Tory peer calls to boycott Coca-Cola products

Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Tory peer Robert Hayward has vowed to lead a boycott of Coca-Cola products over the company’s sponsorship of the upcoming 2022 Beijing Olympics, saying its bid to profit from an event organised by the Chinese government was shameless, stated reports on Sunday (2).

Hayward, who was a founding chairman of the world’s first gay rugby club and a former personnel manager for Coca-Cola Bottlers, said it was unacceptable for firms to help to boost the use of the Winter Games as a propaganda exercise given concerns over the treatment of one million Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang province.

Hayward said he would not buy any Coca-Cola products, which include brands such as Innocent, Schweppes and Fanta, and that he hoped large numbers of people would do the same, reports said.

“If they are going to take that approach, then they have to understand that there are lots of people in this world, many of whom are probably Muslims in many countries but others who are of different faiths, who just think it’s unacceptable that they should participate,” he said.

People should use their personal judgment about whether to buy a product or service, but “there comes a point … where you wish to say ‘no, this is just unacceptable’,” he said.

“It is a propaganda event and I am not going to go along with it when so many people are currently suffering and losing their liberty.”

Hayward said he was taking the stand specifically against Coca-Cola because it was “dependent on a good image with the public” to sell its goods, though he also voiced concern about Proctor & Gamble, another headline sponsor.

He said it was unacceptable for firms to “be trying to gain kudos out of a worldwide sporting event hosted by the Chinese government” given it “has been shown in the last few months to be persecuting the Uyghurs to an extreme extent”.

Although Coca Cola has not directly responded to the boycott calls, the company said on its website it is “the longest-running, continuous sponsor” of both the summer and winter Olympics.

“We believe the Olympic movement is a force for good, bringing people and countries together, and we’re proud to use our name to raise its profile and support the world’s most watched and revered international sporting event,” it said.