In October 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the website of Friends of Al Aqsa, a UK-based non-profit NGO.

This called on consumers to boycott Coca-Cola because it "profits from the occupation."

It stated: "Central Bottling Company (CBC) is an Israeli manufacturer and distributor of soft drinks, dairy products and alcoholic beverages. Coca-Cola profits from the occupation by working with CBC which sells its drinks in Israel. CBC has a Coca-Cola factory in Atarot illegal Israeli settlement. Israeli settlements are built on land stolen from Palestinians and are illegal under international law."

"By having its Israeli franchise in illegal settlements, Coca-Cola ignores international law and profits from the illegal occupation. FOA is calling for Coca-Cola to cut ties with CBC."

"Buying from companies which work in settlements such as Coca Cola means we as consumers are turning a blind eye to the illegal occupation of Palestinian land."

The company therefore lost a whole mark under Boycott Call.

Reference:

foa.org.uk (22 October 2020)

In October 2020 Ethical Consumer searched The Coca-Cola Company website for information on its GMO policy.

No clear policy was identified. The most recent information appeared to be in an article on the website dated 13 December 2017, titled 'Coca-Cola continues to provide more product info in more places'. This stated "People can quickly scan a QR code on their mobile phones to pull up basic ingredient information as well as additional information such as GMO". The fact that customers could search for whether beverages contained GMOs was taken to imply that some products might contain GMO ingredients.

A number of connected companies, such as Coca-Cola European Partners and the Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company, clearly stated that they did not use GMO ingredients in any of their drinks.

However, in the absence of a clear company-wide policy against GMO usage The Coca-Cola Company lost half a mark in the Controversial Technologies category.

Reference:

coca-colacompany.com (19 October 2020)

In October 2018 Ethical Consumer searched the Costa website. While the company did not have a food menu online, the terms and conditions page of various Costa promotions listed a number of items containing meat and dairy that were not certified organic or free range. In absence of a statement stating otherwise, Ethical Consumer assumed it highly likely that these products were derived from factory farmed animals. The company therefore lost marks in the Animal Rights and Factory Farming categories.

In addition, in March 2015 the British government website, www.food.gov.uk, stated that the EU animal feed industry imported 70% of its maize, soya and rapeseed requirements; that "almost all" of the soya from the major producers Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and the USA was genetically modified and that "much of" the maize imported from the USA was genetically modified. Costa had no policy or statement regarding GMOs in products or animal feed. Ethical Consumer therefore felt it highly likely that Costa animal products were raised with the use of GM feed and it therefore lost half a mark in the Controversial Technology category.

Reference:

www.costa.co.uk (4 October 2018)

In June 2018, Ethical Consumer viewed a report on the Environmental Working Group’s website, which had been published in February 2016, and looked at lobbying by groups opposed to GMO labelling laws.

The report stated that “Big food, farm and biotechnology companies and trade associations working to prevent labeling of food containing genetically engineered ingredients reported spending $101.4 million on lobbying last year.”

The report looked at the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, a trade group that represents food manufacturers, as well as specific companies. It stated that the GMA filed disclosures reporting $10.5 million in lobbying expenditures in 2015 for the anti-labelling battle and other GMA legislative priorities. It also stated that since January 2014 the GMA had hired 34 lobbyists and spent $2.8 million on lobbying that went exclusively to advocate anti-GMO-labelling legislation.

The report also discussed the DARK Act, which had passed the House of Representatives and was being discussed in the Senate, in February 2016. The act would bar states from enacting laws to require GMO labelling and make it harder for companies to make voluntary GMO disclosures. The Act had been passed in August 2016.

The report stated that 9 out of 10 Americans supported GMO labelling laws, and some 64 other nations had imposed them.

Coca-Cola was said to have spent a total of $17,980,000 on lobbying between 2013-2015, including $8,670,000 in 2015. It therefore lost half a mark under both Political Activities and Controversial Technologies.

Reference:

https://www.ewg.org/research/lobbying-anti-labeling-groups-tops-100m#.Wx-IjtVKjcs (25 February 2016)

In October 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed the entry for The Coca-Cola Company on the Opensecrets.org website, which was published in the USA by the Centre for Responsive Politics.

This stated that in 2019 the company had spent $6,680,000 on lobbying. It also stated that in the 2018 election cycle it made $511,000 in political donations to federal candidates. Of this, 58% was donated to Republican candidates and 42% to Democrats.

NOTE: OpenSecrets states: “The organization itself did not donate, rather the money came from the organization's PACs, their individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate family members. Organizations themselves cannot contribute to candidates and party committees. Totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.”

In 2019 25 out of 31 lobbyists were said to have previously held government jobs.

Reference:

Open Secrets generic ref 2020 (2020)

An article in The Guardian on the 7th of October 2015 reported on Australia's CHOICE annual 'Shonkys' awards which named and shamed products and companies who had taken advantage of Australian consumers. Shonky was an Australian slang word meaning unreliable, unsound, dishonest or of poor or dubious quality.

Coca-Cola was one of the companies named.

Coca-Cola was criticised for giving an “unrestricted gift” to the Global Energy Balance Network, an organisation which claimed it was dedicated to using energy balance to end obesity.

“We think funding an organisation that suggests we should keep drinking sugary drinks and just exercise more is a load of fizz,” Choice said.

Coca-Cola rejected the claim. “The Choice Shonky Award is an inaccurate representation of the relationship between the Global Energy Balance Network and the Coca-Cola Company,” a spokeswoman said. “The Coca-Cola Company has a long history of supporting evidence-based scientific research. We fully recognise moderation and diet play a pivotal role in managing health and weight, alongside physical activity.”

The organisation was careful to point out that not every Shonky winner was breaking laws or breaching regulations.

“We hope the Shonkys encourage consumers to look critically at the goods and services they use, question poor service, hidden costs and the fine print beneath claims that seem too good to be true,” Choice chief executive had said.

Reference:

Samsung, Arnott's and Ikea among brands shamed in 2015 Shonky awards (7 October 2015)

According to the organisation's website, viewed by Ethical Consumer in November 2019, The Coca-Cola Company was a member of the Business Round Table. This was regarded by Ethical Consumer as an international corporate lobby group which exerted undue corporate influence on policy-makers in favour of market solutions that were potentially detrimental to the environment and human rights. The company therefore lost half a mark under Political Activities.

Reference:

Members List (November 2019)

In October 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed The Coca-Cola Company's Proxy Statement 2020. It stated that the company's six named Executive Directors received over £1 million in total compensation in 2019. The highest paid, James Quincey, received USD$18,000,995 (£13.9m).

Ethical Consumer deemed any annual amount over £1million to be excessive. The company therefore lost half a mark under Anti-Social Finance.

Reference:

Proxy Statement 2020 (2020)

Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company's Annual Report 2016 stated that its Chief Executive Officer, Dimitris Lois was paid a Euro 2,923,000 (£2,586,000) in 2016.
Ethical Consumer considered remuneration over £1m to be excessive.

Reference:

Annual report (2016)

In September 2017, Ethical Consumer viewed the Proxy Statement of Monster Beverage Corporation for 2017, which listed 4 NEOs, all of whom were paid over £1 million in 2016. The highest-paid of these received over $12 million in 2016. Ethical Consumer considers compensation over £1 million to be excessive.

Reference:

Proxy Statement 2017 (4 October 2017)

In October 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed The Coca-Cola Company's family tree on the Hoovers corporate database.

This showed that the company had several subsidiaries in jurisdictions considered by Ethical Consumer to be tax havens at the time of writing. Of these, the following were considered high risk company types for likely use of tax avoidance:
Wave Insurance Co., Ltd in Bermuda (Insurance subsidiary)
Red Life Reinsurance Limited in Bermuda (Insurance Subsidiary)
COCA-COLA FAR EAST LIMITED in Hong Kong (Holding company)
COCA-COLA CHINA LIMITED in Hong Kong (Holding company)
Coca-Cola Holdings (Nederland) B.V. in Netherlands (Holding company)
COCA-COLA SINGAPORE HOLDINGS PTE. LTD. in Singapore (Holding company)

The company's Form 10-K for the year ended December 2018 was also viewed. While its principal executive officers were located in Atlanta the company was incorporated in Delaware, which Ethical Consumer considered a tax haven at the time of writing.

An internet search using the search terms “Coca-Cola company tax policy statement country” found no country-by-country financial information or reporting (CBCR). The Tax Policy page on the company website made no clear statement confirming that it was this company’s policy not to engage in tax avoidance activity or to use tax havens for tax avoidance purposes, nor did the company provide a narrative explanation for what each group entity located in a tax haven is for, and how it is not being used for purposes of tax minimisation.

Given that The Coca-Cola Company had two or more high risk subsidiaries in jurisdictions on Ethical Consumer's tax haven list and no country-by-country financial information, nor adequate policy statement and narrative explanation, the company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies and lost a full mark under Tax Conduct.

Reference:

Form 10k 2018 (31 December 2018)

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) published a report in March 2017: The 35 Percent Corporate Tax Myth; Corporate Tax Avoidance by Fortune 500 Companies, 2008 to 2015.

The report documented just how successful many Fortune 500 corporations had been using loopholes and special breaks over the past eight years, in order to have paid less than the 35% federal income tax on their U.S. profits - with many having paid nothing at all.

ITEP stated: "As lawmakers look to reform the corporate tax code, this report shows that the focus of any overhaul should be on closing loopholes rather than on cutting tax rates."

The report included only corporations which had been consistently profitable every year between 2008 to 2015. By leaving out corporations that had losses in any one year (which means they wouldn’t have paid any tax), the report provides a straightforward picture of average effective tax rates paid by the 258 biggest and most consistently profitable U.S. companies.

The report found that one hundred of the 258 companies (39 percent of them) paid zero or less in federal income taxes in at least one year from 2008 to 2015.

The sectors with the lowest effective corporate tax rates over the eight-year period were Utilities, Gas and Electric (3.1%), Industrial Machinery (11.4%), Telecommunications (11.5%), Oil, Gas, and Pipelines (11.6%), and Internet Services and Retailing (15.6%). Each of these industries paid, as a group, less than half the statutory 35 percent tax rate over this eight-year period.

Coca-Cola was one of the companies in the report. Over the eight year period covered by the report, the company was found to have made US$23,845.9 million profit, on which it paid US$4,853.8 m tax. This worked out at a rate of 20.4%.

Reference:

The 35 Percent Corporate Tax Myth; Corporate Tax (March 2017)

In an article dated 13 November 2015, Computer Business Review reported that Coca-Cola was among a number of large corporates to be investigated by EU regulators over its allegedly paying insufficient taxes. This began after documents were exposed by a group of investigative journalists which contained evidence that the company had made secret fiscal deals with Luxembourg which enabled it to pay low taxes.

Reference:

EU parliament to grill US tech giants on Luxenbourg tax fraud (13 November 2015)