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US varsity suspends Coke sale

Last updated on: December 31, 2005 19:02 IST

The University of Michigan has suspended sale of Coca-Cola products on its three campuses, citing human rights and environmental concerns in India and Columbia.

The university, acting upon its Dispute Review Board's recommendation, took the step of suspending the contracts worth .4 million after the firm was not able to meet a deadline to set up third-party independent investigation of these concerns in India and Columbia.

In India, Coca-Cola was hauled up for pesticide contents in its soft drinks. It also drew flak for using up much of the groundwater near some bottling plants and sending out sludge containing cadmium.

Soft drinks, hard truths

In Columbia, it has been accused of human rights abuses at bottling plants, including kidnappings and murder.

The university took its decision, among other things, due to pressure from student groups like the Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality, which lodged a formal complaint about Coca-Cola's business practices in Colombia and India in November 2004.

In a letter signed by Timothy Slottow, the university's executive vice president, and Peggy Norgen, associate vice president of finance, the university said it would temporarily suspend purchasing Coca-Cola products, beginning January 1, 2006.

"We plan to resume university procurement of Coca-Cola products if the details of an independent third-party investigation in Columbia can be resolved to our mutual satisfaction, and if we can agree on the process for a third-party review of environmental concerns in India," the letter said.

According to the university, Coke vending machines will either stock alternate products, or remain empty. The university had 13 direct and indirect contracts for providing Coca-Cola products.

The drinks will, however, continue to be available at some on-campus vendors that have independent agreements to sell Coca-Cola products.

A correspondent in New York