[GRRN] Going Beyond the Coke Boycott

David Biddle (biddlecswr@email.msn.com)
Mon, 18 Oct 1999 10:39:00 -0400

This is my take on the Coke issue:

We've come through a decade where the corporate community has essentially
been taken at its word that it will voluntarily become environmentally
responsible. It all started with the McToxics campaign against McDonalds
and their Styrofoam clamshells (plus many more products they used). Coke
made their "promise" a few years after that. The newspaper industry
developed voluntary recycled content standards, the corporate world
committed to buying recycled, etc. etc. Today you're hearing lots from
people in the carpet industry, the computer industry and the automobile
industry. While all of these voluntary initiatives seem positive, some of
them haven't panned out...or don't hit the mark. Some too may be too little
too late. And some may actually be important (take Collins & Aikman's bold
carpet recycling initiative, ALL of their product lines now use their
patented carpet backing composed of recycled carpet).

While all of these voluntary programs have been talked up in the press here
in the States, we know that Europe has taken a different tack. Extended
producer responsibility is in full swing across the Atlantic. They have in
effect regulated corporate environmental responsibility. There are many
reasons for this. Some are cultural and some are geographic.

Indeed, it is rather obvious that allowing the voluntary approach to EPR is
rather too open-ended. There are bound to be endless cases of marketing
blitz and glitz with little substance...or in cases like Coke's, attitude
adjustments necessitated by the desire to stretch profits. The question we
need to ask ourselves as a society is whether there might need to be a few
teeth in the old dog's mouth afterall. Regulatory approaches are frought
with problems, are subject to the idiocies of politics, and even in the
best situations can take decades to work, but the laissez faire approach is
probably not going to structurally solve our waste and resource problems
...not until we develop a way to create an economic system that
incorporates the externalities of pollution and the future costs of
resource extraction.

I don't know how you can regulate recycled content for Coke without
requiring it of all users of PET bottles. Same would be true of recycled
content paper, etc. And then the hue and cry from industry, and the
discovery that the industry doesn't have the capacity, etc. But if you
really want the problem to be solved that's how it could work.

Personally, I would also suggest that GRRN and others consider a boycott of
PET containers in general and support the purchase of juice and soda in
glass or aluminum (which we all know has recycled content).

Does any of this make sense?

David Biddle
Center for Solid Waste Research
7366 Rural Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19119

-----Original Message-----
From: Amy Perlmutter [SMTP:amyp@chelseacenter.org]
Sent: Friday, October 15, 1999 12:03 PM
To: greenyes@earthsystems.org
Subject: [GRRN] Coke Campus Boycott

I get really concerned when I see stuff like this. Coke SHOULD be doing
more to support plastics recycling. I'm not convinced it needs to be put
back into soda bottles, the PET market isn't all that bad, but I think they
should make an active effort in developing stable markets for RPET either
in their bottles or other uses. However, just because they are not doing
that doesn't mean they are harming the environment. I don't mean to defend
coke here, I'm not a big soda fan nor am I fan of coke, but they do do
other things that support, and don't harm, the environment. Using recycled
content is not the only environmental activity that corporations undertake,
and how many of us aren't happy to be able to buy beverages in single
serve? I can't blame coke for that. I think it harms us all when
corporations are portrayed as either all good or all bad when it comes to
the environment or anything else (unless they truly are all good or all
bad). It has been my experience in trying to get companies to do the right
thing that they are often better off from a PR standpoint doing nothing,
because when they try to do something they get attacked by sometimes
righteous environmentalists for not doing enough. Can't we please
recognize Coke for what they do do well environmentally and come at this
from a more positive side and urge them to build on their previous efforts
and do more, or just ignore their other stuff and focus on what we want
them to do, rather than demonize them and discount anything positive they
might be doing? While this tactic might be good for fundraising, I don't
think it does anything to change corporate behavior-- it just alienates
them, makes them think environmentalists are ridiculous and close-minded,
and makes it impossible for us to educate them. And while I think its
great that students are being conscientous about where they work, we don't
do a service to them by leaving out the shades of gray and encouraging them
to make change from within empires that aren't all evil.

>October 15, 1999
> Rick Best, GrassRoots Recycling Network
> 916-443-5422; 916-599-2148 cell
> Heather Kunst, ECOnference 2000
> 215-287-0052
>Coke is named for jeopardizing plastics
>PHILADELPHIA (October 15) - A coalition of
>student activists is launching a new
>campaign to get tens of thousands of
>students nationwide to pledge not to
>interview for jobs with corporations that
>are doing harm to the environment. One of
>the first corporations to be targeted is the
>Coca-Cola Company.
>"Coke is being targeted for its failure to
>support plastics recycling," said Andy
>MacDonald, field director for the Dirty Jobs
>Boycott. "Coke's failure to use recycled
>plastic is hurting recycling and the
>environment. It is time for students to
>demand more of market leaders like Coke
>before going to work for them."

>"By Earth Day 2000, corporations with
>terrible environmental records will hear the
>message loud and clear: if they want to be
>successful recruiters, they have to be good
>corporate citizens," said Heather Kunst,
>Dirty Jobs Boycott organizer.

Amy Perlmutter
Executive Director
Chelsea Center for Recycling and
Economic Development
University of Massachusetts
180 Second Street
Chelsea, MA 02150
617-887-2300/fax 617-887-0399
visit our web site at www.chelseacenter.org

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