The Human Cost of Coke

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Coke Fact Sheet

Did you know:

  • Coca-Cola’s main Latin America Bottler, Panamco, is on trial in the US for allegedly hiring right-wing paramilitaries to kill and intimidate union leaders in Colombia.  Since 1989, eight union leaders from Coca-Cola bottling plants have been murdered, some of them even attacked within their factory’s gates.  Others have reported intimidation, threats of violence, kidnappings and torture with the blessing of or in collaboration with company management.  Read more at www.cokefacts.org.

  • A Coca-Cola plant in Plachimada, India, has been shut down because their massive extraction of groundwater and irresponsible disposal of wastes has contributed to the depletion and pollution of groundwater resources.  Thousands of farmers have lost their livelihoods due to the falling water table and contaminated land caused by toxic sludge which was distributed by the plant for use as fertilizer.  The sludge contained cadmium and lead.  Read more at http://www.indiaresource.org/, www.mindfully.org/Water/2005/ and www.polarisinstitute.org.

  • Most of the farmers who have been adversely affected by falling groundwater tables and contamination in the area around many of Coca-Cola’s bottling plants in India are in the marginalized communities known as Adivasis (Indigenous People) and Dalits (formerly known as “untouchables”).  These communities are learning to speak up about their human rights and are actively organizing to shut Coke plants down.  They are holding sit-ins, marches and protests and in some areas have suffered physical attacks by security guards and police.  Read more at http://www.indiaresource.org/ and www.polarisinstitute.org.

  • Coca-Cola has been selling soft drinks in India that contain levels of pesticides – including DDT, Malathion and Lindane - that are 30 times higher than allowable in the US and Europe.  At that time India did not have laws regulating contamination in soft drinks, so no laws were broken.  Farmers, however, began using Coke as a pesticide and claimed it was very effective. Read more on the BBC website at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/3171533.stm.

  • One of Coca-Cola’s newest bottling facilities in India is located in an area subject to severe contamination of groundwater with naturally occurring arsenic.  Read more at http://www.indiaresource.org/.

  • At its April, 2005 Shareholder’s Meeting close to twenty stockholders spoke on behalf of justice campaigns against Coca-Cola in India and Colombia.  The Chairman and chief executive of the company, Neville Isdell, ended the meeting rather than hear from the fifteen more shareholders who were waiting to speak.  Coca-Cola has hired a public relations firm to develop a new image for them in India.  Read more at http://www.democracynow.org (search for “Coca Cola”).


Recommended Actions:
This information was gathered by the Global Education and Advocacy Team of Common Global Ministries.  Over the next year we will be highlighting justice issues related to the availability of safe water in communities around the world.  We invite and encourage you to speak up in support of people who are living under water access situations that we would not tolerate.

1. Please contact:  Neville Isdell, Chairman and Chief Executive of Coca Cola, The Coca Cola Company, P.O. Box 1734, Atlanta, Georgia 30301.  See sample letter below or go to www.ucctakeaction.org to send a letter on-line.

2. Stay informed about Coca Cola’s corporate practices and consider whether and how these practices should impact your consumer choices! 
COKE products include:
(for a complete list go to:  http://www2.coca-cola.com/brands/brandlist.html
Coke, Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, Vanilla Coke,
A&W
Alive
Aquapure
Accent
Baquardi Mixers
Barq’s
Canada Dry
Crush
Crystal
Dannon
Dasani
Eight O’Clock
Fanta
Frutopia
Fresca
Five Alive
High C
Minute Maid
Mr. Pibb
Nestea
Nordic Mist
Oasis
POWERade
Real Gold
Rio Gold
Sprite
Schweppes
Sparkle
Squirt
Sunkist
Simply Apple, Simply Orange
Surge
Tops
Tropical
Tea World Collection
Urge
Vica
Vita

SAMPLE LETTER:
Dear Chairman Isdell,
As an American Citizen who believes that corporations should operate in ways that give attention to their impact on humanity and the environment, I must call your attention to the ways that Coca Cola is contributing to the exploitation of people in India and Colombia.  The use of ground water for bottling Coke products in regions of India that are suffering from drought has contributed to the inability of impoverished farmers to continue farming.  The contamination of farmland with toxic-laden waste from Coke plants and the presence of morally unacceptable levels of pesticides in Coke products, also in India, are both examples of irresponsibility on a scale that should be criminal.  In addition, the continued alliance with Panamco, in Colombia, despite years of murder, assault and intimidation of union leaders is reprehensible.  I consider myself to be a responsible consumer and I am committed to staying informed about Coca Cola’s corporate practices.  I call on you to initiate a change of culture in Coca Cola’s international operations which will earn deserved respect in the years to come for your dedication to corporate responsibility when human rights issues arise.

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