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Updated 4:00 PM January 25, 2008
 

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U-M extends relationship with Coca-Cola

The University recently announced it will continue doing business with Coca-Cola after an independent, third-party assessment found there were no pesticides in the water used to produce the company's beverages in India or in the discharge water from its bottling plants in that country.

After receiving a complaint in 2004 about pesticides being present in Coca-Cola products bottled in India, the University's Dispute Review Board (DRB) recommended more investigation to determine if there was any merit to the complaint. The DRB, a faculty-led committee, is responsible for evaluating possible violations of the University's Vendor Code of Conduct.

The assessment, which was conducted by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a nonprofit research organization based in New Delhi, India, examined six company and franchisee-owned bottling plants located throughout India. In addition to the pesticide findings, the TERI report includes information on the effect Coca-Cola's operations have on India's environment, perspectives on the situation from various stakeholders, data about corporate and Indian standards for water consumption and treatment, and several recommendations for the company's consideration about its bottling operations in India.

A team comprised of University faculty and staff members, led by Peggy Norgren, associate vice president for finance, reviewed the TERI report and recommended to Tim Slottow, executive vice president and chief financial officer, that the University continue doing business with Coca-Cola. In addition to Norgren, the team included a faculty representative as well as representatives from the Office of General Counsel and the Procurement Department. Norgren and team member Andy Hoffman, associate director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise and the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise, met with students last week to discuss the TERI report and answer their questions.

"The University is pleased with the overall findings of the TERI report and particularly what it told us about pesticides in Coca-Cola products bottled in India," Norgren says. "It was also good to learn that Coca-Cola is evaluating how it can apply the other findings in the report to its operations in India and around the world."

Norgren noted that a complaint brought to the DRB in 2004 about Coca-Cola's treatment of its work force in Colombia still needs resolution. "We're waiting for the results of an assessment that's being conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) about Coca-Cola's labor practices in Colombia. Once we've had a chance to review that report, we'll revisit our relationship with Coca-Cola," Norgren says. She added that the ILO, which is an agency of the United Nations, has not indicated when its report will be finalized and released.

More information — including the Vendor Code of Conduct, a series of FAQs, information about TERI, and letters from Coca-Cola and the University — is available at www.vpcomm.umich.edu/pa/key/coke.html.

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