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Updated 3:30 PM January 3, 2006



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U-M suspends purchase of Coca-Cola products

The University will suspend its purchase of Coca-Cola products on campus, beginning on Jan. 1, because the soft drink company has not yet agreed to move ahead with an investigation of its business practices in India and Colombia.

The investigation seeks to resolve concerns that the company may have violated the University’s Vendor Code of Conduct. The Dec. 29 decision halts until further notice the extension of previously expired contracts with Coca-Cola.

On Nov. 30, 2004, a U-M student organization called Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality lodged a formal complaint against Coca-Cola, accusing the company of improper bio-waste disposal, depleting water resources and allowing pesticides into products in India, as well as questionable labor practices in Colombia.

The University’s Dispute Review Board, an advisory body to the chief financial officer made up of faculty, staff and students, recommended a series of deadlines to measure progress toward resolution of the complaints. By Sept. 30 Coca-Cola was asked to agree to an independent, third-party audit of its practices in Colombia and India, and a Dec. 31 deadline was set for selecting an auditor and agreeing upon a detailed protocol for the audits.

Coca-Cola wrote U-M officials a letter Dec. 16 indicating that due to ongoing litigation in a related matter it was unable to comply with the University’s deadlines. Company officials indicated a desire to continue to work with the University to resolve the issues, says Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Timothy Slottow.

“We believe Coca-Cola is sincere in its desire to ensure fair labor practices and a safe working environment in Colombia and sustainable environmental practices in India,” Slottow says. “We are interested in continuing to work with Coca-Cola as part of the multi-university commission to resolve the concerns in India and Colombia.”

In addition to eliminating the University’s direct purchase of the soft drink products, Slottow says his office will instruct department heads across campus to discontinue purchasing Coca-Cola through University accounts. Some third-party vendors—such as restaurant franchises—may continue to sell Coca-Cola as part of their food-service operations, however, because of separate agreements between the eating establishments and the soft drink company, Slottow says.

The University plans to resume procurement of Coca-Cola products if the details of the independent, third-party investigation in Colombia can be resolved with the soft drink company, and if agreement can be reached on the process for a third-party review of environmental concerns in India. Progress in launching and completing these independent reviews, as well as remediation of any identified problems, will continue to be important to the University’s ongoing business relationship with Coca-Cola.

U-M had 13 direct and indirect contracts with Coca-Cola and its bottlers, most of which expired between June and November. The value of the contracts with the soft drink company in 2005 was about $1.4 million.

Earlier this month, New York University instituted a similar ban, joining Rutgers University in New Jersey; Bard College in New York; Carleton College in Minnesota; Lake Forest College and the College of DuPage, both in Illinois; Oberlin College in Ohio; and Salem State College in Massachusetts.

The University’s correspondence with Coca-Cola and related materials are posted at



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