Coke Gets CSR Award Amidst Protests
Coca Cola India earned itself a drop of hard-earned joy this week
for its corporate social responsibility initiatives in the form of
the Golden Peacock award for CSR for 2008.
But the award which cites its work in water management comes just
a few weeks after it had received advice from The Energy Research
Institute or TERI run by R K Pachauri to shut down its bottling plant
in Kaladera, Nabipur and Mehdiganj in Rajasthan saying that these
were bringing down ground water levels at an alarming scale.
The company has been receiving negative publicity ever since the report
was released on January 14 for the 600-page study which was commissioned
by the company itself.
The report was supposed to help the company regain credibility but
it has backfired, say activists of the Plachimada Solidarity Council.
The report says that in Mehdiganj, the water tables have been depleting
and the aquifer may move from a safe to semi critical condition,''
the report says.
About another bottling plant in Nabipur in Rajasthan, the report says
that the state of the aquifer has already moved from critical to over-exploited
It questions the location of a bottling plant in Kaladera where the
ground water is already over-exploited and says that the best option
would be to close the plant. The report surveyed six of Coke's 60
facilities in India.
The company's CEO for India division, Atul Singh has been quoted defending
the Kaladera plant, saying that closing a plant is the easiest thing
to do and that was not the solution, the International herald Tribune
Deepak Jolly, vice-president, Public Affairs and communications, who
went to Portugal to receive the Golden Peacock says that the TERI
report does not blame Coke for the lowering of the water levels.
"It doesn't blame us even once, he says. It blames the farmers and
agriculture, he says.
And he adds: "It also does not even once suggest that we should pack
up and leave those areas. It says that there are four or five options
for bring up the water levels and if nothing is possible then alone
we should go. These options are helping farmers with reducing water
consumption, or creation of ponds, and so on. Anything but closure."
Asked if Coke is now going to get all the farmers at the sites to
reduce water consumption, he says demonstration is being done for
Jolly feels that leaving a place because water levels were low is
not at all an obvious thing to do.
"Droughts and floods are normal. We have to find solutions. That is
what we are doing all the time," he says.
He says that Coke should be given credit for being transparent. "Which
company would commission a 600-page study on its own plants and then
put it on its website?" he asks.
Describing his company's position on its notorious consumption of
water, Jolly said: "For us the glass is half full, while for an activist
it would be half empty. He then corrects himself to say: "For us it
is 9/10th of a glass."
Speaking about the award instituted by World Council for Corporate
Governance, UK, Jolly says that it was in recognition of the company's
work in water management.
Our whole objective is to put back what we take away, and this we
are doing with 320 rain water harvesting structures, restoration of
many traditional ponds and wells and building of check-dams.
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