Prodded by religious shareholders, the board of Coca-Cola on Tuesday urged all of the company's shareholders to support a resolution asking the company to review the economic impact of the AIDS pandemic on its operations in Africa. The resolution may be the first step toward implementing widespread HIV prevention and treatment programs at Coca-Cola's facilities and with its corporate partners in AIDS-ravaged Africa. Currently, Coca-Cola provides antiretroviral medications to its employees in Africa, but bottling companies working with Coca-Cola must pay for half of the treatment costs for their HIV-positive employees. Very few of them can afford to do so, according to the shareholders backing the resolution. If the resolution is approved at the company's April 21 shareholder meeting, the report would be completed and presented to the shareholders by the end of October.
"This is an impressive first step for Coca-Cola," said Sister Vicki Bergkamp, of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, one of the religious groups belonging to the Interfaith Center of Corporate Responsibility, which backs the resolution. "We look forward to working with Coke to ensuring that this reporting step is fully and properly implemented. Investors need to know that the board at Coca-Cola has fully considered the risks and opportunities the company faces in the public health crisis in Africa and has effective policies and processes in place to deal with the related challenges."