PRESS: Coke's Liabilities Increase in India, Shareholders Told
For Immediate Release
April 16, 2008
Contact: Amit Srivastava, India Resource
Center +1 415 336 7584
Wilmington, USA (April 16, 2008): Coca-Cola shareholders should be
extremely concerned that the Coca-Cola company continues to increase
its liabilities in India by engaging in unethical practices, shareholders
were told at the Coca-Cola annual general meeting in Wilmington today.
A recent study funded by Coca-Cola confirmed that the company's bottling
plants contribute to severe water shortages around some of its bottling
plants in India. The report also recommended the closure of a bottling
plant in Kala Dera in Rajasthan and cautioned Coca-Cola on the declining
water tables in Mehdiganj in Uttar Pradesh.
"The Coca-Cola company management is doing a great disservice to its
shareholders by hiding the real extent of the liabilities the company
has incurred in India and it will come back to haunt them. The longer
the shareholders wait to seriously address the concerns in India,
the greater the liability," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource
Center who attended the meeting and spoke on behalf of the campaigns
One of Coca-Cola's largest bottling plants in India - in Plachimada
in Kerala - has been shut down since March 2004 because Coca-Cola
is unable to obtain the necessary environmental clearances.
Communities campaigning against Coca-Cola in India have vowed to hold
the company financially and criminally liable for the damages. The
state of Kerala is also mulling criminal charges against the company
for destroying water resources and pollution.
"Coca-Cola's own report as well as government studies have confirmed
what we have been saying all along - that the company has worsened
the water crisis for thousands of people," said Nandlal Master of
Lok Samiti which coordinates the community campaign against Coca-Cola
"Coca-Cola must cease its bottling operations in Mehdiganj and compensate
the thousands of farmers who have lost their livelihoods as a result
of declining water tables courtesy Coca-Cola," he continued.
"What other confirmation does Coca-Cola need to shut down the plant
in Kala Dera?" asked Rameshwar Kudi of the Kala Dera Sangharsh Samiti,
the local group that has led the campaign for the plant's closure.
"Continuing to operate the plant even after its own study has found
the company guilty of worsening water shortages is criminal, and we
will make sure that Coca-Cola pays heavily for the damages it has
The report released in January 2008 was conducted by the Energy and
Resources Institute (TERI) and was a scathing indictment of Coca-Cola's
operations in India, particularly on water management.
The Coca-Cola company was forced to agree to an assessment of its
operations as a result of campaign efforts at the University of Michigan
which demanded the assessment for continuing business with Coca-Cola.
It should be noted that at last year's AGM, Coca-Cola company management
had recommended a vote against a resolution which called for a "report
on the potential environmental and public health damage from its plants
in India." The resolution did not pass.
The Coca-Cola company has responded to the growing opposition against
it in India through a variety of "corporate social responsibility"
initiatives, although the vast majority do not deal directly with
the plants being opposed themselves. One of Coca-Cola's often touted
initiatives in India is rainwater harvesting, which the company has
announced with much fanfare as a result of the growing opposition
to its water management practices. The communities' assertion that
such initiatives were just for show and not genuine were confirmed
by the report by TERI, which noted that "all the recharge shafts that
were randomly visited were found to be in dilapidated conditions."
"Coca-Cola's own assessment has shown that the company has acted irresponsibly
by locating many of its bottling plants in India in areas with water
scarcity, and as a result, exacerbating the already existing water
crises in India," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center.
"Even from a dollars and cents perspective, Coca-Cola's practices
in India are plain wrong. It is time for the shareholders to demand
accountability from the Coca-Cola company management."
For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org
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