Statement on Agenda Item #4: Shareowner proposal on sugar and health, presented by Nse Ufot at the 2021 Coca-Cola Annual Shareholders’ Meeting.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent Harrington Investments and introduce the Shareholder Proposal on Sugar and Public Health. My name is Nse Ufot and I’m the CEO of the New Georgia Project and the New Georgia Project Action Fund, organizations dedicated to increasing civic participation for historically marginalized communities – specifically Black, Brown, and young voters – here in Georgia.
I am increasingly concerned about Coca-Cola’s negative impacts on populations of color. Our communities are well aware of your reach. We feel your presence in the targeted marketing of liquid sugar products targeted at Black and Brown citizens –disproportionately suffering from diabetes, obesity and other diseases linked to sugar consumption. We also feel your presence when it comes to Coca-Cola’s vast political influence and the corporation undermining the well-being and constitutional rights of people of color – including our fundamental right to vote. The cornerstone of our American democracy.
In your proxy, you argue that the Access to Nutrition Foundation reports make this resolution unnecessary. However, I beg to differ.
- First, the global and US indexes previously cited makes it clear that Coca-Cola gets a failing grade. The report clearly states Coca-Cola’s “commitments to reduce sugar in a number of products are short-term and lack relevant details.”
- Second, the corporation has a history of funding misleading science to hide the truth about its contributions to obesity and racial disparities.
- Third, we cannot look past the COVID-19 pandemic. Latino, Indigenous and Black Americans, all targets of Coca-Cola’s racially targeted marketing practices—are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than white Americans and further disadvantaged due to the disproportionate obesity rates in Black and Brown communities.
From health and wellbeing to voting rights and racial justice, Coca-Cola needs to stop saying one thing and doing another. Consumers and investors are paying attention. I understand and applaud the value of a thriving business and strong profits. However, this cannot come on the backs of the very communities and issues you claim to support. There is a clear business risk and you are fundamentally on the wrong side of history. The corporation is now claiming it supports voting rights, but it funds the U.S Chamber of Commerce, lobbyists, and legislators that are trying to make it harder for people, especially Black and Brown people to vote. Simply put – it’s time for Coke to walk the talk.
The good news is that Coca-Cola has an opportunity to make good on its professed commitment to racial justice today. Adopt this resolution, cease political activity that stifles health equity, and condemn suppressive, anti-democratic voting laws with a public alliance to stop contributions to policymakers seeking Jim Crow 2.0. Your global brand, established right here in our hometown, can be synonymous with a better world.
Thank you for your time and attention.