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Corporate Accountability International:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 16, 2008
1:42 PM

CONTACT: Corporate Accountability International
Nick Guroff, 617-784-4753
Sara Joseph, 617-784-5278

 
Is Coke's Dasani Full of Hot Air?
Shareholders, Activists Challenge Coke's 'Green' Image
 

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - April 16 - While Coca-Cola executives plan to use today's shareholders' meeting as a forum to trumpet the corporation's water stewardship credentials, many in attendance are asking whether Coke is full of hot air.

In the lead-up to its annual meeting, Coke blocked a shareholders' resolution that would have required the corporation to publicly report water quality testing data for its bottled water and other beverage brands. Last year, the same resolution received more than twice the votes needed for it to be considered again in 2008.

"Coke is working very hard to avoid addressing reasonable questions about product quality testing and disclosure, all the while talking about its rigorous safety and quality requirements," said Gigi Kellett, national director of Corporate Accountability International's Think Outside the Bottle campaign. "People are wondering what exactly this corporation has to hide."

Coke has also refused to inform consumers of the source of its Dasani bottled water, even as market leader Aquafina (Pepsi) has agreed to do so. To add salt to the wound, Coke has also continued to drain water in drought prone areas from the southeast United States to India, in spite of community concerns.

Instead of responding to demands that the corporation report on water quality, label their water sources, and stop pumping in water-scarce regions, Coke has trumpeted the following initiatives:

-- The TERI Report. Though Coke has spun the report green, the 500-page study by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) raised serious questions about decreased groundwater levels near bottling facilities. In fact, three of the six plants surveyed had been sited in areas where water resources were already overburdened. "[T]he basic focus of the Coca-Cola Company water resource management practices is on the business community - community water issues do not appear to form an integral part of the water resource management practices of the Coca-Cola company," according to report authors. These findings support what community groups in India have been saying for years. "The report was an attempt to hid certain facts and 'whitewash' the corporation's operations," said R. Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee. "But the Coca-Cola corporation's attempts to regain its lost credibility has once again failed."

-- The CEO Water Mandate. This voluntary, United Nations-endorsed initiative is being promoted as a way for corporations to make progress in protecting water resources. However, according to more than 125 public interest leaders from 35 countries, it lacks enforcement mechanisms, is fraught with conflicts of interest, and risks implicating the U.N. in corporate greenwashing. That's why it is being challenged as a "thinly veiled public relations effort."

-- Coke's Environmental Partnerships. Coke has entered into a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to the tune of $20 million to fund watershed protection programs in seven global watersheds. While promising on the surface, the initiative has some communities affected by Coke's bottling asking, "how can the corporation justify contributing to water scarcity in some watersheds, to pay for the protection of others?"

At today's annual shareholders' meeting, Corporate Accountability International and its allies are giving statements to the Coca-Cola board of directors and shareholders which can be viewed at http://www.StopCorporateAbuse.org. The organization is also raising visibility outside the event by handing out balloons that read, "Is Dasani full of hot air?" and offering shareholders the opportunity to take the Tap Water Challenge, a blind water sampling that squares Wilmington tap off against Dasani bottled water.

For more information on Think Outside the Bottle, community struggles, and for facts about bottled water, visit http://www.StopCorporateAbuse.org.

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