I’m an alum of the University and a past member of Campaign to Kick Coca-Cola off Campus. Coke’s environmental and human rights abuses broke international law, which stands against the University’s Code of Conduct for vendors.
University administration banned Coca-Cola products for four months in 2006. This happened one month after the New York University ban, which preceded a number of other schools across the world. Coke missed a national deadline to comply with an independent investigation that was set by United Students Against Sweatshops. We were part of a commission to create a methodology to assess Coke’s business practices. Was Coke busting unions by having paramilitary forces murder Colombian workers? Were they draining and poisoning water tables in India?
Investigations in India and Colombia were eventually completed in 2008. Despite the fact that corporate sponsors of Coke administered the reports, many viewed the reports as proof that the vendor violated the University’s Code of Conduct. However, the $1.2-million contract with Coke was continued.
After watching NYU stand up for human rights in the eye of international media in 2006, it seems as though the University was embarrassed for not doing something similar. It’s ironic that a food co-op in New York recently banned Coca-Cola products on ethical grounds, including Odwalla and Honest Tea. Will the Ann Arbor People’s Food Co-op feel the same pressure the University did now that Park Slope Food Coop stood up to Coca-Cola? Put a note in their suggestion box to ask, and while you’re at it, why not start another campaign here at the University?
Clara Hardie is a 2006 alum.