Coca-Cola Bottling in Rajasthan, India: Tragedy of the Commons

by: Aneel Karnani

Publication Date: March 27, 2014
Length: 16 pages
Product ID#: 1-429-391

Core Disciplines: Ethics, Social Impact, Strategy & Management, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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Can corporate social responsibility plans avert the tragedy of the commons? Or is selfishness an inherent part of business? Coca-Cola has long been criticized for its extraction of water from water poor communities. Faced with protests at the University of Michigan, Coca-Cola has agreed to an independent assessment. This case tells the story of what happened after the report gets back and asks students to decide if Coca-Cola has lived up to its stated principles. Or is Coca-Cola just green-washing?

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Consider a situation where a company’s profit motive is in direct conflict with a region’s environmental and economic sustainability, and ask whether corporate social responsibility (CSR) can help resolve this conflict
  • Consider the rights and responsibilities of different community stakeholders: the farmers, the community, industry, Coca-Cola, and the government to the problem of water sustainability
  • Construct an understanding of the concept of the “tragedy of the commons” as it relates to business, CSR, and government regulation.