- While the Global Energy Balance Network has said its affiliation with Coca-Cola does not impact its operations, emails uncovered by Associated Press suggest otherwise.
- "Coke helped pick the group's leaders, edited its mission statement and suggested articles and videos for its website," according to the Associated Press.
- Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent told the Associated Press in response, "It has become clear to us that there was not a sufficient level of transparency with regard to the company's involvement with the Global Energy Balance Network. Clearly, we have more work to do to reflect the values of this great company in all that we do."
"In an email last November, the group's president tells a top Coke executive: 'I want to help your company avoid the image of being a problem in peoples' lives and back to being a company that brings important and fun things to them,'" Associated Press reported.
Coca-Cola has since stopped working with GEBN and has accepted the retirement of its chief health and science officer, Rhona Applebaum, who initially oversaw the company's relationship with the nonprofit, according to the Associated Press. Coca-Cola does not have plans to fill the position at this time as the company rethinks its health-related efforts.
The New York Times called out Coca-Cola in August about its relationship with GEBN, which was claimed to be promoting exercise over diet to combat obesity. Coca-Cola said the report "created confusion" and that the company has "always operated under the fact that a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise are key ingredients for a healthy lifestyle," Coca-Cola chief technical officer Ed Hays wrote in a USA TODAY column.
"Coke has long stressed the idea of 'energy balance,' or the need to offset calorie intake with physical activity. It's a basic concept few would disagree with, but critics say the company uses it to downplay the effects of sugary drinks by shifting more attention to the need for exercise," according to the Associated Press.
In September, Coca-Cola disclosed $118.6 million the company spent on health and wellness-related research and programs. Since Coca-Cola announced those relationships, some funding will not be renewed, and other organizations have returned the company's donation.