University Suspends Business with Coca-Cola for Crimes in India, Colombia

For Immediate Release
December 30, 2005

Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +1 415 336 7584 E: info@IndiaResource.org
Clara Hardie, Student Coalition to Cut Contracts with Coca-Cola +1 906 869-4449

San Francisco (December 30, 2005): The University of Michigan has suspended its business relationship with the Coca-Cola company because of the company's egregious human rights and environmental practices in India and Colombia.

In a letter dated December 29, the university noted that the Coca-Cola company had failed to agree to a protocol for an investigation into issues in India and Colombia, and that the University of Michigan "temporarily suspend(s) University purchasing of Coca-Cola products beginning January 1, 2006."

"We welcome the move by the University of Michigan to cease doing business with a company that engages in flagrant human rights and environmental violations, and this will send a strong message to the Coca-Cola company that it must clean up its act," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization that worked closely with student organizations at the University of Michigan to make the case against Coca-Cola.

In response to student concerns over Coca-Cola's abuses in India and Colombia, the University of Michigan had convened a Dispute Review Board (DRB), an advisory body comprising of students, faculty and administrators to look into the issues in India and Colombia. After deliberating for 10 months, the DRB recommended in June 2005 that the Coca-Cola company be placed on probation. The DRB also laid out a series of benchmarks that the Coca-Cola company would have to meet in order to show that it was acting in good faith to solve the problems in India and Colombia, including agreeing to an independent, third party investigation into issues in India and Colombia.

While welcoming the move by the University of Michigan, students and campaigners also saw the need for continued scrutiny of the company as well as the university administration.

"The campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable is far from over, and we will continue to fight to ensure that the University of Michigan administration is moving in the right direction, and putting Coca-Cola on notice that this suspension can lead to expulsion if they fail to act in good faith," said Clara Hardie, a key student leader at the University of Michigan.

The Coca-Cola company has insisted that it is working in good faith in resolving the issues in India, an assertion that is viewed skeptically in India and internationally. The company is accused of employing public relations maneuvers to deal with the issues, instead of genuine operational changes.

The Coca-Cola company is the target of numerous community-led campaigns in India, accusing the company of creating severe water shortages and pollution.

One of Coca-Cola's largest bottling plants in India remains shut down since March 2004 in Plachimada because the local community refuses to allow it to operate, citing the plant for creating severe water shortages and pollution in the area, leading to severe hardships for the community. There are regular demonstrations against the company's operations all across India, the most recent being in Rajasthan where over 1,500 people marched on December 12 demanding the closure of the factory, and another march with close to 1,000 people in Uttar Pradesh on November 30th. More protests have been planned for 2006 in January and February.

The suspension of Coca-Cola's contracts by the University of Michigan is a major victory for the international campaign to hold Coca-Cola company accountable, and strong student campaigns also exist in other colleges and universities in the US and UK to cancel Coca-Cola's contracts.

"We are putting the Coca-Cola company of notice. It will continue to lose lucrative contracts with more colleges and universities until it cleans up its act in India," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center.

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org


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