Accountability of Coca-Cola in India

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Mr. Douglas Daft
Chief Executive Officer
The Coca Cola Company
Atlanta, GA

Dear Sir,

We are concerned individuals who consume a variety of Coca-Cola
products. Of late, we have come across of several serious allegations
levelled against Coca-Cola Indian operations. These allegations have
resulted in a loss of confidence among us in the brand of Coca-Cola
and Coca-Cola International as a socially responsible corporate
citizen. We have decide to defer purchasing all Coca-Cola products,
until you are able to restore our confidence in your company by taking
decisive and appropriate action.

Four recent allegations are of particular importance to us:

(i) Allegation that Coca-Cola bottling plants in Plachimada[2] in
Kerala and Mehdiganj[3] in Uttar Pradesh pass on sludge as
fertilizer causing health and environmental damage.

(ii) Allegation that excessive depletion of water table caused by
Coca-Cola bottling operations is resulting in drastically
reduced availability of water for irrigation purposes which is
devastating local communities.[3]

(iii) Allegation that security personnel at Coca-Cola plant at
Mehdiganj used excessive force against unarmed citizens
protesting the damage caused by the manufacturing unit.[4]

(iv) Allegation that Coca-Cola bottled water and drinks manufactured
in New Delhi and Mumbai contained pesticides when tested by
reputed NGO Center for Science and Environment.[1]

The response of Coca-Cola India has been less than satisfactory. For
example, in case of the toxic sludge problem in Kerala, Coca-Cola
India Vice-President Sunil Gupta asserted that the sludge can be used
safely as a fertilizer[2] which was contradicted a few days later by
Coca-Cola India Vice-President (technical) D. S. Mathur who denied
that the the sludge was being used as a fertilizer at all. The
toxicity of the sludge was verified at a European university and the
story was covered by BBC. In case of the pesticide content in the soft
drinks, Indian Government laboratories had mixed results[6] whereas
Coca-Cola India has claimed to have received a clean chit. Our most
serious concern, however, is with the loss of people's livelihood
(without consent or compensation) because of your activities. All this
is compounded by the belligerent attitude and fact distortion through
claims of political vendetta [7].

In light of the inadequate response from Coca-Cola India, we ask for
the following corrective action:

(a) Investigate the claims of ground water depletion at Coca-Cola
bottling plants in India. If found to be true, corrective
action be taken to ensure that the local communities are not
affected, and those affected are properly compensated.

(b) Investigate the sludge-related claims, and if found to be true,
take corrective action at the plant. Further, individuals at
the two locations suffering from health problems attributable
to the sludge must be provided health care and compensation.

(c) Investigate the alleged use of excessive force at Mehdiganj,
and if found to be true, (1) apologize to the protestors
regardless of the your disagreement with the reason for their
protest (2) take action on appropriate manufacturing unit
personnel, (3) provide medical care and compensation for the
victims and finally (4) address the concerns of the protestors.

(d) Test the samples of the soft drinks and bottled water across
India by reputable institutions in India and abroad to assure
us and our families that Coca-Cola products are safe to consume
in India.

We suggest that these investigations be conducted in an impartial way
(possibly in collaboration with a credible third party institution),
and the results along with any follow up action be made public.

Contact Information:

Douglas N. Daft,
The Coca-Cola Company,
One Coca-Cola Plaza,
Atlanta, Georgia 30313
United States of America
Fax: 404-515-7099
Phone: 1-404-676-2121
Email: [email protected]

Sanjiv Gupta,
Coca Cola India
NK Enkay Towers,
Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon, 122106
Fax : 91-124-234 8136
Phone: 91-124-234 8041

Mr.A.K.Antony, Chief Minister
Government of Kerala
Room No:141, IIIrd Floor,
North Block, Secretariat,
Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Tel: +91-471-2333812, 2332184
Fax: +91-471-2333489.
Email: [email protected]

[1] Hard Truths About Soft Drinks

[2] Coca-Cola's 'toxic' India fertiliser

[3] 'Toxic sludge': Coca-Cola on the defensive

[4] Magsaysay winner roughed up, arrested by police in Varanasi,000900010004.htm

[5] Communities Reject Coca-Cola in India

[6] Cola Muddle: CFL Backs CSE Findings

[7] No Water? Drink Coke!