Talk:Coca Cola

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page set up/lay out

I've added a bit about the PR firm that Coca Cola uses. It's at the beginning along with its reference as I couldn't seem to put it at the end (it kept appearing before the Affiliations table).

The page also came up with a warning that it was a large page, so it might be worth separating things out a bit.

--Lynn Hill 17:07, 17 January 2008 (UTC)

the bits below may - or may not - be useful for a page on coke.

Coca Cola in India - Introduction

Coca Cola has been the leading soft drinks company since 1886 with production being carried out on a world wide scale. The company began production again in India after a sixteen year absence by taking control of the country's bottling network and soft drink brands. The company claim that their operations in India meet the same standards as their production methods all over the world as they claim that they 'refresh people across the globe' [1]therefore believe that their operations are beneficial to everyone on a world wide scale. However Coca Cola's practices in India especially in Plachimada, Kerala and Kaladera have come under close scrutiny as it is felt that they are having particularly harmful impacts on these areas. The main concerns are that Coca Cola are using too much ground water in their production which is needed by the local communities and that their methods are contaminating the water that is left for these people. These practices have therefore effected the local environment with the lack of water making land infertile and have had social impacts as contaminated water has resulted in health problems. Coca Cola's practices have also had political impacts such as local demonstrations against the company. This report will therefore discuss the environmental, social and political impacts of Coca Cola's practices in India as well as looking at the organisations that Coca Cola is a member of or funds.


Environmental Impact

Plachimada, Kerala and Kaladera on the outskirts of Jaipur are two communities that have fell economically, socially, politically and most arguably environmentally, victim to the power of Coca Cola. The clearly visible physical effect on the environment Coca Cola has cast over such communities is devastating; once fertile, farming communities with lush, moist land now resembles a dry, sandy desert. This is the most obvious environmental impact Coca Cola has had on many Indian communities and is a direct result of a decrease in groundwater resources which many claim Coca Cola exploits[2]. A second environmental impact Coca Cola has had on its host communities, is that the little water the locals do manage to salvage is found to be contaminated by the waste Coca Cola pour out of their bottling plants continuously [3]. Thirdly, Coca Cola have been found to deposit contaminated waste onto land surrounding the plant and also issue it to local farmers as fertilisers [4]. All of these issues will be discussed with reference to Coca Colas environmental policies and the impact it has had on the two communities of Plachimada and Kaladera.

Coca Cola implement a single environmental policy known as 'eKo'. This is implemented in all of their plants throughout the world including those found in India [5]. In theory, it allows them to make environmentally friendly business decisions, but in practice this does not seem to be the case. As stated on their website, Coca Cola's prime environmental considerations followed in business decisions are;

- Environmental due diligence before acquiring land

- Environmental impact assessment before commencing operations

- Ground water and environmental surveys before selecting sites

- Diligent compliance with all regulatory environmental requirements

- Ban on purchase of refrigeration equipment containing CFCs

- Installation of Effluent treatment plant at each manufacturing locations

- Separate collection and treatment domestic and industrial effluent as per company or local standard

- Separate discharge of industrial, domestic and storm water to prevent storm water pollution [6]

If Coca Cola did take all of these factors into consideration when making business decisions e.g. like where to set up a bottling plant, it would appear the environment of such communities would not be put at risk and indeed if there was a chance it would, they would either not locate there or propose ways of eliminating the potential problems. However, it appears to be that in a considerable number of communities where Cola have bottling plants none of these considerations have been accounted for. This is indeed the situation in Plachimada and Kaladera.

According to Coca Cola, they survey the ground water and environment before selecting the site (as per consideration three above). Plachimada is in the heart of Kerala's water belt. Its ground water reserves had apparently showed up on satellite surveys done by the company's prospectors [7] so it is no surprise Coca Cola selected this as a site for one of their bottling plants. Indeed, according to Cockburn (2005), the site selected was set between two large reservoirs and ten meters south of an irrigation canal. Coca Cola therefore did do a survey of the ground water and with the considerable volume available made the decision to locate there possibly with the intention to exploit the reserves. It has been reported that within six months of the commencement of operations at the plant the villagers witnessed a considerable drop in the level of water available to them [8]. This led the locals to conclude that Coca Cola was exploiting the groundwater reserves and 'taking' what wasn't theirs [9]. The situation was also mirrored in Kaladera in the villages surrounding the bottling plant were villagers, social activists and civil rights groups took to the streets to demand the closure of the plant because they claimed Coca Cola was depriving them of water [10].

The effect of the decrease in water on the land in both areas is devastating. Both areas were once farming communities and now resemble virtual deserts [11] due to the lack of water available for the land. Cockburn (2005) reports how farmers in Plachimada, prior to Cokes arrival, could farm eight acres of rice paddy but now with no water for the paddy this is not possible. This therefore illustrates that the soil is drying out and becoming infertile. The traditionally fertile region of Kaladera is experiencing much the same; this region is known for growing groundnut, wheat and mustard, but these crops rely on rainwater-groundwater combined and since the ground water level is sinking, so too is the number of crops grown as when the water was closer to the surface, there was greater moistness which meant better quality of crops and more of them [12]. As a result, an increasing amount of land in both areas lies fallow for want of water. Coca Cola have the facilities to use 1,100 cubic meters of water per day to use in their factories [13], over time, this could result in the villagers having virtually no water for the land and the ground water table falling even further, subsequently reducing the quality of the land even further.

The little water that is salvaged in these communities has often been found to be contaminated [14]. It is reported that Coca Cola has been indiscriminately discharging its waste water into the fields surrounding its plant and sometimes into the rivers, this has resulted in the ground water and soil being polluted [15]. Indeed in Kerala, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), found hazardous levels of cadmium in water samples taken from two wells close to the bottling plant [16].By polluting the rivers, much of the aquatic life would die and habitats surrounding the rivers would be destroyed. Furthermore people who drink from the rivers and wells would be affected, possibly fatally. The contaminated soil combined with the decreasing ground water levels would most certainly result in crops dieing. It can be argued Coca Cola most definitely did not consider their 'prime environmental' factors when following through on this decision as this action has and is having a detrimental affect on the environment of Plachimada and Kaladera and many more Indian communities.

Furthermore, Coca Cola have been accused of dumping contaminated waste or 'toxic sludge' on surrounding land and also issuing it to farmers as a fertiliser [17]. The KSPCB carried out tests on the sludge and stated there were dangerous levels of cadmium in it. Following this, another report done at Exeter University in England found not only high levels of cadmium but also high levels of lead in the sludge [18]. This sludge therefore contaminated the land even further and was also, on occasion, dumped on the banks of the irrigation canal, subsequently polluting the water. The farmers who used it as a fertiliser later found all of their crops, which were supposed to be nourished, dead and the soil completely contaminated [19]. This would therefore render the soil unfit to grow more crops. The action of dumping contaminated waste on surrounding land and the banks of the irrigation canal is totally irresponsible and shows no consideration for the negative impact this could have on the environment of the area. Supplying it to farmers as fertiliser is extremely dangerous as it could not only destroy the crops and soil but also enter the food chain, again causing illness to the villagers. Once again, it can be suggested Coca Cola did not assess the impact their actions would have on the environment.

It can be concluded that thus far, Coca Cola have had a negative impact on the environment of its host communities in India, particularly in Plachimada and Kaladera through exploiting the ground water resources, polluting the groundwater and soil and also by dumping contaminated waste on the land.



















Social Impact

Coca Cola's practices have had serious social impacts particularly on the community who live in Plachimida in the Kerala region of India. These include health problems and considerable damage to the livelihoods of this community. Coca Cola claim that they not only function in ways that will be beneficial to their company but act in ways that will also be beneficial to the health and livelihoods of local people as according to Coca Cola they seek to 'improve the quality of life, and foster good will in communities".[20] However evidence suggests that Coca Cola's are not fulfilling this promise as Coca Cola's practices in Kerala seem to have had devastating social impacts on the lives of the communities located near to Coca Cola's factories.

The main complaint made against Coca Cola is that they are depleting much needed ground water in Kerala to use in their factories. This has meant that many people are unable to draw enough water from their wells which has had obvious social impacts particularly for women in Kerala who are forced to travel on foot to collect water. They must then carry back heavy jugs of water as according to A Cockburn 'women in Plachimada have to walk a 4-kilometer round trip to get drinkable water, toting the big vessels on hip or head' [21] with this water not lasting long as it must be used for drinking, cooking and washing. The journey can therefore often take all day as available water can be so far away therefore it can leave women in Kerala feeling exhausted especially as they are not able to drink a sufficient amount of water during the journey as it is needed for the whole family.

It is not only the lack of water that is having social impacts on the effected communities as it is also the quality of the water that is effecting people's lives. The poor quality of water has had consequences on people's health therefore they are forced to travel to get clean water. It has been claimed by the communities in Kerala that the water that remains in their wells has a horrible taste and has a hard consistency which means that no one can drink it or even use it to cook with. It has been that reported that people have experienced illnesses due to drinking the water 'as while the water used to be fine to drink, now what is left at the bottom of the well gives them sever stomach pains and headaches' [22] which shows that Coca Cola's practices may have polluted the water which has led to these health problems.

It is not only polluted water that has effected people's health as Coca Cola gave many farmers sludge claiming that it would be good for their land. However all this sludge did was cause illness and infections as according to A Cockburn 'aside from stinking so badly it made old folk and children sick, people coming in contact with it got rashes and kindred infections and the crops which it was supposed to nourish died.' [23]. Whereas as Coca Cola claimed this sludge was safe and would be a useful fertiliser lab tests on the sludge found it had high levels of cadmium which is particularly harmful to pregnant women.

The water appears to be of such a poor quality in certain parts of Kerala that people have been unable to use it for cooking as when rice is cooked it becomes hard and therefore difficult to eat. In the past families where able to save food by cooking rice in the morning and leaving some for the rest of the day. However this is no longer possible as using this water to cook the rice has made it inedible after a few hours. This has meant that families have to spend more money on food then they used to as they can no longer cook rice that will last all day and many families are unable to do afford this. This could have serious consequences for people's health as they may suffer malnutrition if they cannot afford to buy more food.

People have also been unable to wash with the water as it has been reported that it results in health problems. According to A Cockburn ' to wash in it was to get skin rashes, a burning feel on the skin. It left their hair greasy and sticky' [24] which shows how the polluted water is having serious consequences for people's health. Furthermore in a developing country such as India where diseases spread rapidly it is vital that communities have clean water to wash in so this can be avoided.

Coca Colas practices have also effected the livelihoods of many farmers in Kerala as they do not have enough water to irrigate their land properly. Farmers has always been able cope with the fact that the area had low rainfall but since Coca Cola began to take the already limited water supply 'crops have failed and jobbing agricultural labourers have been forced further a field to look for employment' [25]. The lack of water has therefore led to farmers being unable to sell their produce or use it to feed their own families. This could lead to farmers being put out of business as they will have no source of income. This is also a long term problem as it may take some time before crops begin to grow again during this time farmers will be forced to look for a source of income elsewhere







Lobbying and Political

The Coca-Cola bottling plants which occupy a large number of areas in India have created a great deal of tension and anger among local residents. These tensions have arisen as a direct result of the large quantities of water being extracted each day by this multinational. Local residents are being deprived of this basic amenity due to the sheer greed of Coca-Cola. The stress caused by this lack of water has forced communities to take action and has lead to a number of demonstrations across India where Coca-Cola bottling plants inhabit. Such demonstrations have taken place at the Kerala plant, the Kala Dera plant and in Mehdiganj on numerous occasions and with varying outcomes. The people of these areas which are being overtaken by Coca-Cola have demonstrated both peacefully and more forcefully in an attempt to convey their feelings towards this multinational. Coca-Cola in India has been subject to numerous protests, standing accused of creating water shortages, pollution of the land and water, distributing toxic waste as fertiliser and selling drinks with high levels of pesticides throughout the Indian market [26]. The fight against Coca-Cola has expanded further than India into the USA and the European Union which are some of Coca-Colas largest markets. Amit Srivastave of the India Resource Centre had stated that 'We will make it increasingly difficult for Coca-Cola to do business in the US and EU, as well as in emerging markets, such as India and Brazil, until it cleans up its act in India' [27]. Killer Coke is one organisation which has launched its fight against Coca-Cola and aims to highlight the unethical activities of this multinational in a bid to boycott this soft drink.

One of Coca-Colas bottling plants is situated in Plachimada in Kerala in southern India. In1999 Hindustan Coca-Cola applied for a licence to build a bottling plant and this was granted. By the year 2000 this 40 acre bottling plant was up and running and employed some 70 permanent workers and 150-250 casual workers. It was around this time when residents began to notice a change in their water and the surrounding environment [28]. The struggle against this plant by local residents started in April 2002, when the local community were becoming increasingly weary of the exploits of the Coca-Cola factory and the detrimental affect it was having on their environment. They decided that action needed to be taken in order to replenish their water supplies and improve the environment overall. On the 9th of June 2002 local tribes set up camp directly outside the Coca-Cola factory gates, with further protest rallies taking place at night. In order for these tribes to get their opinions heard, they dumped the foul smelling waste, which Coca-Cola had previously dumped in the residents' fields, at the front gates of the factory. Throughout this entire event the police presence was strongly felt and the occasion quickly became violent as a result of police officials provoking protesters with the use of bad language. Furthermore one protester was severely beaten at the front gates who had not been behaving in such a manner which would justify this beating. Following this a total of almost 130 protesters were arrested 30 of who were woman and a shocking 9 of them being children. This protest had been relatively peaceful until police officials began threatening protesters with violent attacks which prompted bad feeling throughout the event. Evidence from Kerala has shown that the police are on the side of Coca-Cola and so work to protect their image, rather than the well being of their citizens [29].

Further evidence of police brutality was shown on 28th of May 2002 when 11 activists were arrested at a campaign rally in nearby Vanditavalam. A further 9 people were arrested from those protesting at the front gates of the Coca-Cola plant. Despite these arrests and horrific violence at the events these protests were not held in vain. On the 9th of March 2004 the Coca-Cola bottling plant was closed down after the local village council refused to renew its licence to operate. Since this time the plant has remained closed, however the local people continue to battle this multinational for a permanent closure. They also have further demands such as compensation for losses incurred and for those protesters who have charges against them to be dropped. These demands have been heard throughout further protests such as that on the 15th of January 2005 where almost 1000 people turned out to block the gates of the plant. R Ajayan from the Plachimada Solidarity Committee has been quoted as saying 'Planchimada is not just a local issue, but a global one. It shows how large multinationals get away with profiting at the expense of people' This group went on to further emphasis the strength of communities who do not allow themselves to be walked over by multinationals such as Coca-Cola [30].

Additional protests have been organised in other Coca-Cola bottling plants across India, one of which being in Mehdiganj in northern India. Here on the 30th of November 2005 over 800 members of the community gathered at the plants gates to insist the plant be closed imminently. This protest however, was not the first to occur in this area but comes a year after a major protest took place in the same area. This previous protest turned violent and witnessed the detention of 350 people out of the total of 1,500 who joined in the march and rally against the soft drink giant Coca-Cola. Further charges against these protesters have also been carried out which has further angered the people who already feel exploited by this multinational. As a result of this unhappiness further demonstrations have taken place in an attempt to have these charges dropped. On the 6th of January 2005, demonstrators marched towards the front gates of the plant in Mehdiganj with their moves covered in black ribbons and their hands tied to protest against the extreme charges brought against campaigners at the previous march [31]. This protest was conducted in silence and protesters were unarmed, however they were stopped by a 100 strong group of policemen when they were 300 metres away from the front gates. Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti, one of the major organisers of the protest said that 'While a big multinational like Coca-Cola makes many attempts to stop the non-violent people's movement, the people will not give up their struggle' [32]. This shows the sheer determination by communities who feel that these protests are the only way to get their communities back in their hands and away from multinationals.

In addition to protests in Kerala and Mehdiganj protests have also been held in Kala Dera in Rajasthan, north India. In December 2005 over 1,500 campaigners marched to their Coca-Cola bottling plant to protest and demand its closure. Yet again local police intervened and carried out almost 200 arrests. The story in Kala Dera is a familiar one. The community is suffering from great water shortages and pollution of groundwater and soil, which has a massive impact on their livelihoods [33]. These problems are being caused due to the activities of Coca-Cola and the way in which they have taken over the land in this community. One key organiser of this protest made his feelings very clear about this multinational 'Coca-Cola is looting our natural resources, resources that belong to the public' he continued by stating that the water they are using is a basic need for the people and that Coca-Cola is depriving them of this necessity [34].

There has been much debate both across the US and in countries throughout the EU regarding the sale of Coca-Cola products in schools and University campuses. People are becoming more aware of the atrocities which Coca-Cola carries out on a daily basis across many third world countries including India. Killer Coke is one organisation which is at the forefront in attempting to educate people on this matter and to eradicate the sales of their products. They tiresomely campaign to inform the public about the conditions in their plants, stating in their website that 'Coca-Cola continues to rake in billions each year, yet the frightening conditions at the Coke plants remain unchanged' [35]. This statement highlights the sheer contempt Killer Coke has for Coca-Cola. Loyola Academy in Illinois is one school which has campaigned to ban the sale of Coca-Cola in their cafeteria. The students held presentations and informed other students about the indecent activities which Coca-Cola carries out, in a bid to drum up support for signatures for their petition. The students received 108 signatures of support on their first night of campaigning alone [36]. This is just one example of events which are held to help ban the sales of Coca-Cola. Coke Free Coalition is one group of students from The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) who is attempting to remove all Coca-Cola products from their campus. They strongly feel that this multinational is portraying a wholesome image, a company who cares deeply about the communities in which it operates, which is far from the truth. Coke Free Coalition feels that by having their products on campuses they are supporting the violations which Coca-Cola is responsible for [37]. Furthermore in December the University of Michigan announced a temporary suspension of its contract with Coca-Cola. This boycott is clearly becoming more widespread, which can only be a good thing if we are to encourage Coca-Cola to clean up its act.














The Coca Cola Company seeks "to benefit and refresh everyone it touches" [38], however from this report it can be suggested this is not the case for the people of India. Indeed, Coca Cola contaminates, poisons and devastates everyone it touches in this region.

Coca Colas careless contamination of surrounding soil and water resources has caused not only peoples land to be poisoned but they themselves and their families. The exploitation of ground water resources has resulted in the land drying up to no more than a sandy, dry desert; crops can not be grown because they will simply die and even if they do survive in the soil, there is a lack of water resources to water them. The people in the surrounding villages have also been greatly affected with the lack of water, most notably through the lack of drinking water. All of these factors have contributed to illness and disease; little or no water and food and the water and food they do salvage have been poisoned by Coca Cola. Another issue is that due to failed crops caused by the now infertile soil many local farmers are unemployed, this would clearly have a devastating effect on the farmer and his/her family. The exploitative nature of Coca Cola in India has been increasingly coming under pressure and put on the spotlight from anti Coca Cola groups, especially Killer Coke [39]. Indeed universities and schools throughout Europe and the US have refused to sell their brand due to Coca Colas behaviour. More importantly the people in the small Indian villages are taking a stand against them with marches and protests and 24 hour vigils outside the bottling plants. Coca Cola is increasingly becoming more and more unwelcome in India. It can therefore be suggested Coca Cola has had a mostly negative impact on India and it has well and truly overstayed its welcome.