Evaluation of the Coca Cola’s strategy to deal with the issues:
The emergence of “local, grassroots struggles against the cola giant’s operation in India should also serve as a reminder to Coca-Cola’s bosses in Atlanta that this is not a public relations problem that one can just “spin” and wish away. Rather, the heart of the issue is a serious concern about control over natural resources and the right of communities to determine how business is done in their communities” (Srivastava, 2007). Srivastava further asserts that “for Coca-Cola to claim, after being made aware of the community protests all over India, that ‘local communities have welcomed our business as a good corporate neighbour’, is nothing short of arrogance”. Nevertheless, the cola giant’s arrogant attitude does not surprise its critics, who are accustomed to the unethical activities of the company. (Srivastava, 2007)
An analysis of Coca-Cola’s law suits in India suggests that their strategy is more centred on cover-up public relations exercises as opposed to making substantial changes to their plan of operation. To elaborate,
“Parallel suits have been brought against Coke over the past five years. Coke has twenty-seven bottling facilities across India and another seventeen franchisee-owned operations. Coke has invested over $1 billion in India, employs around 6000 Indians, and asserts that its business contributes to an additional 125,000 jobs in the country. Environmental and indigenous rights activists argue, however, that Coke’s bottling plants have displaced thousands of local villagers. They claim that Coke has misused and hoarded scarce water resources, leaving communities barren. Critics contend that Coke has contaminated local environments with pollutants and that the company’s product itself is of lesser quality than what is sold in the West“. (Krishnan, 2007)
In order to make decisive judgments on Coca-Cola’s operations in India, one would have to wait for the verdicts of these lawsuits. But, going by circumstantial evidence, it is more likely that the company’s critics are right after all. For example, Coca-Cola’s lawyers had used “different procedural delaying tactics for their clients’ benefit”, which strongly support the view that the accusations against the company are indeed valid (Paust, 2002). Deducing Coca-Cola’s ethical standards in this way is prone to error, but since all the lawsuits are sub-judicial, this is the most plausible logical evaluation one could arrive at.
Given the protracted time period that judicial proceedings take in India, Coca-Cola and other giant multi-national enterprises, as well as their prosecutors, must wait for long before hearing final pronouncements on the petitions filed in court. This delay serves as a deterrent for activists to press further law suits. Nowhere else is the adage ‘Justice delayed is Justice denied’ more apt than in the case of Coca-Cola’s operations in India. Unfortunately, this may also encourage more such MNCs to follow this exploitative path to profits. This should be a source of worry for any democratically government eager for more foreign investment. (Krishnan, 2007)