After an outcry from 30 civil society organizations who objected to Chevron’s nomination for the award – and other denouncements across the internet – the State Department announced that the 2014 Award for Corporate Excellence would be given to Coca-Cola, EcoPlanet Bamboo, and Wagner Asia Equipment – not Chevron.
Some advocates have criticized the inclusion of Coca-Cola, which has faced accusations of serious labor rights violations, including lawsuits alleging complicity in the murder of labor leaders in Colombia. Coca-Cola has, however, made some efforts in the past few years to improve its social performance – including declaring “zero tolerance” for land-grabbing in its supply chain and producing an impressive (though still imperfect) report on its business practices in Myanmar (Burma) – the very same country where the US embassy nominated Chevron for the awards. (Oxfam America ranks Coke at #3 of the top 10 food companies in terms of social and environmental performance – and the top American company in the rankings.)
We hope that the outcry over Chevron’s nomination leads the State Department to re-think what “corporate excellence” means, and shift from a mindset that rewards corporate philanthropy projects to one that really considers whether a corporation is respecting local communities in its profit-making operations.