The proposal in question asks that the board of Coca-Cola review not only the economic effects of the AIDS pandemic in Africa but also tuberculosis and malaria. Filers of the resolutions asked for a report to shareholders within six months of the company’s 2004 annual meeting, which is set for April 21st.
The company’s move to support the proposal is being heralded as a victory by the Interfaith Center of Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), according to a news release issued by the ICCR. The filers of the resolution include:
- Adorers of the Blood of Christ of Wichita, Kansas
- Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Congregation of the Sisters of Charity, Incarnate Word of Houston, Texas
- Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Chicago, Illinois
- Society of Jesus – Detroit Province
- Service Employees International Union Master Trust Fund.
“This is an impressive first step for Coca-Cola,” said Sister Vicki Bergkamp, ASC, of The Adorers Of The Blood Of Christ. “We look forward to working with Coke to ensuring that this reporting step is fully and properly implemented. Investors need to know that the board at Coca-Cola has fully considered the risks and opportunities the company faces in the public health crisis in Africa, and has effective policies and processes in place to deal with the related challenges.”
While the move by the beverage giant will no doubt be positioned as philanthropic, Coca-Cola has a large market share on the African continent – 830 million consumers in 54 out of 56 countries and territories according to the company’s Web site. Should an economic policy study find a way to get treatment to people infected with HIV/AIDS in Africa, ostensibly the soft drink company stands to make a higher profit on sales numbers extended by otherwise shortened lives. Currently, the Atlanta-based company could be subject to reduced sales as a direct result of the AIDS pandemic in Africa.
To those that think this story sounds familiar,Coca-Cola is one of ten companies facing ICCR-backed shareholder resolutions on the global HIV/AIDS pandemic in 2004. Further, last April shareholders of Coca-Cola rival Pepsi urged the passage of a similar study (See Pepsi Challenge: Shareholders Call for Report on AIDS Impact ).