The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Guilford plans to drop Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and Nestle

After a numerous student initiatives and three open forums, the college has announced its plan to switch the school’s soda, juice, and coffee suppliers beginning Jan.

Currently, Guilford holds an exclusive contract with Coca-Cola for all soda and juice products on campus, with the exception of products in the school bookstore. As of now, Nestle provides the coffee in the dining hall and Starbucks in Grill 155.

The college plans to switch to Pepsi-Cola, which will buy out Coke’s exclusive contract for soda and juice, and Green Mountain, which will provide fair trade, organic, shade-grown coffee in the dining hall and the Grill 155.

According to a public statement by the college placed in the Guilford Beacon on Nov. 16, the school began considering alternative beverage suppliers after the Sodexho Independent Study Group brought up concerns in a presentation last April on Coca-Cola, Sodexho, and Starbucks.

Coca-Cola has been widely criticized for their alleged involvement with the assassinations of over half a dozen union leaders who worked at Coke’s bottling plants in Colombia. Since 1990, Coke continues to deny any connection to the eight murders. In addition, the Coca-Cola Company is one of the three largest water privatizing entities in the world, restricting access to water and allegedly poisoning local water supplies around their plants in India.

During the first open beverage forum, which was the most highly attended, students rejected the notion of switching to Pepsi because of its similar corporate background. Pepsi-Cola is also one of the three largest water privatizers worldwide.

Referring to a recent conflict in the Indian state of Kerala, ecologist and scholar Vandana Shiva explained in her book “Earth Democracy,” “The local movement of women in Plachimada triggered recognition of people’s community rights to water in law, while also triggering movements against the 87 other Coca-Cola and Pepsi plants where water is being depleted and polluted.”

However, after student research into alternatives, Dean for Campus Life Aaron Fetrow contacted a number of smaller, seemingly more ethical companies by e-mail to see if they were viable alternatives to Pepsi or Coca-Cola.

Only Pepsi and Coke responded to the questions, which were generated in the second forum, but a number of other companies reported never receiving the e-mail. Students contacted some of the companies by phone and requested they call Fetrow to express interest in the contract. Though company representatives told students they were interested, Fetrow maintained that none followed through and called the college.

“If anything, this lack of response worried me as it would relate to how the company would respond to service calls and needs we may have on campus if they were the next beverage provider,” Fetrow explained.

Citing the lack of alternatives, a better match for “social responsibility and environmental sustainability,” service, and the fact that Pepsi is based in North Carolina, Guilford College announced their plan to switch to Pepsi-Cola.

“Pepsi is just as bad as Coke when in comes to human rights abuses and pollution in foreign countries, so I don’t think it’s the lesser of two evils,” said first-year Olivia Bailey. “It still goes against our Quaker principles and ethical procurement policies,”

Once the school contacted Sodexho regarding student concern over coffee, Sodexho offered to switch to Green Mountain, a company they already do business with elsewhere. In addition to being fair trade and organic, Guilford’s new coffee will be shade grown, which means that ecosystems have not been destroyed by clear-cutting forest to create coffee fields.

Starbucks was specifically mentioned during the Sodexho Student Research group presentation last April to administrators for their lack of fair trade products and questionable treatment of workers attempting to organize with the Industrial Workers of the World in New York City, Chicago, and Maryland. Nestle is the third of the top three water privatizers internationally and their coffee is not fair trade. Over the years, they have been repeatedly accused of using forced labor for the production of their chocolate. Many students see Green Mountain as more in line with the college’s stated values and a significant improvement over Starbucks and Nestle.

“Kicking out major corporations with a strong history of human rights violations, such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, and Starbucks, is an important step towards a more ethical campus,” said Shaina Machlus, who has been involved in the process. “Because colleges and universities are essentially major businesses within themselves, it is of the utmost importance the whole community monitors where our money is being spent.”

It is unclear whether the bookstore, currently managed by Follett, will make the switch from Coca-Cola and Starbucks as well, though Vice President for Finance and Administration Jerry Boothby submitted a written request to Follett last week asking that they do so immediately. If Follett does so, the campus-wide switch will be complete.

“When Guilford purchases from a corporation it is investing not only in the corporation but all of its practices as well,” Machlus said. “I hope this is only the beginning of continual student input and dedication to ensure more ethical purch

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