Thursday, July 3, 2008

Here's what I think about that.

Below is the letter that I sent to Coca Cola today regarding the response they've e-mailed me. For any of you particularly interested in labor issues, you may also want to check out this site.

Also, as Organic Needle reminds us, the Coca Cola company owns countless brands. See a really big list of brands owned by Coca Cola here.

To Whom It May Concern:

I received your response to my inquiry regarding the village of Plachimada in India.

Your response was much what I expected, explaining how you hadn’t actually violated any laws. I understand that the court decided you have the right to use local aquifers, but that does not absolve you from your responsibility to do the right thing – and draining a community’s water resources to the point where they can no longer sustain themselves is not the right thing, regardless of what the court says.

Your argument that the water tables would not be adversely affected in conditions of normal rainfall is empty, as you yourself point out that the last few years have not been ones in which normal rainfall has occurred. Apparently your strategy in this case is to carry on as usual despite the fact that the conditions you’ve established to avoid negative environmental impacts have not been met?

I understand that a court ruling in your favor means you may never be held legally accountable for your actions, but I am not bound to judge in accordance with legal rulings, and I am holding you accountable for the damage you’ve done to the community of Plachimada.

Your contention that your biosolids are not hazardous is not comforting. Why were they distributed to farmers in the first place? Because it was the cheapest, easiest way for you to unload your waste? Do you honestly assert that the high levels of cadmium in these solids are not dangerous? If so, you’ve lost all credibility with me. I highly doubt that you’d spread this sludge in your own backyard and allow your children to play in it.

Your product quality information, although interesting, was not the focus of my concerns about your activities in Plachimada.

To reiterate the point of my original letter, which I do not feel has been addressed at all by your response, I would like to know what are you doing to clean up the mess you have made? Although I’m glad that you’ve figured out that in normal rainfall years, you wouldn’t be draining the water tables, and you’ve stopped dumping biosolids on people’s farms, I don’t see anywhere that you’ve addressed the fact that you’ve stressed community water resources in low rainfall years – what are you doing to remedy this? What are you doing to clean up the cadmium in the soil that you are responsible for?

You stated that you do "business around the world honestly, ethically, in compliance with applicable law, and with respect for the basic principles of human decency and justice." Excuse me for saying so, but I disagree. I'd say the only one of these you've got done perfectly is the compliance with applicable law, with some sort of misguided assumption that the rest will follow. Unfortunately, compliance with written law is not a guarantee of honesty, ethical behavior, and certainly carries no assurances regarding basic principles of human decency or justice - that is up to you, and in this regard, you are failing.

Corporate responsibility does not mean telling the world that you are doing the right thing, it means actually doing the right thing. Thus far, I see a serious lack of responsibility on your part.

Thank you for your additional time, and I await a response.



Anonymous said...

Melissa, Loved the letter. Patricularly because I had to wake up today to make it to work at 5:30a so I could listen to my sexist, racist, assholist* fearless leader give a speech on Ethics within our corporation.

We were all forced to sign a book agreeing to abide by the ethical practices of our corporation (which by the way include us being able to take "gifts" valued up to $200, or higher, with the permission of our fearless leader) The entire book/speech was incredibly hard to digest as it is a massive load of bullshit.

I cant help but feel like our leaders must sit around the board room saying "maybe if we jam this load of shit down everyones throat long enough they will begin to believe it."

F these corporations whose only focus is the bottom line.

The only driving force behind moral improvement within a company is if there is a dollar to be made from doing it. Whether by avoiding fines, or avoiding negative publicity. Corporations will rarely act because it is the right thing to do.

-A disgusted. disenchanted young individual

*made that one up

organicneedle said...

Excellent work! You make a clear distinction between legal grounds and ethical grounds. Hopefully they will actually get that point. I wonder what, if anything, they will come back with.

Melissa said...

anon - glad you liked the letter. sounds like it might be time for a career (or at least job) change. It can be really tough finding work doing what you love in a company whose ethics you agree with - especially if you need to earn a living in the process!

organic needle, I too hope that they pick up on that distinction, because I think it's a really important one. No response yet...

kale for sale said...

Great letter!

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Good work. I have boycotted Coke for years and spoken about it to friends and co workers but have only signed petitions. It must be time for a letter!

Melissa said...

kale for sale, thanks!

equa yona, maybe if they get enough letters, they'll do something more than send out a form letter in response!