Coca-Cola Undermines UN Global Compact

Keynote at Leaders Summit Mocks Corporate Social Responsibility

For Immediate Release
July 4, 2007

Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +1 415 336 7584 E: info@IndiaResource.org

San Francisco (July 4, 2007): The inclusion of the Coca-Cola company in the United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit -underway in Geneva on July 5 and 6 - has seriously undermined the credibility and effectiveness of the Global Compact.

The United Nations Global Compact is the world's largest voluntary corporate responsibility initiative with a goal to create a "more sustainable and inclusive global economy".

The Coca-Cola company, which continues to violate a number of the UN Global Compact principles in its operations in India, is set to deliver a keynote address at the Leaders Summit, making a mockery of corporate social responsibility.

The Coca-Cola company has been accused by communities in India of draining precious water resources as well as polluting the land and water, and one of Coca-Cola's largest bottling plants in India has been shut down since March 2004 as a result.

A growing international campaign to hold the company accountable for its abuses in India has resulted in the company being removed from over 20 colleges and universities in the US, UK and Canada. The company has also been dropped from the socially responsible investment fund of TIAA-CREF, the largest pension fund in the world.

The Coca-Cola company joined the Global Compact only in March 2006 - primarily as a tactic designed to deflect the growing criticism of its operations in India.

"The Coca-Cola company is using the United Nations Global Compact to hide behind its crimes in India," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization that works directly with communities in India.

"Coca-Cola's participation goes against the original intent of the UN Global Compact to create a sustainable and inclusive economy, and an egregious company like Coca-Cola delivering a keynote address at the Leaders Summit is the height of hypocrisy," he continued.

In spite of the growing amount of evidence implicating the Coca-Cola company's operations in India for causing water shortages and pollution, the company has resorted to an extensive pubic relations drive to address the issues in India. Announcing their membership in the UN Global Compact has featured prominently in their public relations drive. This is a far cry from what is being demanded of the company in India.

The Global Compact is based on ten principles - on human rights, environment, workers' rights and transparency-which the companies are expected to follow on a voluntary basis.

The Coca-Cola company has located many of its bottling plants in "drought-prone" areas in India, which have led to a further exacerbation of the already existing water crises in these areas. Government studies in India have confirmed dropping water levels around Coca-Cola's bottling plants. Particularly affected are farmers who live around Coca-Cola's bottling plants, who not only have seen the water resources drying up to meet their basic water needs, but also water for farming.

The company also continues to discharge its waste into the surrounding communities, and government studies have confirmed the poisoning of the land and the water.

Taken together, the increasing scarcity of water and the poisoning of the scarce remaining water and land has had dramatic consequences, leading to the loss of livelihoods for thousands in India.

By destroying natural resources and the local economy, and by causing severe hardships to the community, the Coca-Cola violates a number of Global Compact principles in India.

"The very fact that the Global Compact is voluntary - there are no enforcement mechanisms - is its Achilles Heel. It allows companies with abusive track records to join readily without any genuine attempts to become more socially responsible. It has become a tool for these companies to use the UN to get access to markets, and nothing else," said Srivastava.

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org

The UN Global Compact is at www.unglobalcompact.org


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