Swiss perspectives in 10 languages

Nestlé water turned into cups at Milan Expo

Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck has a sip of water during the company's 2012 AGM Keystone

One of the four towers at Switzerland’s pavilion at the Expo 2015 in Milan was originally meant to be filled with bottles of water from sponsor Nestlé. Now, however, visitors will be offered cups which they can fill with local tap water. 

The decision by Presence Switzerland, the government body responsible for Switzerland’s image abroad, follows criticism of the heavy involvement of the Swiss food and drink multinational, which has contributed CHF3 million ($3.1 million) to the pavilion’s CHF23.1 million budget. Sponsorship totals CHF8 million. 

Nestlé has been criticised for commercialising water resources, according to a cabinet statement in September in response to a parliamentary question. It added that this was hard to reconcile with Switzerland’s image for sustainability, which is what it wanted to convey at the exposition. 

“We raised the water question, we thought about it and listened,” Nicolas Bideau, head of Presence Switzerland, told the media on Tuesday. “In the end, Presence Switzerland decided to offer water from taps instead of from bottles.” 


Milan 2015 runs from May 1 to October 31 and has chosen as its central theme “Feeding the planet, energy for life”. It will host more than 130 participants and expects 20 million visitors. 

The four towers in the Swiss pavilion will be filled with little sacks of salt, apple rings, Nespresso capsules (also made by Nestlé) and, now, plastic cups. Visitors can help themselves to as much as they want, but the supplies won’t be replenished as quickly as they disappear. 

If the towers are emptied after only a few weeks, they will remain empty for a while. Bideau explained that this was meant to encourage visitors to take responsibility for available resources. 

“A void also sends a message,” he said. “Namely that other people have already taken everything.”

Popular Stories

Most Discussed

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here . Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR