Coca-Cola and Public Accusations

Coca cola is being criticized for being one of the main contributors to plastic pollution in the world. Plastic pollution is one of the most serious environmental issues that is affecting both the environment and people health.

According to the Environmental Health News (Environmental Health News, Plastic Threatens our Health from Before Production to Long After it’s Thrown Away: Report) “Two-thirds of all plastic ever produced remains in the environment”. The gravity of plastic pollution on the environment and human health is due to the following facts: Unlike other material (aluminum, and glass) plastic can never be recycled more than once. According to Dickinson “plastic degrades in reprocessing, and is almost never recycled more than once,”.

The plastic recycling process releases very harmful gases such as methane into the environment. This gas has a huge impact on the health of human beings. As reported by The Guardian: “Consumers are led to believe that the Earth would be healthy, if only they recycled properly, when, in reality, there is no market for most plastics to be recycled”. According to the facts above, Coca Cola promise to use at least 50% of the plastic recycled material in its packaging by 2030 is not an effective solution to the problem. On the contrary Coke plastic recycling process will contribute to increased air pollution.

Identify the main stakeholders involved in this case and evaluate to what extent each of them is responsible for this situation. (300-450 words) What follows is a list of stakeholders that are involved in this case study:

  • International donor agencies Food producers (Coca Cola),
  • Environmental activists,
  • Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s),
  • Government and public sector,
  • Community (customers),
  • Marine scientists,
  • Universities and research centers/

Each of these stakeholders have a role and responsibilities toward reducing the plastic pollution. International donor agencies, like those who attended the World Economic Forum in Davos have the financial resources to support the work of governments, environmental activists, and NGO’s who are trying to find solutions to the problems of plastic pollution.

Government/ Public sector has the legal power to ban food producers from using plastic in food production and they also have the power to enforce the law on food production companies. Universities, research centers, and marine scientists have the know how to produce research studies to document and validate the impact of plastic pollution on human’s health and the environment.

They are responsible for generating the scientific evidence to prove the damaging effect of plastic pollution on our health. Environmental activists, can play an important role in advocating for protecting the environment. Their work can influence the decision makers, politician and the government in taking action toward reducing plastic pollution. Environmental activists can also play an important role in educating the public/ customer about the negative impacts of plastic bottles to be able to change their preferences and behavior. Like activists NGO’s can also play an important role in educating the public and advocating for human rights for a safe environment.

Last but not least the public/customer responsibility is to make informed decisions about their purchasing preferences keeping in mind the safety of the environment. Each member of the community can play the role of an activist/advocate for a better environment when they influence the decisions of their friends and family members and educate people about the importance of reducing plastic in the environment. 3. What CSR model/approach would you recommend for this situation? Explain in detail your reasoning for the chosen model and identify potential weaknesses this model might have in this context. (500-700 words)

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ms. Perez said "Business won't be in business if we don't accommodate consumers," she also said "So as we change our bottling infrastructure, move into recycling and innovate, we also have to show the consumer what the opportunities are. They will change with us."

In her words Ms. Perez has indicated Coke business priorities: satisfying customers needs and seeking innovation to find solution to the plastic waste problem. Coke is also concerned about the growth of the business and their decisions are driven by profit. However, on the other hand Coke is concerned about its sustainability and reputation, so they have to take action to avoid the pressure imposed by environmental activists.

According to many research studies, plastic pollution leads to many health problems such as cancers, diabetes, organ malfunctions, impact on eyes, skin birth defects, and many other health issues. If Coke truly cares about its customers, they can’t continue using plastic bottles/ promise recycling of plastic bottles when they know it doesn’t work. The impact of plastic pollution is not only limited to health but it also has major footprint on climate change, fisheries, and farmland production.

The hazards are many and Coke can’t continue ignoring them. In my opinion, Coke should focus on economical CSR initiatives that will support the growth of the business while at the same time meeting the ethical and environmental needs of the community. Coke, should invest in developing its identity as an Environmentally Responsible Business. To achieve this target, Coke can invest in the following CSR initiatives: Environmental initiative: Switch to using compostable plastics instead of the regular plastic.

Compostable plastic is a paper made environmentally-friendly plastic that doesn’t harm the environment when degraded and doesn’t emit any harmful fuels in production. The Choose Water website states: “No matter where these bottles end up, whether if it's in the ocean or in landfill they are gone within a few months. They don't leave behind toxic micro particles, or leach heavy metals into the environment.”. By adopting this strategy Coke will enhance its image as a green business and environment friendly. Philanthropic initiative: Unfortunately, compostable plastic life cycle is very low (three weeks).

Coke should invest in funding and sponsoring research in academic institutions to enhance the production of compostable plastic. By taking the lead in investing in research, Coke will enhance its image as a brand that supports innovation. Educate the community: Coke has to inform consumers and increase awareness to encourage its customers to be environmentally conscious. These CSR initiatives are a win-win strategy that will help find solutions to Plastic pollution and at the same time enhance Coke image. However, these CSR initiatives have the following weaknesses:

Financial cost on Coke for changing the bottling material Changing customer behavior requires time and can’t be done overnight Enhancing the production of compostable plastic requires time and money According to the weaknesses above, these strategies are long term and require major commitment from Coke to invest in a very expensive CSR initiative.


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