Coca-Cola is a big company. Last year, the soda giant reported nearly $46 billion in revenue. So while $119 million sounds like a drop in the bucket when it comes to Coke’s total earnings around the world, it’s actually quite significant. That’s the amount of money the beverage giant spent last year on shady research.
Last month, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent chose to make a public apology after a New York Times investigation criticized the brand for backing health research and initiatives that oftentimes deflected blame away from Coca-Cola products for America’s health problems. As part of that apology, Kent said his company would be more transparent with how money is spent in the future. That transparency arrived yesterday, with the Associated Press reporting that Coca-Cola disclosed it had spent $118.6 million on such projects in the U.S. over the past five years.
Broken down, that number included $21.8 million in scientific research and $96.8 million in “health and well-being partnerships,” including to dieticians and others who could potentially influence public opinion. “We understand that our efforts in dealing with the obesity epidemic are not seen as credible,” Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, said in a statement, “so we must—and want to—do better.” However, despite this, the brand maintains that in the past, these financial investments were “made with the best of intentions.”
As part of their “commitment to transparency,” the company has even released a list of all the health professionals and scientific experts they’ve worked with since 2010—though Coca-Cola doesn’t specifically mention what this long list of people actually did for the company and individuals were given the option to decline to have their names listed.
It’s a reminder that transparency certainly gives us more information, but it doesn’t necessarily connect any of the dots. Full disclosure: I drank a Diet Coke earlier this week, so feel free to take this whole post with a grain of salt.
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