Pepsi Completes Burma Pullout

Soft Drink Company Bends to Pressure From Human Rights Groups

Marco B. Simons '97 said he can now drink Pepsi-Cola in all good conscience.

The Harvard Burma Action Group (HBAG) chair led last spring's resistance to having Pepsi in the dining halls. PepsiCo's recent announcement that it will withdraw all investment from Burma by May 31, 1997 has changed his mind.

In recent years, PepsiCo has come under fire from human right activities for its investment in a country governed by an oppressive military dictatorship, according to the HBAG press release.

Pepsi-Cola spokesperson Keith Hughes said PepsiCo began pulling out of Burma during May of last year. But by this summer, the withdrawal will be complete.

"Based on our assessment of the spirit of current US government foreign policy, we are completing our total disengagement from the Burmese market,"Hughes said in an official statement.


Simons said he feels that Harvard students played a "not insignificant" role in PepsiCo's latest corporate decision, mentioning Harvard Dining Services' (HDS) choosing Coca-Cola over Pepsi during contract negotiations last spring.

"Harvard and Stanford's decision to deny contracts to PepsiCo was in all probability a significant factor in PepsiCo's decisions to withdraw from Burma," Simons said.

HDS Purchasing Manager John D. Allegretto said Coca-Cola will remain the beverage of choice in Harvard dining halls, at least for the next four years.

Allegretto said HDS' contract with Coca-Cola is not due to expire until June 2001.

He denied the preference for Coca-Cola was an overt political decision; but rather, a matter of service and taste.

"I'm happy that the students feel that the controversy here helped the protestors get Pepsi out of Burma; and that's fine, but I can't say that we played a part in that," Allegretto said. "The reason we originally didn't want to do business with Coca-Cola was because of service issues."

Allegretto said a survey among students showed they preferred Coke.

"Students wanted to drink Coca-Cola, period," he said. "I think some students felt very strongly about [Pepsi's involvement in Burma], and some didn't."