Statement on Agenda Item #5: Proposal Regarding a Global Transparency Report
Good morning. Thank you for this opportunity to introduce Item 5, on behalf of Harrington Investments, regarding the importance of Coca-Cola’s global political transparency. I am Alejandro Calvillo, Executive Director of the Mexican NGO El Poder del Consumidor.
I speak to you today from my home country of Mexico, where per capita consumption of Coca-Cola is among the highest in the world. 70% of added sugars in the Mexican diet come from sugary drinks, and evidence shows this is a primary contributor to the country’s chronic disease burden. Mexico has one of the highest childhood obesity rates and death tolls from diabetes in the world. And, the tragic impacts of COVID have been severely worsened by diet-related disease.
I have observed first-hand how the food and beverage industry, and specifically Coca-Cola and its trade associations, have used influence and financing to try to block nationally and internationally recommended public health policies, most recently our new front-of-package food label.
For decades, this political interference in major markets like Mexico, Brazil, India and other countries has been a major liability to people’s health and the planet, but has been largely undisclosed.
Revelations of how Coca-Cola has bankrolled science and charity to influence policymaking in different countries is becoming an increasing liability to Coca-Cola´s brand reputation.
The time has come for the Coca-Cola Company to step up and effectively practice its stated corporate values of integrity and accountability through an active commitment to global political transparency.
Coca-Cola already recognizes transparency as fundamental to its compact with shareowners and the public. The Company needs to fulfill its 2015 pledge “to do better” on transparency, not only in strong democracies where formal mechanisms exist by law but in all the countries where the Company does its business. There is no justification for a double standard on ethics across geographical lines. Transparency helps monitor political activity that may be damaging to public health, human rights, and the environment, and that could fundamentally affect shareholder value.
Your “yes” vote today on item 5 to ensure a corporate global transparency report on political activities and spending, and also on item 4 to study and disclose external public health impacts, would contribute to a different type of legacy for Coca-Cola globally: one in which Coca-Cola exercises its professed core values of accountability and of leadership to you, as shareowners, and to the world.