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)

The Independent reported in March 2017 that a high court judge in Nigeria had ruled that some soft drinks sold under the Coca-Cola brand could be poisonous.

In an article entitled "Coca-Cola’s products Sprite and Fanta may be ‘poisonous’, rules Nigeria Court" the Independent reported a Lagos High Court had ruled that high levels of benzoic acid and additives in Coca-Cola’s soft drinks could pose a health risk to consumers when mixed with ascorbic acid, commonly known as vitamin C.

According to local sources bottles and cans of Fanta and Sprite in Nigeria could have written health warnings after Justice Adedayo Oyebanji ordered the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) - the local manufacturer of the soft drinks - to place labels on the beverages to inform consumers against drinking them with vitamin C.

The ruling was the result of a nine-year-long court battle initiated by Nigerian businessman Fijabi Adebo. Mr Adebo’s drinks company attempted to export the drinks to the UK in 2007. However, the beverages were confiscated by UK customs and after being tested by UK health authorities they were deemed unsafe for human consumption and destroyed. Mr Adebo then sued NBC, which had sold him the products. "We shouldn't have a product that is considered substandard in Europe" Mr Adebo said.

NBC lawyers argued that the products were not intended for export but the defense was rejected by the judge.

However the judge said "Soft drinks manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of colour or creed."


Coca-Cola’s products Sprite and Fanta may be ‘poisonous’, rules Nigeria Court (29 March 2017)

In May 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed an article on the Justice for Myanmar website dated 16 April 2021, and titled 'Shangri-La financing crimes against humanity'. The article states that The Coca-Cola Company was tenants in office complex leased off Myanmar army by hotel brand Shangri-La, and believed to be on land acquired through military land grabbing.
The company therefore lost half a mark under Human Rights.


Shangri-La financing crimes against humanity (12 May 2021)

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 November 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed an article on the Reuters website dated July 2020 and titled 'U.S. Supreme Court takes up Nestle, Cargill appeals over human rights claims'.

It stated that "The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether American corporations can be sued for alleged human rights abuses occurring abroad under a 1789 law, agreeing on Thursday to hear appeals by two companies - Cargill Inc and a Nestle SA subsidiary - accused of knowingly helping perpetuate slavery at Ivory Coast cocoa farms."

"The case concerns the 18th century U.S. law called the Alien Tort Statute that lets non-U.S. citizens seek damages in American courts in certain instances. The business community has long sought to limit corporate liability under the Alien Tort Statute."

The case had previously been dismissed, but: "The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2018 revived the claims, citing the allegations that the companies provided “personal spending money” to local farmers to guarantee the cheapest source of cocoa. The 9th Circuit found that the payments were akin to kickbacks and that the low price of cocoa was dependant on the child slave labor.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Coca-Cola Company and Chevron Corp all filed briefs asking the court to hear the Nestle and Cargill appeals."

All companies mentioned in this story lost half a mark under Human Rights.


U.S. Supreme Court takes up Nestle, Cargill appeals (July 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)

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 October 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed an article dated 5 April 2018 titled 'Sindicato de trabajadores denuncia Coca Cola viola derechos laborales' on the El Periodico website.

This stated that a workers union had protested against Coca Cola for violating workers' and union rights. It stated that union leaders were offered money to denounce the union, and were pressured to renounce the union in other ways such as having lunch hours and time permitted to use the bathroom reduced.

Coca-Cola responded by stating that it complied with all relevant laws in the Dominic Republic, offering good working conditions and salaries in comparison with the broader industrial sector in the region. It stated "At Bepensa Dominicana, we have always respected freedom of association, maintaining an open dialogue with the union workers (SINATRABED and SATRAUBE) that operate in our company, in accordance with our corporate policies, as well as the Labor Law and other national regulations. "

The company was marked down under Workers' Rights.


Trade unions allege that Coca-Cola abused their labour rights and limited their freedom of associati