Talk:Coca-Cola Company

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Coca-Cola World War II Controversy

Before and during World War II, Coca-Cola adopted an apparent policy of ignoring the practice of eugenics and anti-Semitism by Nazi Germany, according to a 2000 book by Mark Pendergrast. Several of the company's top executives in Germany were prominent members of the National Socialist German Workers Party. When the United States entered World War II, Coke began to represent itself as a patriotic drink by providing free drinks for soldiers of the United States Army.[1]

The United States Army permitted Coca-Cola employees to enter the front lines as "Technical Officers" when in reality they rarely if ever came close to a real battle. Instead, they operated Coke's system of providing refreshments for soldiers, who welcomed the beverage as a reminder of home. As the Allies of World War II advanced, so did Coke, which took advantage of the situation by establishing new franchises in the newly occupied countries. Coca-Cola set up bottling plants in several locations overseas to assure the drink's availability to soldiers, setting the stage for the company's post-war overseas expansion. The popularity of the drink exploded as American soldiers returned home from the war with a taste for the drink.[1]

Coca-Cola Global Issues

Colombia

According to a lawsuit, members and leaders of the Colombian union Sinaltrainal working at Coca-Cola bottling factories in Colombia found themselves increasingly threatened, intimidated, tortured and killed by paramilitary squads working in collusion with factory managers and the government. Unable to achieve decent working conditions under this growing threat, Sinaltrainal requested the United Steelworkers Union to file suit in America against Coca-Cola.

On March 31, 2003, US District Judge Jose E. Martinez found enough evidence to continue the case, filed by Sinaltrainal and five workers against Coca-Cola Company, Coca-Cola Columbia and the bottling companies Panamaco and Bebidas y Alimentos in Southern Federal District of Florida Courts, under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act. The court found the Colombian government complicit with paramilitary groups that headed the intimidation activities, giving "state action", which allows the international law claim to proceed. The court, however, dismissed charges against Coca-Cola Company or Coca-Cola Colombia, holding only the bottling companies accountable to the allegations. It should be noted the paramilitary groups working with the bottling companies had been designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department.[citation needed]

India

Stung by a series of controversies, in late 2003, the Indian subsidiary of Coca-Cola hired Perfect Relations to help rebuild its damaged reputation and sales in ten states.[2] The newly contracted PR specialists have so far successfully managed to play down protests concerning the wider availability of 'Coca-Cola' in some areas than of clean drinking water. The company has a contract handling "all external communications in addition to the regular marketing activities" as well as close cooperation with the company's advertising agency, McCann-Erickson India.

A Press Trust of India report cited Bobby Kewalramani stating, "in Coke, we have bagged one of the largest accounts in the history of PR in India. We have to help Coke ensure that its image as a market leader is consistent with reality."

One of the first initiatives of Coca-Cola India was to establish an 'independent' external advisory board. At the conclusion of its first advisory board meeting in December 2003, Coca-Cola India announced that it had decided to establish an India Environment Council chaired by one of the advisory committee members, former chief justice of India B.N. Kirpal. [1] The establishment of the council was developed as a strategy to deflect media attention onto corporate social responsibility initiatives and away from controversies involving the company.[3] Coca-Cola India President, Sanjiv Gupta told PR Week that Perfect Relations was appointed in October 2003 to assist with the formation of the council. According to PR Week the initiative follows media reports "about Coca-Cola India paying former Miss Universe and Thumbs Up (Coca-Cola India's local brand) brand endorser Sushmita Sen Rs 1.45 crore (US$315,000) to stay silent over an alleged sexual harassment case against its marketing head, Shripad Nadkarni."

According to PR Week story the company has stated that the settlement of the contract and unrelated to the allegations. "There seems to be continuity in negative reports, getting published in media here. So this is a very critical issue. And hence such community-led initiatives are important in building public opinion," PR Week cited an anonymous source stating.

In August 2003, the Centre for Science and Environment had announced that a dozen drinks, produced by both Coca-Cola and Pepsi, contained unacceptably high levels of pesticides. However, if the formation of the advisory committee was designed to deflect attention, it was of little help when two days after its first meeting the Kerala high court ordered the company to stop extracting groundwater for its bottling plant near Plachimada village. The ruling followed a 608 day long protest by local villagers who complained the water extraction by Coca-Cola was so great it was drying their rice paddies out and killing their coconut palms. [4][5]

China (2008 Olympics)

At the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, Coca-Cola debuted its film "Environmental Champions" at the Beijing Olympics complex. The film profiles the "environmental achievements" of seven participants in the Olympic Torch Relay, including "the first American male to ski to the South Pole." Coke "plans to leverage the ... film beyond the Olympics by making it available to field communications teams throughout the world," according to Dwyer's. Coke also "presented each Olympian [with] a Coca-Cola t-shirt made with blended cotton and PET [an easily-recycled material] plastic bottles," and each Paralympian with "visors made with recycled PET." The Olympics events were part of Coke's efforts, supported by PR firm Manning, Selvage & Lee, to present itself as a "green" company. [6]

Canada

After students at two Canadian universities, McMaster and the University of Guelph, voted down campus exclusivity deals with Coca-Cola, "the world's largest soft-drink company has launched a counter-offensive in hopes of heading off further boycotts." In December 2005, Coke reps visited McMaster and the University of British Columbia. Coke PR coordinator Kerry Kerr stressed that "these boycotts are actually affecting workers in the local area" and said allegations that the company is complicit in human rights violations in Colombia are false.[7]

Coke's PR manager in Colombia, Pablo Largacha Escallon, also took part in the Canadian tour. "There is a humanitarian crisis in Colombia, but [student activists] have made it a Coca-Cola-centric thing when it's a Colombia-centric thing," he said. Coke has also "recently hired a labour-relations director and plans to issue a human-rights policy next year." [2]

As of December 2005, 20 North American campuses were "Coke free," but "hundreds more could follow suit soon in England," reported Associated Press. [3] In early 2007, Britain's Manchester University banned Coke from its campus, "because of its behavior in Colombia, Turkey and India. ... 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." [4]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Mark Pendergrast, For God, Country and Coca-Cola, Basic Books, ISBN 0465054684, 2000
  2. Perfect Relations signed on to rebuild Coke brand image, "Indiatelevision.com", 6 October 2003.
  3. [5]
  4. Hold the water, Coca-Cola told in India, "Asia Times"
  5. Coca-Cola plant must stop draining water, "Guardian.co.uk"
  6. "MS&L Carries 'Green' Torch for Coke," O'Dwyer's PR Daily (sub req'd), August 20, 2008.
  7. (sub req'd)