Have a Coke And a Smile (And Forget About Any Human Rights Abuses)

Coca-Cola, which was ranked as the world's most valuable brand for the third straight year by Omnicom Group's Interbrand unit, apparently has seen little harm to its brand reputation from a recent lawsuit for human rights abuses. The Corporate Crime Reporter writes that the United Steel Workers Union and the International Labor Rights Fund filed suit against Coke and Panamerican Beverages Inc. in federal court in mid-July. The case was initiated by Sinaltrainal, a trade union that represents Coca-Cola workers in Columbia. Sinaltrainal says that Coke maintains open relations with death squads which have been responsible for the murder of union leaders as part of a program of intimidation. Meanwhile, when asked how to minimize negative PR resulting from being associated with the Beijing Olympics, Coke PR manager for global sports Kelly Brooks told PR Week, "I think it's important to remind people that business and politics have distinctly different aims. ... The only role I can imagine for Coca-Cola in helping to minimize negative publicity about China is to tell our own story -- that we have been operating there successfully for more than 20 years and have built strong and treasured relationships with the Chinese people."