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12 Jan 2022

Michael Posner, Forbes (USA)

China: Coca-cola, as Olympic sponsor, urged to address failure to independently monitor Xinjiang bottling plant

"With The Beijing Olympics Approaching, Coke Needs To Confront China’s Human Rights Abuses", 12 January 2022

Though they did not choose Beijing as the Olympic venue, commercial sponsors, like Coke, Intel, and Proctor & Gamble, also are in the spotlight. Because they have entered multi-year sponsorship contracts with the IOC, it is not reasonable to expect them to break these contracts for the Beijing games. While one hopes that in the coming weeks corporate sponsors will speak up about the Chinese government’s human rights violations, at the very least, they have an obligation to conduct their own business in China in a responsible manner. 

Coca-Cola does not meet this obligation with respect to a bottling plant in Xinjiang, which is a joint venture between Coke and a state-owned Chinese company called COFCO. The Atlanta-based company fails because it is unable to independently monitor this facility or related sugar production in Xinjiang. [...]

While Coke says in a written statement that it expects its bottlers to “embrace responsible workplace practices in line with” the company’s human rights policies, it is hard to see how Coke can apply these principles meaningfully in Xinjiang. [...]

With the Olympics set to begin in February, Coke has two options. It can stop producing beverages in Xinjiang or persuade the Chinese government to allow truly independent monitors to audit its facility. The company’s current strategy of keeping its head down and wishing the problem away is no longer viable and will seriously undermine Coke’s iconic brand reputation.