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Coke joins Oxfam's fight against land grabs

Oliver Tickell

8th November 2013

Coca-Cola has announced a "zero tolerance for land grabs" policy aimed at protecting communities from having their land stolen by big landlords and agro-industrial enterprises.

Coca-Cola's commitment follows a campaign by Oxfam  in which 225,000 people asked them to make sure the sugar they buy isn't produced on land grabbed from some of the world's poorest communities.

But Coca-Cola is only the first of the 'big three' sugar producers targetted by the campaign. The others are Pepsico, makers of Pepsi-Cola, and Associated British Foods, who have yet to make any such pledge.

"A healthy agricultural supply chain is essential to the well-being of the communities where we operate and to the success of our business", said Ed Potter, director of global workplace rights with Coca-Cola. "Our approach to sustainable sourcing is rooted in principles to protect the environment, to uphold human and workplace rights, and to help build more sustainable communities."

"Our company does not typically purchase ingredients directly from farms, nor are we owners of sugar farms or plantations, but as a major buyer of several agricultural ingredients, we acknowledge our responsibility to take action and use our influence to help protect the land rights of local communities," Potter added.

"We are committed to being part of a solution in addressing land rights, and look forward to continuing to engage with Oxfam and other stakeholders to advance this important dialogue and bring about meaningful change."

Coke's declaration includes: 
- Zero tolerance to land grabs: Coke has committed its vast global operations -including suppliers - to ensure that land will not be bought or rented without the full agreement of the people who live and farm there. This is called "free, prior and informed consent" and should guarantee a fair deal for local communities.
- Resolution of disputes: Coke will engage with suppliers on the cases highlighted by our Nothing Sweet About It report and use its influence to ensure that the concerns of communities are addressed.
- Transparency: Coke will disclose the top three countries and suppliers of its cane sugar so in future it will be simpler to track any land disputes to the source.
- Independent investigation: An independent third party will assess Coke's environmental impact and human rights compliance in countries at particularly high risk for land grabs, to show areas which need further improvement.
- Global land justice: Coca-Cola will engage with governments and international bodies to support responsible land rights practices.

Oxfam's Rachel George said: "We'll be closely tracking Coca-Cola to make sure they follow through on these promises, particularly in partnership with the communities in Brazil and Cambodia - including farmers who are still struggling to regain their land rights. Now that Coke have agreed to zero tolerance on land grabs in their supply chain, it's time for their biggest rival, Pepsi, to step up."

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