Journal of Business Ethics Education

Volume 3, 2006

Terry Halbert
Pages 119-141

Coke in Kerala

In March 2004, Coca-Cola suspended production at its $12 million bottling plant in Kerala, southern India. The plant had become the focus of an around-the-clock protest by local citizens, who noticed that the water in their wells had either dried up or become polluted within months of the plant’s opening. They were joined first by local and eventually by global activists concerned about resource privatization on a larger scale. As the controversy snowballed, figuring persistently in print and online media, the local governing authority, which had initially welcomed the plant, refused to renew its license. Even state government, normally supportive of foreign investment, became part of the vortex of forces aligned against Coca-Cola, and the company finds itself caught in a web of legal, strategic and ethical challenges. Rather than presenting the deepening crisis primarily from the perspective of corporate management, this case study offers a wholistic narrative, with first-person accounts from a wide array of stakeholders.