Coca-Cola Company, The

Coca-cola owns an astonishing 500 brands and is sold in over 200 countries and territories. This is the definition of ‘global reach’ considering the UN only recognises 195 states.

This single company has a higher annual income than two thirds of the world’s countries.

Is this massive revenue earned through ethical means? Is it being reinvested in the creation of strong policy, or are workers and the planet paying the price?

Is Coca-Cola ethical?

Our research highlights several ethical issues with Coca-Cola. The company has therefore been marked down in our rating system in a number of categories, including: climate change, habitats & resources, palm oil, pollution and toxics, human rights, workers' rights, irresponsible marketing, animal rights, controversial technologies, anti-social finance and political activities.

Below we outline of some of these issues. To see the full detailed stories, and Coca-Cola's overall ethical rating, please sign in or subscribe.

People

Coca-cola is the target of several trade union campaigns.

In 2019 The International Union of Food (IUF) severed its 15-year partnership with Coca-Cola, accusing it of attacking union leaders and intimidating members through dismissals and disciplinary action.

Ireland’s largest trade union, Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU), told Ethical Consumer that Coca-Cola had refused to engage with representatives at the company’s plant in Ballina.

Coca-Cola received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for Supply Chain Management. The company and its subsidiaries have also been accused of contributing to water shortages in Mexico, appropriating Guarani culture, and using child labour in its Mexican recycling system.

Politics

Coca-cola received our worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies, and its highest paid executive was paid an incredible £13.9m in 2019.

When we checked in November 2019, Coca-Cola was involved in a plethora of corporate lobby groups: the Business Round Table, National Foreign Trade Council, American Chamber of Commerce, USCIB and World Economic Forum. These were considered to lobby for free trade at the expense of issues like animal welfare, human rights or the environment.

In total, the company was said to have spent nearly $7m on lobbying in 2019.

Environment

Coca-Cola received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for Carbon Management and Reporting and its Palm Oil policy.

It’s also a leading plastic polluter. In October 2020 Coca-Cola was facing a lawsuit for plastic pollution from the Earth Island Institute and Plastic Pollution Coalition. It was labelled the world’s biggest plastic polluter in a 2019 survey by Break Free From Plastic, and Greenpeace too labelled the company a top plastic polluter. A Guardian article stated that the company was responsible for around 3m tonnes of plastic packaging per year.

Coca-cola is also involved in environmentally damaging industries such as motor sports and sale of fish.

Animals

Several Coca-Cola products, including popular soft drinks, contain animal products, including fish gelatine, honey, vitamin D sourced from lanolin in sheep's wool and milk.

To see the full detailed stories, and Coca-Cola's overall ethical rating, please sign in or subscribe.

Image: Coca cola
  • Ethical Consumer Best Buy: No
  • Boycotts: Yes

Company information

Company Ethiscore

Company Address:

1 Coca-Cola Plaza North West
Atlanta
Georgia
GA30313
USA

Contact Coca Cola

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Associated brands

  • Innocent
  • Sprite
  • Minute Maid
  • Coca-Cola
  • Fanta
  • Lilt
  • Dr Pepper (in UK)
  • Schweppes (in UK)
  • Costa Coffee
  • Oasis
  • Powerade
  • Monster Energy
  • Glaceau Smartwater
  • Honest Tea
  • 5 Alive
  • Kia-Ora
  • Appletiser
  • Rose's Cordial
  • Relentless

Ownership structure

Ethical stories