Coca-Cola reiterates commitment to Sri Lanka post-Kelani River spill

Wednesday, 27 January 2016 00:36 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Marianne David in 

Hong Kong

Coca-Cola India and South-West Asia heads on Monday strongly reiterated the company’s commitment to Sri Lanka, underlining efforts to address the fallout and emerge stronger post the Kelani River fiasco, for which the company came under fire in August last year.rrsy

In an interview with the Daily FT in Hong Kong on the eve of the Asia Pacific launch of its new global campaign, ‘Taste the Feeling,’ Coca-Cola India and South-West Asia Vice President – Public Affairs and Communication Ishteyaque Amjad asserted that the company had learnt its lessons and learnt them the right way in the aftermath of the accident, while also emphasising that Coca-Cola never shied away from taking responsibility for the incident.

“It was an accident… The best learning from an accident is that we put in place the measures and the learning so that we do not repeat the same accident. Sitting here, all of us can confidently tell you that we have learnt our lessons and we’ve learnt it the right way; we’ve put in the right checks and balances.

“You would have noticed that despite all the conversation that happened over the diesel spill in the storm water drainage, we never shied away from speaking the truth that this is what exactly happened. We owned up the responsibility, we raised our hand, we informed the authorities and we told them what had happened. The authorities in turn took actions; they asked us for compensation in the immediate term and said they would assess the overall damage and get back to us in terms of further compensation.”

Amjad noted that throughout the entire process, the company unfailingly cooperated with the authorities and expressed its willingness to do whatever was deemed fit in terms of compensation/fines, etc.

He also revealed that Coca-Cola was carrying out its own internal process inquiry. “For a corporation of our repute and integrity, it’s just not possible for us to allow these things to happen. Unfortunately accidents do happen in this field. While we’ve learnt from this, it has also brought the whole issue of industrial accidents and waste management and so on into the forefront and we’re working very closely with all the authorities.”

Commenting on the negative impact the Kelani River spill has had on the brand, he stated the brand was essentially the connection that the consumer had with the company and it was only natural for the brand to take a hit when an accident of this sort occurred, especially in a country like Sri Lanka where the Kelani River is a lifeline.

Echoing his views, Coca-Cola India and South-West Asia Vice President – Marketing and Commercial Debabrata Mukherjee stated: “When there is an accident, there is temporary resentment because the consumers feel ‘this is the brand I love’ and there is a feeling of being let down, but the reality is that if you’re transparent and as long as you state your case and as long as you are willing to learn, the brand comes back stronger.

“In this case, yes there is temporary dissonance around the brand but we will continue to do the right thing with the consumer. For eight years consistently according to the Nielsen-SLIM report, we’ve been the ‘Youth Brand of Sri Lanka’. That equity doesn’t go away overnight. We will continue to do whatever it takes to build trust and build the bond with the Sri Lankan consumer.”