Coca Cola: Unethical

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In 2006, Coca-Cola made headlines in the United Kingdom for being “banned from students’ union over unethical practices.” The students at Sussex University have decided that they can make a difference in exposing Coca-Cola for their unethical practices, unhealthy product, and the depletion of much needed ground water in rural Indian towns. They are not alone in believing that Coca-Cola contributes to the obesity of children; universities in the United States have also banned Coca-Cola, and a “quarter of states in India have outlawed products following concerns that they contain 27 times the permitted levels of pesticides.” However, the harmful side effects of Coca-Cola were not the main objection of the product on the university campuses; the allegations of the anti-union practices in Columbia and the environmental damage they have caused in India were central oppositions. Dan Glass, the president of Sussex University’s students’ union explained, “Our ultimate goal is to make Coca-Cola accountable for the crimes it has committed, but by banning all its products from the campus, we can hit them where it hurts most – in the wallet.” As Glass is leading the charge, other universities, including Middlesex, Leeds, Portsmouth and the University of East Anglia, are planning to remove Coca-Cola products from their campuses. Although this is a small fraction of the profit that Coca-Cola makes, it is still effective in raising awareness of Coca-Cola’s true nature.

Coca-Cola operates fifty-two water-intensive bottling plants in India, which contribute to the already persistent drought problem in the region. This is a concern as in the majority of the towns that Coca-Cola operates, the primary industry is farming. Obviously, in farming, water is necessary to the vitality of the crops and in having a successful harvest. After several large protests, the local government revoked Coca-Cola’s license to operate last year and ordered the company to shut down its $25 million plant. In other regions, several thousand people took part in a ten day march in 2004 between two Coca-Cola bottling plants thought to be depleting groundwater. The leader of the India Resource Center and organizer of the protests, Nandlal Master, believes that “drinking Coke is like drinking a farmer’s blood in India,” and that “Coca-Cola is creating thirst in India, and is directly responsible for the loss of livelihood and even hunger for thousands of people across India.” Residents of the region are subjected to live in unhealthy and deadly conditions manufactured by Coca-Cola and the negative effects that they have on the environment. However, groundwater isn’t the only issue that people of India are forced to deal with; Coca-Cola was also creating sludge which was found to be contaminated with several cancerous chemical elements.

The sludge that was created by the manufacturing and bottling of Coca-Cola was found to be extremely toxic and hazardous. Instead of Coca-Cola disposing of the sludge as toxic material, they distributed it as fertilizer to the surrounding farmers, telling them that it would help to increase their crops. However, in 2003, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India assessed the sludge at eight Coca-Cola bottling plants and found them all to contain excessive levels of lead, cadmium, and/or chromium. As a result, the CPCB ordered the Coca-Cola Company in India to treat its waste as industrial hazardous waste and deal with it accordingly. In addition to the investigation by the CPCB, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) also sent in an investigatory team directly to a bottling plant in Plachimada in Kerala where it was known that they were distributing the toxic sludge to farmers as fertilizer. As a result of their findings, government authorities ordered Coca-Cola to immediately stop this practice. In the reports issued by the BBC, they found that the toxic sludge had not only ruined the crops of...
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