ANN ARBOR, MI: The University of Michigan's announcement last week that it is suspending its contract with Coca-Cola in response to activist concerns reflects the success of an ongoing campaign to protest the company's international labor and environmental practices.
http://www.cokefacts.orgLeaders of the effort, dubbed "Killer Coke," claim that 21 schools worldwide have cut their Coke contracts since the campaign began in 2003, the most recent being Rutgers, New York University, and Michigan.
Kari Bjorhus, director of public affairs and communications for Coca-Cola, said she knew of 10 schools in the US, but did not have an international tally.
The "Killer Coke" campaign alleges that the company is complicit in the abuse of workers in Colombia and that it has caused environmental damage in India and other countries.
Ray Rogers, the campaign's director, said the group has pursued a four-part strategy: to shut down Coke's college campus markets, to damage the company's image, to hold top Coke executives accountable, and to go after SunTrust Bank, which works with Coke.
"This campaign is costing this company tens of millions of dollars in [lost revenue]," Rogers said. "In terms of its brand or its image, I can't tell you how much they've suffered."
Bjorhus said the company is innocent of the allegations, but noted, "the real concern is reputational impact... the reputation issues are important to us."
She added that Coke has met with activists on many campuses and has set up a website, cokefacts.org, about the matter.
The Michigan contract was valued at $1.4 million yearly, according to the school. Lindsey Rogers, a Michigan student involved in the yearlong anti-Coke campaign, said 20 student groups representing 5,000 students were involved.