms seems more like a company that had the initial goal of using a product to help other which differs from stella. People do not support stella solely because they give about 3 dollars per chalice. This is an excellent model of how big companies have the ability to use their platform to help others while still maintaining their initial business strategy. This makes people realize how other companies can use strategies like this to help other rather than focus on their own personal profit alone.

  10. reamest18 says:

    It certainly is a touchy subject, but it is all too commonplace in business today. You think of Toms or Allbirds who sell shoes but then turn around and donate a pair of shoes to those in need. I think it is a great business model. People like to buy things they want whether it be beer or shoes. If consumers can buy those same things and also feel the gratification of helping someone in need, it creates a great business strategy. I think what these companies are doing is smart business but could there be more done to help those in need?

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