However, the company came in for severe criticism from activists and environmental experts who charged it with depleting groundwater resources in the areas in which its bottling plants were located, thereby affecting the livelihood of poor farmers, dumping toxic and hazardous waste materials near its bottling facilities, and discharging waste water into the agricultural lands of farmers. Moreover, its allegedly unethical business practices in developing countries led to its becoming one of the most boycotted companies in the world.
Notwithstanding the criticisms, the company continued to champion various initiatives such as rainwater harvesting, restoring groundwater resources, going in for sustainable packaging and recycling, and serving the communities where it operated. Coca-Cola planned to become water neutral in India by 2009 as part of its global strategy of achieving water neutrality. However, criticism against the company refused to die down. Critics felt that Coca-Cola was spending millions of dollars to project a 'green' and 'environment-friendly' image of itself, while failing to make any change in its operations. They said this was an attempt at greenwashing as Coca-Cola's business practices in India had tarnished its brand image not only in India but also globally. The case discusses the likely challenges for Coca-Cola India as it prepares to implement its new CSR strategy
Overexploitation and pollution of water sources in India.
Of the 200 countries where Coca-Cola is sold, India reportedly has the fastest-growing market, but the adverse environmental impacts of its operations there have subjected the parent company and its local bottlers to a firestorm of criticism and protest. There has been a growing outcry against Coca-Cola's production practices in India, which are draining out vast amounts of public groundwater and turning farming communities into virtual deserts. Suicide rates among Indian farmers whose livelihoods are being destroyed are growing at an alarming rate. Every day for years there has been some form of protest, from large demonstrations to small vigils, against Coca-Cola's abuses in India. On Jan. 18, 2004, more than 500 protesters, including about 150 residents who live near Coke's bottling facilities in India, marched and rallied to condemn the company. At the time, according to Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, (For more information on Coca-Cola's crimes in India, go to the site of the India Resource Center.) "Three communities in India — Plachimada in Kerala, Wada in Maharashtra and Mehdiganj in Uttar Pradesh — are experiencing severe water shortages as a result of Coca-Cola's mining of the majority of the common groundwater resources around its facilities. Coke's indiscriminate dumping of waste water into the ground has polluted the scarce water that remains. In Sivagangai, Tamil Nadu, residents are opposing a proposed Coca-Cola facility because of fears that they too will face water shortages and pollution." "The Indian Parliament has banned the sale of Coke and Pepsi products in its cafeteria," Srivastava added. "The parliamentarians should take the next logical step, and ban the sale of Coke and Pepsi products in the entire country." He said the ban came as a result of tests by the Indian government and private laboratories which found high concentrations of pesticides and insecticides in the colas, making them unfit for consumption. "Some samples tested showed the presence of these toxins to be more than 30 times the standard allowed by the European Union. Tests of samples taken from the U.S. of the same drinks were found to be safe," he said. "It is only a matter of time before the Coca-Cola company will be held financially and criminally liable for their operations in...