Coca-Cola’s Human Rights Hypocrisy of Operating in Nations Lacking Basic Civil Liberties
The National Center for Public Policy Research, the nation’s leading proponent of free-market investor activist, is calling on all Coca-Cola investors to approve its shareholder resolution that exposes Coca-Cola’s hypocritical treatment of civil liberties. The proposal, submitted by the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project (FEP), questions why the soft drink giant opposes religious liberty in the United States on alleged civil rights pretenses while simultaneously maintaining operations in numerous nations lacking those same rights.
Coca-Cola’s shareholder meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 26, 2017 at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia. This will be the sixth time a National Center representative has attended a Coca-Cola shareholder meeting, and the sixth corporate shareholder meeting that the FEP has participated in so far in 2017.
“Coca-Cola’s attacks on Americans of faith have gone under the radar for far too long,” said National Center Vice President David W. Almasi, who is set to represent the FEP at the meeting and has participated in past Coca-Cola shareholder meetings. “Coca-Cola operates in countries where governments consider homosexuality a crime. Yet they allied with a radical pressure group, Georgia Prospers, to stop the Peach State’s religious freedom bill they falsely claimed persecuted homosexuals. It’s inconsistent, and their error in judgement here is compounded by apparent silence abroad. We are simply asking Coca-Cola to justify their actions.”
The National Center’s proposal “requests the board of directors review the company’s guidelines for selecting countries/regions for its operations and issue a report. . . [to] identify Coca-Cola’s criteria for investing in, operating in and withdrawing from high-risk regions.” It is the only proposal for consideration by shareholders not being offered by Coca-Cola itself.
The full text of the National Center’s proposal, and Coca-Cola’s response to it, are available on page 81 of the company’s proxy statement, which is available for download here. The text of its prepared statement in favor of the proposal can be found here. Comments from the FEP after the meeting will be also be available on the site here within hours of the conclusion of the meeting.
The National Center’s FEP brought similar shareholder proposals before shareholders at Apple, Eli Lilly, General Electric and Wal-Mart in 2016. It also raised religious freedom issues with executives of Home Depot, Nike, PepsiCo and Red Hat. This is also not the first time the FEP promoted a shareholder proposal at a Coca-Cola meeting. In 2016, the FEP asked Coca-Cola shareholders to consider a proposal for the company to issue a congruency analysis to point out and justify potentially questionable affiliations and contributions on the part of the company. The FEP has been attending Coca-Cola shareholder meetings since 2012.
“By opposing Georgia’s religious freedom legislation, Coca-Cola opposed the kind of protections inherent in our nation’s founding principles and later advocated by the likes of Ted Kennedy. Yet the company does business in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and other places where homosexuality is discriminated against to the extent it is punishable by death,” added Almasi. “This disconnect in policy cannot be overlooked. The Free Enterprise Project, as an advocate for the company’s shareholders, is asking company executives to justify their decisions.”
“If Coca-Cola wants to go after religious Americans, it’s no longer going to do so with impunity,” said National Center General Counsel and FEP Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “Either the company is opposed to religious freedom everywhere or it only opposes religious freedom here in the United States as a means to score political points with the anti-religious left. If the company were to honestly answer our proposal, all Coca-Cola investors would know if the company was truly anti-religious or simply hypocritical for political reasons. Those are the only two potential explanations for the company’s actions.”
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