University of Minnesota Pays Attention to Coca-Cola Scrutiny
Coca-Cola Representatives Informed Us of Steps Coca-Cola Has
As noted in recent Daily editorials, columns and letters to the editor
there have been a number of allegations made against Coca-Cola Enterprises
and affiliated companies regarding their practices in several countries.
The majority of these allegations relate to either labor practices
or environmental issues.
Our neighbor, Macalester College, was recently in the news as a committee
forwarded a recommendation to the president of the college to ban
Coca-Cola products. At several other colleges and universities, including
the University of Michigan, New York University and Rutgers, the State
University of New Jersey, various actions have been taken in response
to these allegations.
In response to some of the allegations against Coca-Cola, the Minnesota
Student Association passed a resolution at the end of last semester
asking that the University's administration inquire into these allegations.
In response to MSA's request, the University formed a working group
to review the allegations made against Coca-Cola in various parts
of the world, including Colombia, India and Turkey.
So far, the group has reviewed documents, consulted with other institutions
and has met with representatives of Coca-Cola. We anticipate completing
this review by the start of the fall semester. When the review is
complete the information gathered will be shared with students through
the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and MSA, and with the
greater campus community through existing University consultative
Members of the administrative work group also are working with MSA
and GAPSA to plan an educational public forum. The primary purpose
is to provide education about these matters from several points of
view. In addition, the forum will provide a place for public discussion
and the expression of views from all sides.
At our meeting with Coca-Cola representatives, they informed us of
several steps Coca-Cola has taken to respond to some of the allegations
against them, which we thought would be of interest to the University
community. At the request of Coca-Cola and a federation of labor organizations,
the United Nations International Labour Organization has agreed to
conduct an independent, third-party investigation of human rights
abuse allegations in Colombia.
The ILO was founded in 1919 and is dedicated to the promotion of social
justice and human and labor rights. Coca-Cola also recently committed
to engage in the United Nations Global Compact. The focus areas of
the Global Compact include human rights, labor rights, protection
of the environment and anti-corruption.
The University has enjoyed a good business relationship with Coca-Cola
that has provided many benefits to the University and the community.
Under its contract with the University, Coca-Cola has provided extensive
support for student activities and our academic mission. The contract
with Coca-Cola was entered into in April 1996, and runs until June
Our long-term relationship with Coca-Cola, which has been mutually
beneficial, only underscores the importance of the kind of careful
and deliberate review under way.
Kathleen O'Brien is vice president for University Services. Jerry
Rinehart is vice provost for Student Affairs.
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