Coca-Cola vows to engage with Tate & Lyle Sugars over ‘land grabbing’ controversy

By Ben BOUCKLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture Credit: Coca-Cola South Africa
Picture Credit: Coca-Cola South Africa

Related tags: Soft drink, Coca-cola

Coke’s today vowed to ‘engage’ with key sugar suppliers Tate & Lyle Sugars, Trapiche and Bunge after a powerful Oxfam report raised concerns about the land rights of poor rural communities.

225,000+ people signed petitions as part of Oxfam’s campaign to get big food and beverage firms to respect community land rights – notably in regard to sugar, which along with soy and palm oil demands the most land for direct food production – and Coke has committed to system-wide change.

The Coca-Cola Company today pledged to perform social and environmental assessments across its supply chain – starting in “critical sourcing regions” ​Colombia, Guatemala, Brazil, India, South Africa, Thailand – and also publically reveal its biggest sugarcane suppliers.

These are COPERSUCAR (Brazil), Mitr Phol (Thailand) and Dangote (Nigeria), and Coke said it will publish the names of all sourcing companies and suppliers within three years.

Palm oil and soy spend ‘extremely small’

You can read the Oxfam's case studies where Tate & Lyle Sugars, Trapiche and Bunge gain negative mentions in the charity's October report on land grabbing – Nothing Sweet About It​.

Today the charity warned that PepsiCo and ABF – the other two major targets in the publication, which we reported on here​ – have yet to commit to real change.

Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, said today: “Coca-Cola has taken an important step to show consumers and the communities it relies upon that it aims to be a part of the solution to land grabs. This will resonate throughout the industry.”

With a 25% share of the global soft drinks market, Coke is the world’s largest sugar buyer – the global market as a whole was worth $47bn in 2011, and has immense clout in the sugar supply chain.

Conversely, Coke said that its palm oil and soy purchases account for less than 0.01% of global market volumes.

Coke’s 5-point pledge

Coke commitments unveiled today include (1) Adherence to the principle of ‘free, prior and informed consent’ when acquiring land across its operations, and on behalf of suppliers.

(2) The firm will immediately disclose the top three countries and supplier of sugar cane (3) conduct and publish third-party social, environmental and human rights assessments, starting in seven critical sourcing regions: Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, India, Philippines, Thailand and South Africa.

(4) Coke will engage with governments and international bodies to support responsible land rights practices and (5) engage with suppliers in the cases cited by Oxfam in its report to pursue resolutions in line with community concerns.

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