Coke’s contract renewal on the rocks

A company accused by some of kidnapping, torture and murder may get their contract renewed by the University. UVM’s contract with Coca-Cola expires on June 30, 2012, and the discussion of whether UVM will renew it will begin in the spring of 2011, according to the contract. “We really want to let students know as much as we know so that they can make an informed decision and so that we can make an informed decision [about whether to keep Coca-Cola products on campus],” junior Annie Doran said. The purpose of the Student Action Committee is to question Coca-Cola’s environmental and social practices, senior and chair of the committee Jesse Simmons said. According to Killer Coke, an organization that opposes Coca-Cola, the company has engaged in a number of human rights and unethical business violations. Communities in India are experiencing severe water shortages as a direct result of Coca-Cola’s overextraction of groundwater used in bottling plants, a document from the India Resource Center stated. Killer Coke also condemns Coca-Cola for allegedly murdering union leaders in Colombia. Violent paramilitaries, often working closely with plant management, have tortured, kidnapped or illegally detained hundreds of other Coke workers, according to Killer Coke. “We think that the University could have a very powerful impact on the operations of Coca-Cola by not renewing the contract,” Simmons said. Paul Behan, marketing director for the on-campus food supplier Sodexho, a business partner of Coca-Cola, supports keeping the company at UVM. “Students here like the product and would be saddened if it went away,” Behan said. Coca-Cola donates their products at public events, keeps the campus well-stocked and is always a readily available business partner, Behan said. The movement to reduce bottled water on campus is related to the Coca-Cola issue, according to the Student Action Committee. Thirteen percent of Coca-Cola’s profit at UVM comes from Dasani bottled water, Simmons said. “But the problem is, if Coca-Cola sales decrease by more than 10 percent, UVM has to pay massive costs,” he said. The movement against bottled water will hurt UVM financially if the University stays under the Coca-Cola contract, according to the Student Action Committee. One of the options to be considered this upcoming spring is reallocating UVM money to a more ethical company, Simmons said “Right now, we are really just in our homework-research phase,” Simmons said. “The decision lies outside our committee, but we would like to influence it by giving information to the students. We really want to hear what students have to say.” The Student Action Committee offers any students who have an interest in the issue, comments or opinions to send their feedback to [email protected] or [email protected]