SodaStream Leaves West Bank: A Success for BDS

By Marilyn White
(Photo by Eirik Newth)

In late October home carbonation machine manufacturer SodaStream announced the decision to close its West Bank factory in an illegal Jewish settlement. SodaStream has been a major focus of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement to pressure Israel to end the occupation and oppression of Palestinians. A company spokesperson said the decision was based on business reasons unrelated to the boycott. The evidence indicates otherwise: At the time of the announcement, stock prices had fallen 58% and profits 42% in 2014. Macy’s dropped the product and high-profile investor George Soros sold his stake in the company.

SodaStreamThe boycott gained more publicity when actress Scarlett Johansson, a celebrity representative for both SodaStream and Oxfam International, was forced to choose between the company and the charity, which supports the BDS movement. Johansson dropped her relationship with Oxfam, but the press attention led many consumers to drop SodaStream from their shopping lists.

In 2012, the Presbyterian General Assembly endorsed the boycott of settlement products. The Office of Public Witness has prepared a helpful new resource, Holy Discontentment: Boycott!, which can be downloaded from the PC(USA) website. The products named as appropriate candidates for boycott are SodaStream, Ahava beauty products, Keter Plastics, and Edushape toys.

After SodaStream actually closes its West Bank plant in the Mishor Edomim Industrial Zone, the product will no longer technically meet boycott criteria specified by the GA. However, most human rights advocates will want to continue to avoid it. SodaStream plans to consolidate its operations in Lehavim  in the Negev desert where Palestinian Bedouins are being forcefully transferred to facilitate new Israeli developments. The company also has a history of labor disputes with Palestinian employees. Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations that leads and supports the BDS movement, explained why SodaStream would remain a campaign focus, "Even if this announced closure goes ahead, SodaStream will remain implicated in the displacement of Palestinians..."

SodaStream markets its home carbonation machines as environmentally friendly, reducing the cost of transporting soft drinks and facilitating the reuse of plastic bottles. Global Exchange points out that "you’ll have to consume quite a bit before you’ll realize any economic or environmental benefits from owning your own machine, compared to simply buying bottles at the grocery store." This is because manufacturing, shipping, and purchasing costs have to be offset; the proprietary CO2 canisters can’t be refilled locally; and the flavor syrups are an ongoing cost.  

What’s in your glass? In the U.S., tap water is almost always the healthiest and most environmentally responsible choice. Fair Trade coffee and tea, brewed at home, are loaded with antioxidants and international good will.