Re: [GRRN] Going Beyond the Coke Boycott

Eric Lombardi (
Mon, 18 Oct 1999 13:37:04 -0600


You make perfect sense, and I support the "public policy"
approach 100% (via tax manipulation or laws) versus the
voluntary "good corporate citizen" approach. Been there,
done that,,, and its a facade for non-action.

Literally, Coy Smith and I organized the NRC Board to entertain
the idea of "endorsing" minimum content standards as a good idea
and good public policy. This was 1993-94 ... the industry
side kept saying "don't give us the German, French or Canadian
solution,,,let us create the American solution based on
voluntary actions." It sounded good, but we didn't buy it so
forced the battle into the NRC BOard meeting. We lost the
vote cause it was tied 50:50 ... that's coalition leadership
in action. The subject has never, to my knowledge, ever come
back up on the NRC"s radar screen ... even though 50% of the
Board supported it!

BUt I believe the real reason we lost the vote was because of
that magic element, "timing". The issue came up in late 1994,
just when the Great Bull Market for recyclables was in gear,
and the future looked very bright. Indeed, we all went on to
enjoy awesome markets for one year. Industry was able to claim
that "recycling had won in the marketplace, and we don't need
no new laws, or anything!" Of course, we Americans really
want to believe that less laws are better, and that the market is
really the saviour of our times, so their message played very well.

But now where are we? The "timing" is favoring us, and the COke
campaign is just the beginning of a "Producer Responsibility"
mentality in the USA. Waste News had it right in their editorial
a few months ago ... the Coke campaign is a threshhold issue
regarding how corporations are going to respond to grassroots

Power politics are fun when you have some power. That's our job
now as recycling advocates... to come together and create some
real grassroots POWER... We deserve to be equals at the table
with these powerful corporations, but until we believe that, we
won't ever get there.


At 10:39 AM 10/18/99 -0400, David Biddle wrote:
>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 []
>Sent: Friday, October 15, 1999 12:03 PM
>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
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