UMich Snaps Coke Tieup

US University Cites Environmental Violations in India, Colombia

Lalit K Jha
Indian Express
January 01, 2006

NEW YORK, DECEMBER 31: In a major blow to Coca-Cola, a prestigious US university has suspended its business relationships with the soft-drink giant for violation of environmental practices in India and Colombia.

The decision of the Michigan University has been welcomed by the green brigade, which had launched a tirade against Coca-Cola in the recent past. In a letter dated December 29, 2005, the university said the soft-drink giant had failed to agree to a protocol for investigation into serious environmental violation issues in India and Colombia.

The university has now decided to ‘‘Temporarily suspend the University’s purchasing of Coca-Cola products beginning January 1, 2006,’’ the letter said. With this Michigan University has become the third American university after Rutgers University and New York University to suspend its business ties with Coca-Cola for almost similar reasons.

The university would resume procurement of Coca-Cola products, the letter said, only if the company agrees on the process of a third-party review of environmental concerns in India and Colombia. The letter reminded Coke that it had agreed in principle to such verification by December 31, but has not been able to keep up its promise.

‘‘We welcome the move. This will send strong message to Coca-Cola that it must clean up its act,’’ said Amit Srivastava of India Resource Centre, which worked closely with student organisations at the University of Michigan.

‘‘The campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable is far from over,’’ added Clara Hardie, a key student leader at the University of Michigan.

In response to student concerns over Coca-Cola’s alleged abuses in India and Colombia, University of Michigan earlier had convened Dispute Review Board to look into the issues in India and Colombia.

After deliberating for about 10 months, the board said in June 2005 that Coca-Cola be placed on probation. It also laid out a series of benchmarks the company would have to meet in order to show it was acting in good faith to solve the problems in India and Colombia, including agreeing to an independent, third party investigation.

The soft-drink giant is target of numerous community-led campaigns in India accusing it of creating severe water shortages and pollution.

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