Fiji Water owner faces criticism after donating $750 million to study climate change

molecular biology lab CalTech center view
ByTebany Yune

Combating climate change is no small task. Researchers have stressed that protecting vulnerable communities and adjusting to changes in the environment will take the combined efforts of everyone — including concerned citizens, giant corporations, and government entities. Eco-conscious consumers have encouraged each other to be mindful of their purchases and consumption habits. And private companies have begun taking action like switching to easier recyclable containers or investing in sustainable packaging. Now, a $750 million donation to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) from billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, will be applied to studying technology that can fight the impact of global warming.

According to The New York Times, about $100 million of the total donation will be used to create a new facility, called the Resnick Sustainability Resource Center, for the sole purpose of sustainability research. $250 million will fund immediate studies into climate change technology. The last $400 million will be reserved for future environmental research. The Times has noted that this is the second-largest donation ever made to a U.S. university.

Donations from private companies, like the Resnicks' Wonderful Company, are in a unique position to support innovation and technology that can make everyday life less damaging for the environment. Advancements like these can help create affordable renewable energy that everyone can access.

Skeptics, however, have pointed out that the Resnicks' businesses have also played a part in contributing to climate change. The Wonderful Company features highly recognized brands like Fiji Water, Pom Wonderful, Wonderful Pistachios, and the flower delivery company Teleflora. These brands have been known by environmentalists as big consumers of water and plastic bottles, and have earned the ire of activists for being part of the wasteful bottled water industry. The company has also used up "more water than every home in Los Angeles combined" to grow their pistachios in California, according to a report by Mother Jones, even during a drought.

Mr. Resnick has pushed back against those accusations, claiming his actions were necessary to maintain a business that provides for customers and employs many people. He also explained to The New York Times that he has little choice but to use plastic for his bottled water. It's an issue he recognizes as a philanthropist, and one that he apparently hopes to solve by setting an example to other private companies with his donation to Caltech.