'Corporate greenwash': COP27's Coke sponsorship draws flak online, activists demand to scrap it
London: The sponsorship of the flagship United Nations climate conference, or COP27, by the world's largest soft drink company Coca-Cola Co., has triggered an online uproar and highlighted boader concers about corporate lobbying and influence.
The COP27 meetings, which aim to control global temperature increases are scheduled to begin next month in Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town on the Red Sea in Egypt.
When the sponsorship agreement was announced in September, the Egyptian organisers emphasised Coca Cola's efforts to minimise greenhouse gas emissions and main focus on climate change, which immediately sparked uproar on social media.
The agreement was cited by activists as an example of "corporate greenwash" — misrepresenting environmental credentials to conceal polluting behaviours. Further, thay also chastised the corporation for its "disproportionate" role in contributing to plastic pollution.
Thousands sign petition to remove Coke as sponsor
According to reports, more than 228,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that Coke be dropped as a sponsor. Besides, hundreds of civil society organisations have signed an open letter calling for a ban on polluting firms from funding participating in climate negotiations.
The climate meetings, where tens of thousands of delegates from across the world assemble to forge international accords on tackling climate change to prevent the earth from rising to dangerous levels, have often been criticised for allowing corporate engagement.
According to the Egyptian presidency, the year the focus at the meetings would be on how to implement promises made at previous conferences.
"At COP meetings the corporate presence is huge, of course, and it's a slick marketing campaign for them,” said Bobby Banerjee, a management professor at City University of London's Bayes Business School. Notably, he has attended three times since 2011.
Over the years, the meetings have evolved to resemble trade fairs, with big corporations, startups and industry groups setting up stalls and pavilions on the sidelines to lobby and schmooze - underscoring how a growing number of companies want to engage with the event, sensing commercial opportunities as climate change becomes a bigger global priority.
IBM, Microsoft, Boston Consulting Group and Vodafone also have signed up as sponsors or partners but have drawn less flak for their participation than Coca-Cola.
Environmental groups denounce decision to rope in Coke as sponsor
Meanwhile, environmental groups also slammed the decision to let Coca-Cola be a sponsor, saying it's one of the world's biggest plastic producers and top polluters.
They contended manufacturing plastic with petroleum emits carbon dioxide and many of the single-use bottles are sold in countries with low recycling rates, where they either end up littering oceans or are incinerated, adding more carbon emissions to the atmosphere.
“Our support for COP27 is in line with our science-based target to reduce absolute carbon emissions 25% by 2030, and our ambition for net zero carbon emissions by 2050," the the soft drink company said in a statement.
(With inputs from AP)
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