Coca-Cola Challenged on Human Rights Abuses
violations of human rights and depletion of water resources in Colombia
and India dominated the company's annual general meeting on Tuesday,
April 19 in Wilmington, Delaware.
Close to twenty shareholders spoke on behalf of campaigns from India and
Colombia, and Neville Isdell, chairman and chief executive of Coca-Cola,
resorted to ending the meeting rather than hear from fifteen more
shareholders who were still waiting to speak.
The shareholders inside Coca-Cola's shareholder meeting were joined by a
loud group of protesters outside the meeting venue, with signs and
banners proclaiming "Coca-Cola: Stop De-Hydrating the World" and
"Coca-Cola: Destroying Lives, Livelihoods and Communities."
Coca-Cola's crimes in India and Colombia were referred to in the opening
statement of the meeting to placate the shareholders present but it was
far from what was being sought by the speakers. Speaker after speaker
kept on highlighting Coca-Cola's financial and legal liabilities as a
result of their actions in Colombia and India, and were also critical of
the largely public relations moves by the company to address the serious
"The Coca-Cola company management is misleading it shareholders by not
revealing the real extent of the liabilities it has incurred in India
and Colombia. It is pulling an 'Enron'", said Amit Srivastava of the
India Resource Center.
The campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable for its crimes in India and
Colombia has gained significant momentum in the last year, and the
presence of the large number of speakers at the shareholders meeting was
indicative of how widely the campaign has spread, particularly on
college and university campuses, as well as with trade unionists.
Even as Coca-Cola officials were trying to deal with the scores of
protesters at its meeting, the campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable
was producing damning results for the company.
The Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan, New York, a graduate school
of theology which trains students to be ministers in the Christian
faith, just announced on Tuesday that it was banning the sale of
Coca-Cola products on its campus.
In India, a new campaign was announced in Gangaikondan, in the southern
state of Tamil Nadu, against a Coca-Cola bottling plant under
And a massive rally is planned in Plachimada, Kerala on April 22, where
Coca-Cola's bottling plant has remained shut down for over a year
because the village council has refused to renew Coca-Cola's license to
operate. April 22 marks the third year anniversary of a constant vigil
that the community members have kept outside the factory gates, and two
key groups in the area, the Anti Coca-Cola Struggle Committee and the
Plachimada Solidarity Committee, have announced that the Coca-Cola
factory will never be allowed to re-open.
A division bench of the High Court of Kerala ruled on April 7 that
Coca-Cola could extract up to five hundred thousand liters of water per
day, under normal rainfall conditions, in Plachimada. It instructed the
village council to seek the necessary permits within 15 days and
reconsider the granting of a license to Coca-Cola.
However, the health minister of Kerala, K.K. Ramachandran, has stated
that the State Pollution Control Board will not issue a permit to
Coca-Cola, making it extremely unlikely that the plant can re-open.
The village council will also be appealing the ruling to the Supreme
Court of India.