Students Criticize Campus's Coca-Cola Contract

Photo: Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center speaks on campus about Coca-Cola's allegedly unethical actions in India. The group hopes the university will not renew its contract with the company.
Chris McDermut/Staff
Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center speaks on campus about Coca-Cola's allegedly unethical actions in India. The group hopes the university will not renew its contract with the company.


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A 10-year contract giving Coca-Cola Co. exclusive rights to sell beverages on the UC Berkeley campus is coming under fire within the student community.

Students with the Coalition For a Better Contract joined forces with ASUC senators to author a bill condemning Coca-Cola's business practices and urging the campus to reconsider the terms of its contract. The student bill is scheduled to be reviewed tonight by the ASUC Senate Committee on University and External Affairs and may move to the senate floor on Wednesday, said Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein, an author of the bill.

The contract with Coca-Cola expires in August 2011, although negotiations to renew the contract are already under way and will likely be wrapped up by January, according to ASUC Auxiliary Director Nadesan Permaul.

According to junior Amman Desai, an environmental engineering major and coalition member, the bill calls for "more ethical beverage companies to be on our campus and ... doesn't allow for one company to have a monopoly."

The current Coca-Cola contract includes an ethics clause stating that "licensees shall commit to conduct their business according to a set of ethical standards which include ... respect for the unique and intrinsic value of each human being."

But the student bill raises concerns about Coca-Cola's labor, human rights and environmental track records in India and Guatemala, domestic health and sustainability practices and the lack of consumer choice and efficacy inherent in exclusive contracts.

The current contract, an agreement between a consortium of four campus units - the ASUC Auxiliary, Residential and Student Service Programs, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Recreational Sports Facility - "grants Coca-Cola limited exclusivity for the sales and distribution of its beverages at specified venues in return for sponsorship fee, sales commissions, product and supplies donations," said Mike Weinberger, the director of recreational sports, in an e-mail.

Contract negotiations are only open to Coca-Cola representatives, stakeholders in the contract and ASUC President Noah Stern as a voice for the student body. The student bill calls for greater transparency and student involvement in contracts.

"I think it's a misnomer to talk about transparency when you're talking about business negotiations," said Permaul. "This is not a public activity which involves politics or public policy - this is a business contract."

Though he acknowledged the coalition's concerns about Coca-Cola's practices, Stern said student groups implicitly express their support for private-public partnerships when they request funds from the ASUC and must be turned away due to a lack of resources.

"The ASUC and student groups benefit dramatically from this contract," Permaul said. "It is the second largest revenue that the ASUC receives annually."

As part of the current negotiations, the campus consortium has proposed greater compensation from Coca-Cola and monetary funding of recycling programs. It is waiting for a response from Coca-Cola by mid-October. Should Coca-Cola's response be favorable, negotiations will continue. Otherwise, the campus will submit a request for proposal, and the consortium will consider other bidders.

Under this process, Permaul said, the contract "could change to another entity, like (PepsiCo Inc.)."A 10-year contract giving Coca-Cola Co. exclusive rights to sell beverages on the UC Berkeley campus is coming under fire within the student community.

Students with the Coalition For a Better Contract joined forces with ASUC senators to author a bill condemning Coca-Cola's business practices and urging the campus to reconsider the terms of its contract. The student bill is scheduled to be reviewed tonight by the ASUC Senate Committee on University and External Affairs and may move to the senate floor on Wednesday, said Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein, an author of the bill.

The contract with Coca-Cola expires in August 2011, although negotiations to renew the contract are already under way and will likely be wrapped up by January, according to ASUC Auxiliary Director Nadesan Permaul.

According to junior Amman Desai, an environmental engineering major and coalition member, the bill calls for "more ethical beverage companies to be on our campus and ... doesn't allow for one company to have a monopoly."

The current Coca-Cola contract includes an ethics clause stating that "licensees shall commit to conduct their business according to a set of ethical standards which include ... respect for the unique and intrinsic value of each human being."

But the student bill raises concerns about Coca-Cola's labor, human rights and environmental track records in India and Guatemala, domestic health and sustainability practices and the lack of consumer choice and efficacy inherent in exclusive contracts.

The current contract, an agreement between a consortium of four campus units - the ASUC Auxiliary, Residential and Student Service Programs, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Recreational Sports Facility - "grants Coca-Cola limited exclusivity for the sales and distribution of its beverages at specified venues in return for sponsorship fee, sales commissions, product and supplies donations," said Mike Weinberger, the director of recreational sports, in an e-mail.

Contract negotiations are only open to Coca-Cola representatives, stakeholders in the contract and ASUC President Noah Stern as a voice for the student body. The student bill calls for greater transparency and student involvement in contracts.

"I think it's a misnomer to talk about transparency when you're talking about business negotiations," said Permaul. "This is not a public activity which involves politics or public policy - this is a business contract."

Though he acknowledged the coalition's concerns about Coca-Cola's practices, Stern said student groups implicitly express their support for private-public partnerships when they request funds from the ASUC and must be turned away due to a lack of resources.

"The ASUC and student groups benefit dramatically from this contract," Permaul said. "It is the second largest revenue that the ASUC receives annually."

As part of the current negotiations, the campus consortium has proposed greater compensation from Coca-Cola and monetary funding of recycling programs. It is waiting for a response from Coca-Cola by mid-October. Should Coca-Cola's response be favorable, negotiations will continue. Otherwise, the campus will submit a request for proposal, and the consortium will consider other bidders.

Under this process, Permaul said, the contract "could change to another entity, like (PepsiCo Inc.)."

Tags: ASUC AUXILIARY, ASUC SENATE, COCA-COLA CO.


Contact Noor Al-Samarrai at [email protected]



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