By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Published: 10 March 2007
Students at Manchester University have banned Coca-Cola in protest at the American company's alleged abuses of human rights and the environment.
A motion banning the company's fizzy drinks from the student union's shops
and bars because of its behaviour in Colombia, Turkey and India won
overwhelming support at a meeting this week.
The decision, approved by 400 votes to about 20, means the 36,000
undergraduate and postgraduates at one of Britain's biggest universities
will now drink Virgin or another cola rather than the world's number one
The company is accused of a range of unacceptable actions in Third World
countries, including siphoning water from rivers in India for its factories,
leaving farmers without crucial irrigation supplies.
The students' ban gives support to a growing campaign to eject Coke from
campuses across the UK which is being co-ordinated by an internet group
Activists at Oxford, Edinburgh, Bristol, Bradford, Middlesex and the School
of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have railed against Coca-Cola in
motions presented to their unions.
Students are now expected to call for the National Union of Students to
instruct its commercial arm NUS Services to end its supply contract with
Coke at its national conference later this month. A similar motion was
defeated at an NUS conference recently.
In the motion, the Manchester student union listed a series of allegations
made against the company that have been publicised by campaigners, all
relating to alleged malpractice in developing countries.
Following its approval on Wednesday, Rob Owen, general secretary of
Manchester student union and a member of George Galloway's Respect
coalition, said: "The significance of this is that students buy Coke through
NUS Supplies and it's one of Coke's biggest customers.
"There's a ban in places like Leeds, SOAS and Sussex, and there's growing
pressure to remove Coke at a national level. If that happened, it would be a
massive blow to the company not only in public relations terms, but
Manchester's student union – one of the biggest in Europe – will now no
longer order Coke for its two shops and five bars and intends to lobby
Manchester University to introduce the ban in its bars and restaurants.
Coca-Cola rejects claims it has behaved badly in its global operations. The
company is making strong profits in Britain despite obesity fears over the
sugar content of its drinks.
Coca-Cola was contacted yesterday but was unavailable for comment.