Manchester Students Ban Coke in Human Rights Protest
By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent
The Independent
March 10, 2007

Students at Manchester University have banned Coca-Cola in protest at the American company's alleged abuses of human rights and the environment.

A motion banning the company's fizzy drinks from the student union's shops and bars because of its behaviour in Colombia, Turkey and India won overwhelming support at a meeting this week.

The decision, approved by 400 votes to about 20, means the 36,000 undergraduate and postgraduates at one of Britain's biggest universities will now drink Virgin or another cola rather than the world's number one soft drink.

The company is accused of a range of unacceptable actions in Third World countries, including siphoning water from rivers in India for its factories, leaving farmers without crucial irrigation supplies.

The students' ban gives support to a growing campaign to eject Coke from campuses across the UK which is being co-ordinated by an internet group called ukstudentsagainstcoke.

Activists at Oxford, Edinburgh, Bristol, Bradford, Middlesex and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have railed against Coca-Cola in motions presented to their unions.

Students are now expected to call for the National Union of Students to instruct its commercial arm NUS Services to end its supply contract with Coke at its national conference later this month. A similar motion was defeated at an NUS conference recently.

In the motion, the Manchester student union listed a series of allegations made against the company that have been publicised by campaigners, all relating to alleged malpractice in developing countries.

Following its approval on Wednesday, Rob Owen, general secretary of Manchester student union and a member of George Galloway's Respect coalition, said: "The significance of this is that students buy Coke through NUS Supplies and it's one of Coke's biggest customers.

"There's a ban in places like Leeds, SOAS and Sussex, and there's growing pressure to remove Coke at a national level. If that happened, it would be a massive blow to the company not only in public relations terms, but financially."

Manchester's student union - one of the biggest in Europe - will now no longer order Coke for its two shops and five bars and intends to lobby Manchester University to introduce the ban in its bars and restaurants.

Coca-Cola rejects claims it has behaved badly in its global operations. The company is making strong profits in Britain despite obesity fears over the sugar content of its drinks.

Coca-Cola was contacted yesterday but was unavailable for comment.

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