The Charitable side of... Coca-Cola

Graham Willgoss

Makers of 'the real thing' give some of their UK profits to charities, but campaigning groups don't find it so sweet-tasting.

Coca-Cola, the world's most ubiquitous brand of soft drink, launched an £8m advertising campaign last month to promote its new sugar-free 'bloke coke' drink, Coke Zero. The campaign, aimed at men, follows the theme that many things would be better without a downside. And many charities agree, especially when it comes to Coca-Cola itself.

The 'real thing' incurred the wrath of mental health campaigners after it used the strapline "blind dates without the psychos" in one of its Coke Zero adverts. Coke axed the advert after Scottish campaign group See Me said it increased the stigma surrounding mental illness.

War on Want attacked the ad campaign for portraying Coca-Cola as "friendly and positive", saying the company had shown "zero interest in protecting workers and the environment in its plants around the world". It also condemned it for "water contamination" and "union-busting" in developing countries, and called Coke bosses "zeroes rather than heroes".

But the company isn't all bad. Coca-Cola Great Britain says it donates more than 1 per cent of its pre-tax profits to community projects, and the Coca-Cola Youth Foundation aims to provide "a positive contribution to the development of young people through physical, cultural, artistic or other educational pursuits" in the UK.

The despair of dentists everywhere also supports Ronald McDonald House Charities, the charitable arm of fellow corporation McDonald's. And, last summer, Coke's generosity extended to the Terrence Higgins Trust when it launched a limited-edition white bottle and donated £2.50 to the charity for every drink sold. How refreshing.

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