LOS ANGELES – The Coca-Cola company has been charged with illegally seizing lands communally owned by small farmers and indiscriminately dumping sludge and other industrial hazardous waste onto the surrounding community. This comes as the multinational beverage giant announced a new effort Tuesday to protect rivers on four continents.
The San Francisco-based
The charges are based on the results of a fact-finding mission led by the group to a Coca-Cola bottling plant in the region.
‘Access to potable water is a fundamental human right,’ said Amit Srivastava of the
‘The Coca-Cola company must acknowledge that it is part of the problem of water unsustainability in
This is not the first time environmental groups have criticized Coke’s operations in
In 2003, in response to a growing campaign against Coca-Cola, the Central Pollution Control Board of India surveyed eight Coca-Cola bottling plants in the country and tested the sludge at all these facilities. The Board found all the sludge at all the Coca-Cola bottling plants it surveyed contained high levels of toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and chromium. At the time, it ordered the Coca-Cola company to treat its sludge as industrial hazardous waste.
Those toxic problems, coupled with allegations Coke has been complicit in the murders of union organizers at bottling plants in the South American nation of
In the last six months, 25 universities from the
On May 29, the president of
‘In light of Coca-Cola’s business practices in
Coke vehemently denies the charges.
‘The allegations that led to this decision are based on Internet rumor and myth, and have been proven false time and again,’ Coke spokesperson Diana Garza Ciarlante told New Dehli-based Indo-Asian News Service.
‘While our business relationship with
On Tuesday, the soft drink giant announced its own environmental plan, pledging to spend $20 million to conserve seven of the world’s most critical river basins.
Right now, it takes 2.5 liters of water to make and bottle 1 liter of Coke, and 250 liters to grow the sugar cane in the mix.
‘We are focusing on water because this is where Coca-Cola can have a real and positive impact,’ Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO E. Neville Isdell told a gathering of environmental advocates.
The pledge was announced at the annual meeting of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in
‘We call this “greenwashing,” said Srivastava of the
Coke’s announcement did not mention any measures to conserve water basins in
‘The Coca-Cola company and WWF did not dare to include India in this initiative (because) the public in India is increasingly becoming aware of the Coca-Cola company’s disastrous relationship with water, and would have to see it for what it’s worth – a drop in the bucket,’ he told OneWorld.
The deal also rubs
‘In itself it’s a good thing, but we see it as largely a tactic to divert attention from other areas,’ Patti Lynn of the watchdog group Corporate Accountability told OneWorld.
‘Coke is just trying to get some public relations points. They’re using this as a diversionary tactic,’ she added.
Lynn and other U.S.-based consumer advocates are angry because of the foray that Coca-Cola has made into the bottled water market.
From the 1970s to 2000, Corporate Accountability says, the annual volume of bottled water purchased and sold in the
‘Tap water is better regulated, and often safer,’ said
Lynn pointed to a 1999 study by the National Resources Defense Council on bottled water sold in the United States, which found traces of arsenic, chloroform, and other impurities; chemicals that would be illegal if found in tap water.
Coca-Cola spent $1.7 billion on advertising last year. In
According to the Washington, DC-based Earth Policy Institute, consumers spend about $100 billion on bottled water each year. By comparison, experts estimate that just $15 billion per year, above and beyond what is already spent, could bring reliable and lasting access to safe drinking water to half a billion people worldwide – fully half of those who lack it.
‘The way that Coke, Pepsi, and Nestle have marketed bottled water has had the effect of undermining people’s confidence in tap water and contributed to a broad societal shift,’