Coca-Cola, or Coke, is the world's largest soft-drink company and distributor. The Coca-Cola Company owns four of the top five soft-drink brands (Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Fanta, and Sprite). Among its other brands are Barq's, Fruitopia, Minute Maid, POWERade, and Dasani water.
Coke is a major global operation. The firm sells about 400 drink brands, including coffees, juices, sports drinks, and teas, in some 200 nations. In 2006, Coke employed approximately 70,000 people, 49,000 of whom were based outside the United States. Together with its bottling partners, the Coca-Cola system employs hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Coca-Cola's success has transformed it into a symbol of American culture and the United States itself, leading to the pun, "Coca-Colanization".
At the heart of the Coca Cola company is its bottling system. Coke uses local companies as bottling partners in order to maximize efficiency and quality. In Indonesia, for instance, boats transport Coca-Cola and other brands between the many hundreds of islands that make up that nation. In the Amazon, water-borne distribution is quite common where where the main road is often the river itself. Across much of Africa, bottlers deliver to thousands of family-run kiosks and home-based stores on which local economies depend.
This strict use of local companies has made Coca Cola a pioneer in localization and branding as well as creating one of the most sophisticated bottling systems around the world.
The Coca-Cola Company has been criticized for its business practices as well as the alleged adverse health effects of its product.
Nutritionists claim that Coca-Cola and other soft drinks are harmful if consumed excessively, particularly to young children who consume a large amount of soft drink beverages. Coke's use of high fructose corn syrup in its beverages is believed to cause obesity and diabetes.
Coke, along with other soft drinks, have been banned on many public school campuses in the US in order to institute healthier food alternatives for students as well as limit the amount of commercialism exposed to young students.
The Cola Wars
The cola wars describes the campaign of mutually-targeted television advertisements and marketing campaigns in the 80's and 90's between Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola. The tit for tat advertisements usually depicted one soft drink maker's brand as "better" than the other, causing a great deal of publicity and entrenched rivalry between the two companies.
In 1998, Coca-Cola was widely criticized by activists and the press for its efforts to secure exclusive vending contracts with public schools across the nation. The controversy began when a student at Greenbrier High School in Evans, Georgia was suspended for wearing a Pepsi t-shirt on "Coke in Education Day" which was part of a larger promotional "Team up with Coca-Cola Contest." The event involved lectures by Coke executives, science classes that focused on the chemistry of Coke, economics classes about the marketing of the product, and Coke rallies; culminating with an aerial photograph of students dressed in red and white spelling out the word Coke with their bodies. It was during this event that student Mike Cameron took off his shirt to reveal a Pepsi shirt underneath, only to be suspended from school for his apparently subversive act.
The episode rallied an increasing number of writers and speakers who assailed Coca-Cola for turning school kids into a captive audience for advertisers, by turning hallways, book covers, scoreboards, and school buses into billboards. A number of progressive organizations, such as the Center for Commercialism in Schools and the Commercialism in Education Research Unit, have criticized corporations such as Coke have for promising under-funded public schools cash in exchange for exclusive rights to sell Coke to students.
Boycotts Against Coca-Cola
Over the years, Coca-Cola has come under sharp criticism for its business practices in India. The company's operations in India have led to severe water shortages for thousands of people living in the vicinity of its bottling plants, and government studies have confirmed illegal dumping of toxic waste around its plants. One of Coca-Cola’s largest bottling plants in India has been shut down since March 2004 because of community opposition.
As a result, many universities throughout North America and the UK are trying to remove Coke products from their campuses. Students at the University of Guelph in Canada have voted to remove Coca-Cola products from campus because of the company’s unethical practices.
In response to the growing international campaign against the Coca-Cola company, the company has initiated a so called “independent” investigation into its operations in India by an Indian group, the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
One of Coke's most outspoken critics is [Killercoke.org], who accuses Coke of murdering Columbian union leaders as well as using other violent tactics to silence its opposition in Latin America.
Coca-Cola also suffers from consumer boycotts in Arab countries because of its early investment in Israel during the Arab League boycott of Israel after WWII. This ultimately resulted in the creation of Mecca Cola, which is an Arab alternative to American Coke.
Coca-Cola Corporate Diplomacy
In response to the scandals impacting Coke, the company has introduced several measures to enhance its responsibility and accountability in communities around the world.
On June 5, 2007 at the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) annual meeting in Beijing China, Chairman and CEO, E. Neville Isdell, announced an ambitious pledge to replace the water Coke uses in its beverages and production.
Coca-Cola has agreed to reduce water use by setting specific water efficiency targets as well as recycle all water used for manufacturing purposes so it can be returned safely to the environment.
The company has also agreed to replenish water by supporting initiatives such as rainwater harvesting, community water programs, and watershed protection programs. Coke already has over 300 rainwater harvesting structures in India, allowing the replenishment of a substantial amount of groundwater.
Coca Cola Foundation
The Coca-Cola Foundation is Coke's primary corporate diplomacy institution. The Foundation works with governmental and non-governmental organizations to create and support projects that help local communities. Some of these programs include customized local initiatives, environmental causes, sports and physical activity as well as education and disaster relief.
In education, the Foundation supports higher education programs, classroom teaching and learning, and international education. The Foundation also has scholarships for aspiring students and encourages young people to stay in school. Over the last ten years, the Coca-Cola Foundation has contributed more than $155 million in support of education.
The Coca-Cola foundation has a number of subsidiary foundations to support its global initiatives, including the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, the Coca-Cola Spain Foundation, and the Coca-Cola Brazil Institute, to name a few.
In 2005, The Coca-Cola Foundation, contributed approximately $76 million to community programs and initiatives worldwide. Representing 1.14 percent of pre-tax profits.
While the company provides such money, schools are forced to incorporate its propaganda, center around Coca-Cola and take away freedom of thought.