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Norway Students Vote to Restrict Coca-Cola

Norway Students Vote to Restrict Coca-Cola

Seek Ethical Alternatives to Coca-Cola

Oslo (November 11, 2008): Students at the University of Oslo have voted overwhelmingly to restrict the dominant presence of Coca-Cola products on campus, and introduce ethical alternatives to Coca-Cola on campus.

In a resolution passed yesterday at the University of Oslo Welfare Council (Velferdstinget I Oslo), the student body will now seek to restrict significantly the size of Coca-Cola's contract, offer alternative beverages that are ethical and fair trade as well as adopt more stringent criteria for ensuring that companies that do business with the University of Oslo have strong environmental and ethical records. The student body will also inform Coca-Cola of their decision to restrict Coca-Cola, citing the company's practices in India.

The University of Oslo Welfare Council is a student representative body that oversees all aspects of student life at the University of Oslo - the largest university Norway.

Student groups had voiced concerns that in the absence of ethical products on campus, the students had no choice but to support Coca-Cola - which they found problematic because of the company's unethical practices in India.

Communities across India have been campaigning against Coca-Cola, charging the company with creating water shortages and pollution. Two Coca-Cola plants have been shut down in India as a result of the campaign, and a Coca-Cola funded study released in January 2008 has recommended the closure of another bottling plant in India citing Coca-Cola's significant role in worsening water shortages.

"As students, we want to send Coca-Cola and other businesses a clear message that we will not do business as usual with companies that engage in unethical practices," said Mina Off, coordinator of Attac at the University of Oslo who has led the campaign.

The University of Oslo is the latest in a series of educational institutions to take action against Coca-Cola. In Norway, the University of Bergen, Vestfold University College and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences at Aas have also passed resolutions against Coca-Cola. Globally, several colleges and universities have also taken action against Coca-Cola, including Smith College in the US, Guelph University in Canada and University of Sussex in the UK.

"We welcome the move by students in Norway to put pressure on the Coca-Cola company. We need such actions globally to ensure that we do not have to go through another summer with little or no access to water because of Coca-Cola," said Mahesh Yogi of the Kala Dera Sangharsh Samiti, the community group demanding the closure of the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Kala Dera in the state of Rajasthan.

Coca-Cola's operations in India are coming under increasing scrutiny internationally, and the company has resorted to announcing ambitious "corporate social responsibility (CSR)" initiatives to counter the criticism, including the announcement that the company will become "water neutral" in India by 2009.

"Increasing CSR initiatives around the world does nothing to improve the damages that Coca-Cola has caused locally in India," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center who also spoke at the Welfare Council meeting. "It is no longer a question of whether Coca-Cola has acted unethically in India, but rather what the Coca-Cola company will do to correct the wrongs in has committed in India. We will ensure that the longer they wait, the more consumers they will lose."


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