To the Editor:
Recently, I had the privilege of talking with Yale students and faculty about the responsibilities businesses have in their communities. Having traveled to more than 150 countries during my tenure with Coca-Cola, I have experienced firsthand the honest and ethical way we, and our bottling partners, do business around the world. Any suggestion to the contrary is deeply concerning to me.
During my speech, a group of students staged a protest and in the reception afterward, questioned me about the business practices of our Company and our bottling partners in Colombia. While I share their compassion for the people of that war-torn nation, I vehemently disagree with the insinuation that the Coca-Cola business is complicit in any way with the violence there. The facts speak for themselves:
• Two different independent judicial inquiries in Colombia — one in a Colombian Court, and one by the Colombian Attorney General’s office — have examined these issues and found no evidence against our Company or our bottling partners.
• These allegations were the thrust of a lawsuit filed against The Coca-Cola Company in a U.S. District Court in Miami and the Court dismissed the charges against our Company. We are confident that as this case proceeds against our bottling partners, the Court will find there no evidence against them as well.
• SINALTRAINBEC, a Colombian union representing bottler employees, has publicly stated that it has “not a single indication” that the Company or any bottler has links to illegal armed groups.
• The Coca-Cola Company has independently investigated all claims regarding human rights abuses in Colombia and has found no evidence to support them.
Our Company has been a valuable member of the Colombian community for more than 70 years and our bottling partners respect the rights of employees, including those who choose third-party representation or union membership. In fact, our bottling partners enjoy extensive, constructive relations with many separate unions in Colombia covering wages, benefits and working conditions. This includes the union that filed the lawsuit against the Company and our bottling partners.
Given Yale’s strong tradition of intellectual rigor and commitment to pursuing truth, we trust that the facts here will prevail over false allegations and innuendo. We and our bottling partners are committed to the Colombian people and share their aspirations for peace and economic progress.
Douglas N. Daft
April 8, 2004
The writer is the chairman and chief executive officer of The Coca-Cola Company.