USAID welcomes The Coca-Cola Company’s recently announced commitments to ensure that its sugar suppliers protect the land rights of local communities. Coca-Cola – the world’s largest purchaser of sugar – agreed to revise its corporate Supplier Guiding Principles to incorporate principles that recognize and safeguard local communities’ and indigenous peoples’ rights to land and natural resources. Coca-Cola also agreed to publicly advocate that food and beverage companies, traders, and governments endorse and implement the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security.
As we have argued previously, responsible private investment is necessary to enhance food security, promote economic growth and lift millions of people out of poverty. Coca-Cola’s commitments – including the commitment to cut off any suppliers that do not adhere to its revised Supplier Guiding Principles – provide an innovative model for private sector actors to ensure that their investments are responsible and their suppliers recognize the property rights of local individuals and communities. Additionally, Coca-Cola’s commitment to support implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines and increase its participation in the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) advances what the private sector is doing to engage on land governance issues that could help amplify the impact of the Voluntary Guidelines.
“We welcome Coca-Cola’s commitments to recognize the property rights of local communities and promote transparency along its supply chain. Coca-Cola and other responsible private sector actors have the ability to affect positive change by leveraging their market power to compel their suppliers to work in consultation with local communities and adhere to guidelines that protect rights and promote responsible investment. We support Coca-Cola’s commitments and hope other companies follow suit. We also acknowledge the work of Oxfam in developing this important agreement,” said Dr. Gregory Myers, USAID Division Chief, Land Tenure and Property Rights. Dr. Myers added, “We also encourage greater private sector participation in CFS. We would welcome additional roundtable discussions between the private sector, civil society and governments on responsible agricultural investment.”
Coca-Cola’s announcement followed the release of Sugar rush: Land rights and the supply chains of the biggest food and beverage companies, a report by Oxfam International that claims that land acquired for sugar production has often displaced local communities and led to land-related conflicts. Coca-Cola’s recent announcement included commitments to conduct third-party social, environmental and human rights assessments, which will include impacts related to land and land conflicts, in its top 16 cane sugar sourcing countries, beginning in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, India, Philippines, Thailand and South Africa.
According to Ed Potter, Coca-Cola’s director of global workplace rights, “our company does not typically purchase ingredients directly from farms, nor are we owners of sugar farms or plantations, but as a major buyer of several agricultural ingredients, we acknowledge our responsibility to take action and use our influence to help protect the land rights of local communities.”