Third-party auditors hired by The Coca-Cola Company are conducting an audit of Cambodian sugar suppliers, NGO and community representatives said yesterday.
“Coke has commissioned them to conduct an assessment on their suppliers. They will talk to all parties, the community, NGOs and the company,” said Eang Vuthy, executive director at Equitable Cambodia, who named the auditors as US corporate responsibility firm Arche Advisors.
Last November, Coca-Cola pledged zero tolerance for land grabs in its sugar-supply chain after an Oxfam report linked some of its and other large companies’ suppliers to land grabs around the world.
The company pledged to conduct “third-party social, environmental and human rights assessments” in major source countries.
Thai sugar company Mitr Phol is one of the global soft-drink giant’s three largest suppliers and has been linked to serious human-rights violations at its sugar plantations in Oddar Meanchey’s Samrong and Chongkal districts.
According to Oxfam, Coca-Cola has also sourced sugar from Tate & Lyle Sugars, which has previously bought from Thai sugar giant KSL, accused of forcibly evicting 456 families off land in Koh Kong’s Sre Ambel district in 2006.
Phal Vanak, a community representative from Omlaing commune in Kampong Speu’s Thpong district, said the auditors visited yesterday with representatives from ANZ bank.
Last month, documents leaked to the Post revealed that the multinational bank’s local venture, ANZ Royal, financed Senator Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company, and that the sugar producer had ignored 60 per cent of recommendations from an environmental and social audit initiated by the bank in 2010.
“A group of six people from Coca-Cola and ANZ bank – four foreigners and two Cambodians – came to talk with villagers in Thpong and Oral district about the dispute with the Phnom Penh Sugar Company,” he said. “We told them that the company forcibly took over our land and about child labour, because the company had let underage people work on the farm.”
ANZ Royal CEO Grant Knuckey said yesterday that it would not be unusual for the bank to “visit customers” but declined to comment on whether the visit was part of another audit.
Village representatives in Oddar Meanchey’s Samrong district said that the Coca-Cola assessors were meeting with them today.