In October 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed The Coca-Cola Company website for information on how the company managed workers' rights in its supply chain. The company's Supplier Guiding Principles (SGP) were viewed.

A Business Toolkit produced by Partner Africa was featured on the website, which contained supply chain guidance that demonstrated many aspects of best practice. However, it was stated in the toolkit: "The information provided is intended for general guidance and information purposes only." Therefore, the document was not Coca-Cola policy.

Supply chain policy (poor)
The company had adequate policies on forced labour, discrimination, and freedom of association. A strong policy would also include the following commitments: payment of a living wage, the restriction of working hours to 48 hours plus 12 overtime (without exception), and no use of child labour (under 15 or 14 if ILO exempt).
The company's 'Pass It Back Supplier Toolkit' stated "Practically speaking, SGP require compliance with local law as well as core ILO conventions prohibiting Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Discrimination, and protection of Freedom of Association." While it stated that suppliers should comply with ILO conventions, it did not explicitly state that child labour signified anyone under 15 years old, or 14 if the country had ILO exemption. Overall, the company was considered to have a poor supply chain policy.

Stakeholder engagement (poor)
Ethical Consumer deemed it necessary for companies to demonstrate stakeholder engagement, such as through membership of the Ethical Trade Initiative, Fair Labour Association or Social Accountability International. Companies were also expected to engage with Trade Unions, NGOs and/or not-for-profit organisations which could systematically verify the company's supply chain audits, and for workers to have access to an anonymous complaints system, free of charge and in their own language.

The company stated "We believe that dialogue with a wide range of external stakeholders is critical to respecting human and workplace rights." It also stated "We regularly consult stakeholders and benchmark against industry standards and with peers in organizations like AIM-PROGRESS and the Consumer Goods Forum to improve our program." It stated that it had ongoing engagement with the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF), and stated that it met twice annually with the organisation. A link titled "Read our updated joint statement" led to a document dated 2010. A visit to the IUF website did not provide any updates on engagement between the company and the union. It however featured several articles stating that The Coca-Cola Company was violating the rights of workers in various countries. The AIM-PROGRESS website stated that it used mutual recognition of audits "where possible", which was not considered sufficiently rigorous. While the company webite listed several partners, overall it did not appear that the company had clear engagement with organisations that would result in the verification of labour standards in a way that encompassed the range of countries it worked in.

The company offered EthicsLine as an anonymous whistleblowing service run by a third party. This service appeared to be available in a broad range of languages listed across the top of the complaints website. Ethical Consumer trialled the Spanish version of this complaints service to see how well it operated. While the webpages were successfully translated to Spanish, the dropdown menus that needed to be used in order to select which category a complaint fell under were in English. It was therefore assumed that the complaints process was not fully accessible to workers speaking languages other than English. Overall, the company was considered to have a poor approach to stakeholder engagement.

Auditing and Reporting (poor)
Ethical Consumer deemed it necessary for companies to have an auditing and reporting system. Results of audits should also be publicly reported and quantitatively analysed. The company should have a scheduled and transparent audit plan that applies to their whole supply chain, including some second tier suppliers. The costs of the audit should be borne by the company.

The results of audits did not appear to be reported or quantitatively analysed for The Coca-Cola Company.

Some information was provided about its approach to auditing. The following information was identified:
- "all the bottling operations and authorized suppliers selling more than $60,000 annually to the Coca-Cola system are required to complete a third-party audit and share the audit results with The Coca-Cola Company."
- The company state that it used third-party audits, which were generally announced but could also be unannounced.
- "Each year, The Coca-Cola Company facilitates more than 2,000 third-party audits of Company office locations, franchise bottlers, and suppliers [...] "The Company’s publicly stated goal is that, by 2020, 98 percent of bottling plants and 95 percent of in-scope suppliers will achieve compliance with the Supplier Guiding Principles."
- "we partner with a select number of accredited audit firms and conduct training on a regular basis to ensure they understand and align to our program requirements. The Company supports the efforts of the Association of Professional Social Compliance Auditors (APSCA) to ensure a common accreditation for auditors and audit firms. Currently, all of our preferred audit firms are involved in APSCA."

Ethical Consumer considered it necessary to have a clearly scheduled audit plan, but no further information other than the above was identified.

It was unclear whether the company's auditing and reporting applied across the whole supply chain, including some second tier. It stated "direct and authorized suppliers agree to comply with the Supplier Guiding Principles." This was considered insufficient supply chain coverage.

The company stated that termination of a supplier should be a last resort, as walking away did not solve the problem, so was considered to have a positive approach to non-compliance.

It was unclear whether audit costs were covered by the company.

Overall, the company was considered to have a poor approach to auditing and reporting.

Difficult issues (poor)
Ethical Consumer also deemed it necessary for companies to address other difficult issues in their supply chains. This would include ongoing training for agents, or rewards for suppliers, or preference for long term suppliers. It would also include acknowledgement of audit fraud and unannounced audits, and measures taken to address the issue of living wages, particularly among outworkers, and illegal freedom of association. Overall, the company was considered to have a poor approach to difficult issues.

The company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for Supply Chain Management and lost a whole mark in this category.

Reference: (19 October 2020)

On 5 November 2015, the Independent newspaper reported that Coca-Cola had planned to take its Christmas truck to 46 locations in the UK, and would travel through towns with some of the highest child obesity levels in England.

The truck was scheduled to call at Manchester, Liverpool and the London boroughs of Greenwich and Westminster - with one in four children there reported officially obese. It would also visit Gloucester, Great Yarmouth, Middlesbrough and Nottingham, all appearing in the top 50 areas for child obesity, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Labour MP Keith Vaz said the Coca-Cola Christmas truck was "not welcome" in his constituency of Leicester.

Mr Vaz, who had type 2 diabetes, said: “The Coca-Cola truck is not welcome in Leicester, and this national tour to promote sugar-laden drinks is ill-judged and unwise at a time of record diabetes and obesity levels.”

He said the promotion of sugary drinks was the "wrong thing" in a city where a third of children had tooth decay.

A spokesperson for Coca-Cola said that they wouldn't sample drinks "directly to under 12s", although Mr Vaz said he believed that would be "unenforceable".


Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour: The map that shows the towns with the highest child obesity levels b

The Guardian reported on its website on 19th December 2015 that Campaigners had claimed that a multimedia publicity campaign launched at the beginning of 2015 misled consumers by suggesting that Sidral Mundet – an apple-flavoured drink which contained 60 grams of sugar in each 600ml bottle – was made from apples.
Adverts with the slogans “with apple juice” and “with pasteurized juice” accompanied by images of juicy apple slices had been plastered across billboards, bus stops and delivery vans across Mexico.
More than 70 videos which suggested the drink was made from fresh apples were also posted on YouTube. In one video, a whole red apple emerged from a flower pot after Sidral was poured in. In another, the drink was made by mixing an apple in a cocktail shaker.
Sidral was launched in Mexico in 1902, and bought by Coca-Cola in 2002. It contained 1% of “juice from concentrate” – which was classified as an added sugar by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In February 2015, the campaign group Consumer Power reported the company to federal authorities, and accused Coca-Cola of intentionally misleading consumers about the content and benefits of Sidral. The group also claimed that the use of the term “pasteurized” was disingenuous as it normally applied to fruit juices, not sodas.
The federal prosecutor’s office for consumer rights (Profeco) asked Coca-Cola to clarify how much apple juice and apple flavour the drink contained, and to explain the use of the word Pasteurised.
In response, the company launched a legal challenge in March and claimed that its constitutional right to a fair trial had been violated. It further argued that the country’s federal consumer rights law was unconstitutional.
Coca-Cola also claimed that the complaint was directed at the wrong party, as its publicity and labeling was run by a subsidiary, Propimex.


Coca-Cola ads suggesting soda is made from apples lead to legal battles (19 December 2015)

According to an article published on the Guardian website on 2 December 2015, consumer rights and health groups had called on the Mexican government to ban a new Coca-Cola ad which depicted young white people handing out Coke as a service project at an indigenous community in southern Oaxaca state.
The ad was criticised for its depiction of light-skinned, model-like young people joyously constructing a Coca-Cola tree in town and hauling in coolers of Coke.
The report noted that Mexico had very high rates of diabetes and obesity especially among indigenous people. The Alliance for Food Health called on the National Council to Prevent Discrimination to pull the ad campaign immediately. The alliance, a coalition of consumer rights and health groups, said it was an attack on the dignity of indigenous people and contributed to their deteriorating health. Mexico was reported as a major consumer of soda and other sugared drinks.

The ad was publicly posted on a Coca-Cola YouTube channel until 1 December when it was removed, after news of the campaign about it broke.

In the commercial, the company stated that the campaign was meant to encourage people to “break down prejudice and share”.
"This Christmas a group of young people decided to give something very special to the indigenous community of Totontepec [Villa] de Morelos in Oaxaca. You, too, open your heart,” Coca-Cola said in the advert. The Company stated that 81.6% of Mexico’s indigenous people felt rejected for speaking a language other than Spanish, though it didn’t cite the source.

The ad showed young women and men joyously sawing wood, welding and painting before they playfully headed off in an El Camino pickup to the eastern mountains of Oaxaca where Totontepec was located. They built a red tree with Coca-Cola lights to the smiles, hugs and appreciation of the locals, who belonged to the Mixe community. Across the lighted tree were the words “We will stay united” in the Mixe language.

The commercial on YouTube and its hashtag #AbreTuCorazon (open your heart) had drawn a slew of critical comments. “Coca-Cola is working on some genius colonial branding in Mexico with its out-of-touch, racist #AbreTuCorazon campaign,” one critic said. Another asked: “Why don’t you have the people of Oaxaca taking their culture to other countries?”

Coca-Cola responded: “We appreciated you sharing your concerns. We will be sure to pass along your comments.”


Coca-Cola under fire over ad showing Coke handout to indigenous people (2 December 2015)

In October 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed an article on the New York Times website, dated 14 July 2018 and titled 'In Town With Little Water, Coca-Cola Is Everywhere. So Is Diabetes.'

The article stated "Buffeted by the dual crises of the diabetes epidemic and the chronic water shortage, residents of San Cristóbal have identified what they believe is the singular culprit: the hulking Coca-Cola factory on the edge of town. The plant has permits to extract more than 300,000 gallons of water a day".

Ethical Consumer also viewed a story on the Business and Human Rights website from 2017, titled 'NGOs & academics protest against Coca-Cola FEMSA bottling plant citing water scarcity & health impacts of soft drinks in Chiapas'.

The company lost half a mark under Human Rights for secondary criticism.


In Town With Little Water, Coca-Cola Is Everywhere. (14 July 2018)

In October 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed an article titled 'Cambodia & Thailand: Thai Ministry of Justice award a company for human rights compliance; while facing trial of forced displacement' on the Business and Human Rights website. This stated that the multinational company Mitr Phol Co. Ltd was complicit in the forced displacement of Cambodian families, and that to date it had not genuinely engaged in any attempts to reach a resolution or provide compensation to the Cambodian families.

Ethical Consumer also viewed a previous article dated April 2018 on the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre website titled 'Forcibly Displaced Cambodians File Historic Lawsuit against Asia’s Largest Sugar Producer' and dated to April 2018. The article stated that displaced farmers from Cambodia had filed a class-action lawsuit against the Thai sugar producer Mitr Phol. 'The legal complaint was filed in a Thai civil court by two plaintiffs representing a class of approximately 3000 people who were violently displaced and dispossessed of their land and livelihoods in five remote villages in northwestern Cambodia to clear the way for a Mitr Pohl sugarcane plantation between 2008 and 2009.' Mitr Pohl was said to be the fourth largest sugar supplier in the world, and sold sugar to global brands including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle and Mars.

'The suit alleges that Mitr Phol’s operation in Cambodia’s Oddar Meanchey province resulted in violent forced evictions, burning of homes, looting of crops and livestock and the seizure of land that was legally held by local farmers. Forests inside the company’s land concessions that local communities relied upon for their livelihoods were illegally logged. Those who resisted were threatened, arrested and imprisoned...[T]he National Human Rights Commission of Thailand found Mitr Phol directly responsible for human rights violations committed in conjunction with its operations in Cambodia...Mitr Phol told the commission that it would compensate affected people in accordance with international standards but has failed to do so.'

The trial appeared to still be ongoing.

Coca-cola therefore lost half a mark under Human Rights.


Cambodia and Thailand human rights abuses (13 October 2020)

In July 2016 Ethical Consumer viewed the April 2016 "Behind the brand" scorecard produced by Oxfam as part of its GROW campaign which evaluated the world's top 10 most powerful food and beverage companies. The campaign aimed to challenge the companies to begin a "race to the top" to improve their social and environmental performance.

Coca-Cola was ranked third out of ten companies in the scorecard. Overall Coca-Cola scored 57% and was rated by Oxfam as "fair". The company was rated in seven areas and marked out of ten for each area.

According to the report Coca-Cola scored:

8/10 for its land policies - Coca-Cola was a leader on land rights. After being the first to adopt “zero tolerance” for land grabs throughout its supply chain, its supplier guiding principles on human/worker rights now refer to fair compensation and grievance mechanisms where land rights have been violated.

6/10 for policies on women - On top when it comes to supporting women, Coca-Cola scored well for running high-profile projects with women in rural areas and for officially pledging to support women farmers. Now it was about tracking those promises to see what actions the company takes to follow through on its leadership.

3/10 for policies on farmers - Coca-Cola still had a lot of progress to make in how it deals with the smallholders in its supply chain. While the company seemed to be quite aware of what it should do, it had yet to make credible commitments to support the smallholders from whom it sources.

6/10 for policies regarding workers - Coca-Cola’s policies towards workers are, quite strong in many places, but to have a real impact, the company needed to recognise and act on the issue of low wages.

6/10 for policies on climate change - A former leader on climate change, Coca-Cola is now in the middle of the pack as other companies have established stronger commitments. There is real room for improvement on issues such as developing stronger emissions reduction and renewable energy goals and in moving toward implementation on issues like achieving deforestation across commodities.

5/10 for transparency - Coca-Cola was impressively honest and forthcoming about the auditing and compliance of its suppliers and about what happens if suppliers fall short.

6/10 on water - Coca-Cola demonstrates good understanding of the importance of water and of its own impact on supplies, but it needs to disclose more about whether and how it operates in water-stressed regions.

While Coca-Cola received a best rating for its land policies it failed to receive similar ratings in the other categories therefore it lost marks under Ethical Consumer's Human Rights and Workers Rights categories.


Behind the Brands April 2016 scorecard (19 April 2016)

In October 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed a report on the Business and Human Rights website, dated to the 25th October 2017. The report stated that a Coca-Cola subsidiary, Coca-Cola Amatil, was using structures from the overturned Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia, to prevent workers' right to organise.

"Nearly two decades after the fall of the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia, Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) is still clinging to the repressive trade union structures established under the authoritarian military regime...

CCA believes that the old trade union structures of the SPSI-RTMM (National Union of Tobacco, Food and Beverage Employees of Indonesia), which for years colluded with the military to suppress workers' human rights, are useful for its business expansion. As the company restructures, management can make deals with SPSI-RTMM to prevent workers from challenging and negotiating those changes. It ensures that those who claim to speak on behalf of workers will not defend their rights...

...More and more workers are standing up to exercise their human rights - to form and join trade unions of their own choosing - like workers in other multinational companies where independent, democratic trade unions were formed after the fall of the dictatorship in 1998...

...The elected trade union leaders of these new independent unions have been targeted, victimized and terminated or forcibly transferred."

The report stated that the Coca-Cola Company had not responded to the claims. No further updates were identified in the years since the publication of the article.

The company was marked down under Ethical Consumer's Workers' Rights category.


Coca-Cola Amatil Violates Workers' Right to Organise (25 October 2017)

In October 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Killer Coke website.

This stated "Corporate Campaign, Inc., created the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke to hold The Coca-Cola Company, its bottlers and subsidiaries accountable and to end the gruesome cycle of violence and collaboration with paramilitary thugs, particularly in Colombia. These atrocities include the systematic intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders and members of their families in efforts to crush their unions."

It continued, "The Colombian union SINALTRAINAL credits the worldwide campaign against Coke's abuses as a major part of its struggle for survival and protecting the lives of many of its leaders and members."

The website featured a range of criticisms of the company. The most recent (June 2020) stated that the company had ordered workers in the Philippines to enter self-quarantine without pay during the coronavirus pandemic, and disrupted a peaceful demonstration by workers.

Images on the Killer Coke website featured banners that use the word boycott. However, no clear call for a boycott was identified by Ethical Consumer on the website.

The company lost half a mark under Workers' Rights for secondary criticism.

Reference: (20 October 2020)

In November 2020 Ethical Consumer searched the Costa website for a policy on wages or information about the real Living Wage. No information could be found. At the time of writing Costa was not listed on the Living Wage Foundation website.

In 2014 the Living Wage Commission released a report called Working for Poverty. The report listed the top 10 occupations by proportion paid below the living wage. Bar staff, waiters / waitresses and kitchen and catering assistants were found to be the top three occupations in the UK with the highest proportion of people paid below the living wage. The report found that low paid workers were increasingly turning to support to get by with a growing dependence on debt, food banks and in-work benefits. Ethical Consumer considered low wages to be endemic throughout the hospitality industry.

As a result Costa lost half a mark under Workers' Rights.

Reference: (23 November 2020)