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Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Update June 14, 2007

Contents of This Newsletter

  1. Coke Further Undermines Colombian Investigation
  2. Irresponsible Marketing Ploy #1: Coke Further Undermines Teen Health
  3. Irresponsible Marketing Ploy #2: Iron vs. Sugar/Aspartame, Phosphoric Acid, Caffeine
  4. WWF + Coke = Greenwashing

1. Coke Further Undermines Colombian Investigation

"Employers led by a Coca-Cola executive [Ed Potter] stopped the International Labour Organisation examining violations of workplace rights in Colombia..."

The Sydney Morning Herald, June 6, 2007

It has once again become painfully clear that The Coca-Cola Co. and Ed Potter, Coke's Director of Global Labor Relations, continue to use the International Labor Organization of the United Nations (ILO) to undermine any efforts to hold Coke bottlers in Colombia accountable for widespread labor and human rights abuses, including the systematic intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders. These abuses are highlighted in lawsuits filed against Coca-Cola and its Colombian bottlers in 2001 and 2006.

Through the machinations of Potter, the ILO is being used to serve the interests of Coca-Cola. Rather than working to get an investigation, Ed Potter appears to be working to shield Colombia and Coca-Cola from any real scrutiny at a time when Colombia, President Uribe, and multinational corporations have been under fire for links to paramilitary death squads.

Most recently, The Sydney Morning Herald [June 6, 2007] reported: "Employers led by a Coca-Cola executive [Ed Potter] stopped the International Labour Organisation examining violations of workplace rights in Colombia..."

The non-profit, non-partisan Center for Media and Democracy wrote on the same day: "After the International Labour Organisation included Australia on a list of 25 countries of concern for their labour standards, the Australian government lashed out. The Minister for Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey, claimed that the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) had lobbied to have Australia included at the expense of listing Colombia, where many labor officials have been assassinated.

"However, the ACTU's international officer, Alison Tate, said that while the international unions had Colombia at the top of their list, it was effectively vetoed by the representatives from the International Organisation of Employers (IOE). Tate told The Sydney Morning Herald that the IOE representative in the negotiations was The Coca-Cola Company's Director of Global Labour relations, Ed Potter..."

Since March 2006, The Coca-Cola Co., its CEO, Neville Isdell and Ed Potter have repeatedly lied about the ILO commitment to do an investigation of Coke's past and present labor practices in Colombia in order to shed light on allegations of widespread human rights abuses by its bottlers. They have claimed that the ILO is doing an "investigation of past and present labor relations and workers' rights practices of the Coca-Cola bottling operations in Colombia." However, ILO officials have completely contradicted Coke's assertions that it is doing such an investigation - "the ILO is not conducting an investigation, but is doing an assessment of current working conditions," not of past labor relations practices, according to an official at the ILO.

At the Coca-Cola shareholders meeting in April 2006, Isdell responded to a question asked by Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Director Ray Rogers regarding ILO's officials' contradictions of Coke's claims: "We have a document from the ILO, signed by the ILO," Isdell replied, "committing themselves to do exactly what you said...We have a document. We have an agreement, and they are going to investigate past and prior practices."

On April 10, 2006, then-President of Coca-Cola North America Donald Knauss wrote a letter to University of Michigan Executive Vice President a & CFO Tim Slottow, in which he said: "...the IUF announced that it requested the International Labor Organization to investigate and evaluate past and present labor relations and workers' rights practices of the Coca-Cola bottling operations in Colombia...Our Company supports the IUF in this effort and, in fact, sent our own request for an investigation to the ILO...On March 24 [2006], the ILO agreed to conduct the investigation and evaluation and is beginning the process of finalizing its scope, protocol and timing."

Within one day of receiving this letter from Coke, Slottow decided to bring Coke products back to the campus in spite of a strong campaign by a coalition of student groups that was successful in getting the University of Michigan to dump Coke.

On April 10, 2007, the Michigan Daily reported that all the deadlines set by the University of Michigan for March 2007 were missed by The Coca-Cola Co. Those deadlines were for assessments of the conditions for Coke workers in Colombia and environmental issues in India.

On April 30, 2007, investigation results were to be reported to the university. This could not be done, since no investigation has occurred.

Even if the ILO were doing an investigation into Coke's past and present labor practices in Colombia, it could not be considered unbiased. Ed Potter is himself a member of the ILO's Applications of Conventions and Recommendations Committee. For many years, he has been and currently acts as the head spokesperson for the entire Employers' Group, a powerful role within the ILO structure that allows him to promote the interests of big business and Coca-Cola, in particular.

It should be noted that Potter was involved earlier, in 2005, in the creation of a "Commission" consisting of representatives of major universities and prominent worker rights advocacy organizations that were trying to develop a methodology for evaluating how or whether Coca-Cola's Colombian bottlers worked with paramilitary death squads. When the commission asserted its independence by kicking Mr. Potter out, so it could then be truly independent, Coca-Cola began backing away from and creating reasons to delay and obstruct any meaningful investigation.

Finally, Mr. Potter insisted that Coke couldn't participate at all in an investigation process unless the attorneys who sued the company agreed that any evidence of Coke's abuses could not be used in their lawsuits. The lawyers refused this demand since compliance would require them to violate the rules of legal ethics, something Mr. Potter knew. Whether such a demand by Coke indicates its guilt is a legitimate question.

The so-called ILO investigation still hasn't occurred. If the ILO ever does anything, it will be exactly what Coca-Cola and Potter wanted all along: a blatantly biased evaluation that will ignore past abuses and will not hold the company accountable in any meaningful way.

Any comments or questions, email: or call: (718) 852-2808.

2. Irresponsible Marketing Ploy #1: Coke Further Undermines Teen Health

During the past week, articles appeared in the press regarding Coke's decision to create a "virtual teenager hangout like MySpace and Facebook... on cellphones" to "lure more youngsters to its sodas and flavored drinks" according to The Wall Street Journal. The New York Times covered the subject in "A thirst for Sprite in teen cellphone users."

And Denis Sison, Sprite Global Brand Director stated in "Coca-Cola in a fizz about Sprite Yard, Monsters & Critics: "We know that when it comes to reaching teens, mobile is the medium. This program will enable us to connect with teens by putting Sprite both in their hand and in their phone."

This is another effort by The Coca-Cola Co. to aggressively market to youth nutritionally worthless and damaging soft drinks that health experts point out fuel the obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes epidemic in young people.

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 7, 2006; "A study by researchers at Children's Hospital in Boston, published in March [2006] by the journal Pediatrics, found that teens ages 13 to 18 who drank one 12-ounce sweetened drink each day — such as a soda, sports drink or lemonade — in addition to their regular diet gained an average of 1 pound every 3 to 4 weeks. Nutritionists also note that most sugary drinks lack calcium, vitamins and other nutrients." This is yet another contribution of Coke to obesity and poor health in young people.

3. Irresponsible Marketing Ploy #2: Iron vs. Sugar/Aspartame, Phosphoric Acid, Caffeine

In another effort to fool young people and their parents that Coca-Cola is good for them, "Coca-Cola has enlisted scientific researchers in a bid to convince the world that it is actually a health drink. Despite its long and troubled association with poor diet and dental-hygiene problems, the sweet, fizzy beverage is being analysed as a possible health drink to combat anaemia...," according to a British publication, The Independent [June 10, 2007].

"Professor Susan Fairweather-Tait, who is leading the trial, said: 'It is driven by public health needs. There is a global programme to eradicate iron deficiency anaemia, and the reason we are doing this is that we need to find easy ways to help people absorb more iron...Coke may not have the image of being a health food, but it may well do some good.' "

This seems to be another marketing ploy playing Russian Roulette with young people's health. Even if it could be shown that the ingestion of food with Coke could help absorb iron, the ill effects of Coke's phosphoric acid, sugar/high fructose corn syrup (or aspartame in Diet Coke) and caffeine would far outweigh any benefits. These types of marketing ploys by Coke are totally irresponsible.

4. WWF + Coke = Greenwashing

Coca-Cola and the World Wildlife Fund have announced their partnership with full-page ads in The New York Times, "Water sustains us. Conservation unites us." In the ads, the new partners state: "Although water is one of the earth's most plentiful natural resources, less than 1% is available fresh water. Today, over 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and water shortages threaten thousands of animals and habitats that could be lost forever."

Why then, does this company use so much of this necessary natural resource to produce and provide to the world nutritionally unhealthy and dangerous products? And if these partners are so concerned about our environment, how will they solve the problem of billions of plastic soda and water bottles filling up landfills and helping to create an environmental crisis.

At the 2005 Coke shareholders meeting, Polaris Institute's Tony Clarke addressed the issue of plastic bottles used for Coke's products and Coke's connection with Dow Chemical and the plastics industry. He noted that these bottles are made up of a combination of fossil fuels and toxic chemicals. They get thrown away and end up in landfills where they seep into the ground water systems and contribute to greenhouse gases and climate change. The leeching from the plastic and chemicals back into the water may create liability issues that The Coca-Cola Co. must address.

Below are a number of articles questioning the honesty of both Coke and the World Wildlife Fund:

Center for Media and Democracy/Environmental News Service, "WWF Greenwashes Coca-Cola," June 5, 2007
Read Article
"WWF, the corporate-funded environmental giant often accused of taking greenbacks in return for greenwashing its corporate benefactors, strikes again."

OneWorld U.S., "Coke Faces New Charges in India, Including 'Greenwashing'," By Aaron Glantz, June 7, 2007
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"The Coca-Cola company has been charged with illegally seizing lands communally owned by small farmers and indiscriminately dumping sludge and other industrial hazardous waste onto the surrounding community.

" 'The Coca-Cola company and WWF did not dare to include India in this initiative (because) the public in India is increasingly becoming aware of the Coca-Cola company's disastrous relationship with water, and would have to see it for what it's worth — a drop in the bucket,' he [Amit Srivastava] told OneWorld."

Polaris Institute, "The Polaris Institute's Statement at The Coca-Cola Company's Annual General Meeting"
Read About Greenwashing Award
"On behalf of the Corporate Greenwashing Award Selection Committee, I would like to present The Coca-Cola Company with the first ever corporate Greenwashing Award.

"This award is presented to corporations that have pushed revenue and profits higher while putting millions of dollars into covering up environmentally and socially damaging practices using corporate social responsibility projects.

"...we were able to select The Coca-Cola Company as the company that has worked the hardest this year to fool the public that it is an upstanding corporate citizen."

Polaris Institute, "Coca-Cola Company wins Corporate Greenwashing Award"
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" 'After careful consideration, the Coca-Cola Company stood out as the company that has worked the hardest this year to present itself as socially and environmentally responsible - while continuing to harm environments and communities through the production and distribution of its products,' says Verda Cook, Campaigns Coordinator at the Polaris Institute.", "The Greenwashing Of America," by Philip Mattera, 6/7/07
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"...some companies began to infiltrate the environmental movement itself by contributing to the more moderate groups and getting spots on their boards...In fact, we shouldn't be joining any company's environmental initiative. Human activists should be leading the effort to clean up the planet, and corporations should be made to follow our lead."