Coca-Cola fights aid group's boycott
The Norwegian unit of giant drinks maker Coca-Cola is fighting efforts by a local aid group that's urging consumers not to buy Coca-Cola products. The aid group claims Coca-Cola first must compensate farmers in India for allegedly damaging their water supply.
Norwegian Church Aid (Kirkens Noedhjelp) claims that thousands of farmers in the Indian state of Kerala have lost their livelihoods because of Coca-Cola. The group claims Coca-Cola has used up vast quantities of groundwater and polluted it as well.
It's urging consumers not to buy Coca-Cola products until Coca-Cola finances a compensation plan for the roughly 10,000 affected Kerala farmers. Coke machines were moved out of Norwegian Church Aid's offices in Oslo earlier this month.
But Coca-Cola Norge says Norwegian Church Aid's protest action is misguided and uninformed.
"Norwegian Church Aid generally does a very good job, but in this case, it's based its action on erroneous and poor information," claims Stein Roemmerud, communications director for Coca-Cola in Norway.
Roemmerud claims that groundwater levels in Kerala have sunk dramatically since 2000, along with the number of days with rain.
"It's an oversimplification to believe that a single plant can cause this," he said. "Our daily water consumption is 400,000 liters, but the plant is currently shut down."
Roemmerud notes that Coca-Cola doesn't have the only plant or factory in the area, either, saying there are 27 firms within a 5-kilometer radius. "All of them use groundwater in their production, and around half use more than our plant," he said. "We interpret that as a sign that this is as much a political issue as an environmental one."