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The Press misses Greenwashing Campaign by Coca Cola in their partnership with local environmental group

October 3, 2009

On the front page of the region section in today’s (10/3) Grand Rapids Press there is a story about how barrels that were once used for soft drink syrup are now being used by local residents to catch rainwater. The story is framed as a good example of how people can reuse industrial waste and promote sustainability.


According to Press reporter Jim Harger, the Coca Cola Bottling Company of Michigan (Grand Rapids facility) contacted the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) about using their old barrels for a residential rainwater program. WMEAC was delighted to partner with Coca Cola and this effort fits into what the Coke plant manager John Bryne says was “part of the company’s Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Week.” In fact, the rain barrel campaign is part of a larger effort by the Coca Cola Company to paint themselves as an environmentally sustainable corporation. The Coke website is filled with information and images about all the wonderful things they do to protect the environment and help communities.

What is unfortunate about this Grand Rapids Press article is that the reporter never bothered to investigate or challenge whether or not the company does indeed engage in sustainable practices. In the documentary Blue Gold: World Water Wars, Coca Cola and several other bottled water companies are exposed for their efforts to privatize public water to secure greater access to resources for their beverage sales. Maude Barlow in her book Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water says that Coca Cola has been stealing water from communities for decades and since they got in the business of selling bottled water this theft has increased.


Take the case of India for example, where local communities and farmer have been battling companies like Coca Cola for years. According to the India Resource Center, Coca Cola has been taking needed water from communities all across India and contaminating the soil with factory waste. The case of India is but one example and Coke Cola has been the target of numerous local and international campaigns to challenge to company’s environmental and human rights practices.

It is unfortunate that the Grand Rapids Press didn’t bother to investigate why Coca Cola was partnering with a local environmental group during its Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Week PR campaign. Had the Press looked into this issue they might have discovered that Coca Cola is doing nothing more than engaging an effective Greenwashing campaign.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. lucie fig permalink
    October 3, 2009 8:45 pm

    Shame on WMEAC for generating good press for one of the world’s most insidious robber barons. It’s going to take more than rain barrels to rectify Coca Cola’s wanton extraction of water both here and in developing countries, where whole villages have been left thirsty because their water has been extracted, bottled and distributed elsewhere.

  2. Kate Wheeler permalink
    October 4, 2009 4:14 pm

    Indian farmers haven’t just been left thirsty; they’ve been left for dead. They are locked in a vicious cycle of having to buy Monsanto seeds, which are much more water-dependent than their former local varieties, while companies like Coke are stealing their water. They have been driven to the desperate strategy of committing suicide, sometimes in mass numbers, to escape this hopeless corporate death cycle and to attract world attention to their plight. The current estimate is that over 200,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves in the past 12 years.

    Read about Monsanto’s part in this horrific situation here:

    Read another short article about Coke’s role here:

    I called these two articles up on my browser in about three minutes. Surely a Press reporter could have done the same.


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