Coca Cola muscles out environmental concerns in the Grand Canyon

Pristine wilderness under pressure

Here’s a cautionary tale about the reliance by public bodies on private funding if ever there was one. Coca Cola has donated over $13m to the US National Parks, so, whether they really have any sort of commitment to environmental issues or not,  at the very least they must get the PR benefit of looking like they do, right?

So it comes as a surprise to read how the company turned psycho when the custodians of the extremely fragile Grand Canyon National Park declared a ban on disposable plastic water bottles…and successfully pressured the Parks to reverse the ban.

This despite the Parks having gone to lengths to work with the local retailers who would be affected by the ban. However, possibly assuming that if small retailers could overlook a minor dent in their sales in order to protect a world heritage site so could a global corporation, they neglected to deal with the bully in the room.

Nor the coward, apparently. Neil J. Mulholland, president of the parks foundation, said a Coca-Cola representative contacted him late in the process to ask for details of the bottle ban and how it would work. “There was not an overt statement made to me that they objected to the ban,” Mulholland claims. “There was never anything inferred by Coke that if this ban happens, we’re losing their support.” Nonetheless, he simply folded at the very idea and halted the plan to ban.

A Cocal Cola spokesperson said “Banning anything is never the right answer,” she said. “If you do that, you don’t necessarily address the problem.”

Erm, so banning plastic bottles doesn’t address the issue of discarded plastic bottles? I’m waiting to hear from CC exactly what their solution might be. It’s estimated that water bottles make up 30% of the Park’s solid waste. A ban isn’t a radical new idea – Zion National Park already has a ban. What perplexes me here is the value of water sales in the national Park vs the damaging PR generated by this story. CC’s behaviour seems like a mean, heavy-handed, ignorant, greedy over-reaction…entirely consistent with the idea of the corporation as psychopath.

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