Britain’s Prince Charles lectures long on climate change and the local food movement, but a recent discovery about one of his businesses suggests the title “His Royal Highness” is just a nod to his carbon footprint.
Recent disclosure that his royal-branded mineral water, sourced from Scotland, is routinely shipped 6,000 miles to luxury supermarkets in Dubai, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi is causing a tempest in a water bottle.
The prince finances his charities partly with profits from his food brand, Duchy Originals, made in conjunction with British supermarket chain Waitrose. Since 2010, the venture has generated $1.5 million in profits, mostly through grocery sales within the United Kingdom, but a tiny slice (about 5%) of profits come from exports, some of which are air-freighted.
UK environmentalists have called for the prince to close the tap on the business.
“Shipping bottles of water around the world is completely insane,” said Craig Bennett, director of policy and campaigns at Friends of the Earth. “It is absolutely ludicrous when there is perfectly good drinking water in the Middle East.
It is very hard to dress up shipping water thousands of miles as helping the environment,” Bennett told The Guardian.
The prince is an ardent supporter of environmental stewardship, participating in conferences and speaking widely on strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ironically, the story erupted 52 months after he delivered a speech at Brazil warning that the world had “less than 100 months to alter our behavior before we risk catastrophic climate change.”
Prince Charles has cast himself as a champion of the environment, setting up Duchy Originals in 1990 to promote organic food and farming and to raise awareness to sustainable practices that harmonize with nature. It’s published charter states, “We aim for the smallest environmental footprint.”
Last year, The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation donated over $300,000 to the Soil Association, which campaigns to minimize the ecological footprint of the food industry. The contradiction between what he does with the money versus how it’s earned creating his own mini- “Water-gate”, with the media hurling mud at the princely environmental pricetag attached to his drinks.
A spokeswoman for Waitrose said: “We are committed to reducing our environmental impact. The vast majority of products we export are sea-freighted, with less than 1% of our Duchy Originals from Waitrose exports air-freighted, which makes sense from an environmental and a commercial perspective.”
It is not the first time Charles has been slammed for his carbon footprint. As with Al Gore, traipsing the globe to deliver his Inconvenient Truth message, the prince is frequently criticized for flying via personal jet to promote climate change issues.
Image of a container ship from Shutterstock