Originally the Co-op in days gone-by stood for the community and provided a valuable service, but nowadays they trade on their former glories in name only and not in practice. The Co-op will argue that they are an ethical company but even this claim can be quite dubious if you are prepared to look at the other brands they stock.

Tackling Global Poverty by investing in Fair Trade products which provide the makers of the product with a fair wage is very ethical and responsible. Yet these Fair Trade products only make up a small minority of their products, yet it used as one of their main marketing ploys.

However, for all their contributions to the Fair Trade Economy, it is instantly negated by stocking products of dubious ethics, especially if you believe there is some truth to the saying; “If you fly with the crows, you get shot with the crows“.

The Coca-Cola Company

Coca Cola are currently in several court cases brought against them accusing them of conspiring or hiring paramilitaries for the murder, kidnappings and torture of Union Leaders in bottling plants in Columbia. Also a Mark Thomas book and documentary showed links to child labour in the sugar cane fields, that provide sugar to Coca-Cola.

They had links with the Nazi regime during World War II as Coca-Cola GmbH (Germany) financially supported the Nazis by advertising in the Nazi press and Nazi Youth Books, as well as building bottling plants in occupied territories. The syrup used by Coca-Cola became unavailable to the German bottlers and a new product was created, Fanta.

Coca-Cola Israel currently own several dairy farms in the illegal Israeli settlements of Shadmot Mechola in the Jordan Valley and a plant in the industrial zone of Katzerin in the occupied Golan Heights.

In areas of India, the Coca Cola company stand accused of depleting groundwater levels and contaminating the soil, all because they abuse the water resources available to them. They have also been accused of violating laws such as; Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; The Environment (Protection) Act ,1986; The Factories Act, 1948; Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989; The SC-ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989; Indian Penal Code; Land Utilization Order, 1967; The Kerala Ground Water (Control & Regulation) Act, 2002; Indian Easement Act, 1882.

Nestle

In 1989, Nestle won the “World Most Unethical Company” by Ethical Consumer Magazine, and was also voted one of the “Ten Worst Corporations of 1989” by Multinational Monitor.

One of the major crimes Nestle is accused of, is the aggressive marketing of baby formula in the developing world. An estimated 1.5 million infants die each year because they are not breastfed. Mixing the formula with unsafe drinking water increases the health risk to infants, with these bottle fed children up to 25 times more likely to die as a result of diarrhea.

Nestle’s tactics are in violation of the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes and contribute to the death and suffering of infants around the world, and has resulted in a boycott of their products in over 20 countries.

Just like Coca-Cola, Nestle have also an appalling record to labour and human rights violation with the employment of children in its cocoa plantation fields. It has been estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 children work in the cocoa plantations, some as young as 11 years old.

Nestle has been sued by The International Labor Rights Fund in Federal District Court in Los Angeles for involvement in the trafficking, torture, and forced labor of children who cultivate and harvest cocoa beans that the companies import from Africa. Some of the children are required to work for up to 14 hours per day with no pay, little food and sleep, with frequent beatings.

“Nestlé converts the factories into camps for the public security forces in order to create terror in the community, destroy the unity of the workers, and misinform the members of the union, with the goal of pitting them against the leaders and destroying the movement. This is the policy of Nestlé all over the world.” – SINALTRAINAL spokesperson

Similar to Coca-Cola, Nestle have been accused of Union Busting in Columbia. According to SINALTRAINAL seven of its members working at Nestlé have been assassinated since then. The principal perpetrators of such disappearances are the paramilitary death squads.

Unethical by Association

These two brands create a large stock for the Co-op, and only highlight some of the abuses perpetuated by these two companies. Other brands accused of unethical practises also include Proctor & Gamble which provide a large amount of cleaning products available through the Co-op.

The Co-op may be supporting ethical brands, but by also stocking products by unethical companies, any good the Co-op does is vastly outweighed and negated by the unethical practices of these other companies.

If the Co-op was truly an “ethical” brand with Corporate Social Responsibility at the forefront of their business, they would refuse to stock these brands. However, it is probably these brands that give the Co-op most of their profits.

Therefore it is our opinion that the Co-op is an “unethical” brand for stocking products by other companies that have an appalling track record for human rights and labour abuses and have a long record of corporate crimes. The Co-op as an ethical brand is merely a marketing ploy.

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