Thomas talked to locals in Kaladera, Rajasthan, who show him wells that have dried up following Coca-Cola’s arrival; Mehdiganj where workers fear for their health and wealth, and examines a report by The Energy and Resource Institute questions the decision to maintain a plant on such a rain sensitive area.
But what angers Thomas, as much as anything, is what he sees as the Coca-Cola using a spin machine to gloss over problems, rather than tackle them.
He said: “There are issues about water use all across the world. There are issues that turn up in Mexico, there are issues that turn up in El Salvador, there are issues that turn up in Canada. There are certainly issues in India.
“What Coke are very good at is giving the impression that they have addressed a global problem, that they’ve identified a problem and addressed, and gone even further than they were asked to.
“What they are very bad at is actually addressing the specific issues. You have to be very specific about this.”
Coca-Cola, for their part, insists that it is actually doing all it can to help the affected areas by replacing water it uses and offering work to communities, claims that are scrutinized closely by Thomas.
He said: “The book most definitely looks at the environment. It looks at what Coca-Cola said in their PR, especially the final chapter, which looks at how the company operates in their annual meeting and how they present it.
“It is also about how they can impact on communities and then create these amazing corporate social responsibility charters, you know, measures and standards and kite-marks and shit which, ultimately, don’t address the real issues.
“PR is what Coca Cola are brilliant at, it is what they are fantastic at. They have got the best brand in the world.
“That isn’t some hyperbole, that’s the advertisers and industry annual ratings, where they assess the strength of the band is the goodwill the public feel to towards the company. Coca-Cola is the brand leader on this.”
“It boils down to this, at a very basic level, an absolute basic, if you have a universal product, universal in its’ packaging, in its’ logos, in it’s taste, then you need to have universal standards.
“It’s not like you can have one and not have the other. You need to have universal standards for human rights, for labour rights and environmental standards.”
Asked what he thought Coca-Cola would feel about his investigation into their brand, he pauses, laughs, and says: “Someone says to me the other day do you think that the less useful something is the stronger the brand is.
“I’m not sure about that. But it certainly would be the case in Coca Cola’s case.
“If you take away all the advertising, and all the aspirations that go along with it and sponsorship of the Olympics, and childhood memories and notions of America and style and design and all of that, you’re left with brown, sugary water.”
Whether there will be enough water left in years to come to continue doing so in the areas of India he visited, well, that’s another question altogether.
And nobody’s laughing about it.
Mark Thomas, Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola, is out now published by Ebury Press, priced £11.99. ISBN: 9780091922931