US varsity says okay to Coke after TERI report

By Arun Kumar, IANS

Washington : The Michigan University has decided to continue to do business with Coca-Cola after The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) gave it a clean chit on pesticides levels in its products bottled in India.

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“Based on the information contained in the TERI Report, we regard this issue to be resolved,” Timothy P. Slottow, executive vice president of the university said in a letter to the Atlanta based soft drink major.

The university’s Dispute Review Board (DRB) had sought a Third Party Assessment of Coca-Cola Facilities in India after student groups at the university voiced concerns about reports of pesticide residues in the company’s Indian products.

Slottow noted the report’s finding: “None of the pesticides as per the scope of work were found to be present in process water used for beverage production by the plants (or in treated effluent water discharged from the plants).”

In the letter to Jeff Seabright, Coca-Cola’s vice president, environment & water resources, he said the Michigan university “has carefully reviewed and evaluated the recently released Independent Third Party Assessment” conducted by TERI. “It appears to offer a complete and thorough analysis of your company’s bottling operations in India.”

The TERI Report includes input from various stakeholders who have a particular interest in Coca-Cola’s bottling operations in India, ranging from farmers who live and work near the plants to government officials, he noted.

“Although the report includes a wide range of findings, the University was specifically interested in the results related to the level of pesticides in Coca-Cola products bottled in India,” Slottow said.

He noted that the TERI Report offers a number of other recommended actions for the company’s operations in India, with particular focus on effluent discharge and siting of plants in water-stressed environments.

Coca-Cola’s actions as outlined in a letter to the university “to address the significant issues raised by the Report for its operations in India are important steps and we look forward to hearing about your progress on these initiatives in the future,” Slottow said.

The university was also pleased to note that Coca-Cola would be using the findings of the TERI report to examine its worldwide bottling operations.

“As a result of the TERI Report findings and your planned actions, The University of Michigan will continue to do business with Coca-Cola at this time, ” Slottow said.

However, the University will reassess its relationship with Coca-Cola when the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO) releases its independent report on the labour situation in Coca-Cola plants in Colombia, he noted. The university had sought independent assessments of Coca-Cola’s bottling operations in Colombia too following such complaints from student groups.