Most everyday people are not aware that making a difference is part of the Coca-Cola DNA. That narrative has to change. Since the company introduced The Coca-Cola Foundation in 1994, they’ve awarded more than $1.4 billion in grants to causes including empowering women, enhancing communities, protecting environment and educating scholars. 5by20® is a global initiative that Coke introduced to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs across their value chain. And then there was the launch of the Equity Accountability Councils (EACs), which is designed to drive improvements to quality of life in under-resourced communities. With that being said, one would think that Coke would make it a point to aggressively raise awareness of these efforts.
“So part of it is like sharing facts like that, and then letting our partners speak for us, letting the people we’ve impacted speak for us,” explains Joanna Price, SVP, Chief of Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability at The Coca-Cola Company. “I think that, yes, I could stand on the rooftops and go, ‘Look how great I am. We’ve donated $1.4 billion since 1994.’ [But] did you have an impact? So I’d rather the people that we’ve worked with, that we’ve changed lives, they tell their story.”
Recently the world’s largest nonalcoholic drink champs held their 2nd Community Engagement Summit at their world headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien, Chief Executive Officer Caroline Wanga of ESSENCE®; and best-selling author Susan L. Taylor were participants, joined by a room full of key Coke personnel and community partners. The summit topics of discussion included the purpose of making a difference, economic empowerment, making sustainability the way to live, and moving at the speed of opportunity.
Joanna Price, SVP, Chief of Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability at The Coca-Cola Company
“I often find that a lot of the community work that happens in organizations is kind of off to one side,” Price continues. “If you really want to make long standing systemic change, if you really want to have an impact, it needs to be embedded in the business. That was one of the changes that we made, and opening up that first summit in 2019 was to, in all honesty, open up our house and say, this is who we are as Coca-Cola. These are our values, these are our beliefs. This is who we are. I don’t just want to come and sell Coke.”
Although Coca-Cola is very deliberate when it comes to community impact and philanthropy, there is no question that they are also very aware of their incredible status as a for profit company in the marketplace. Coke’s 2022 third quarter performance shows how their net revenue grew 10% to $11.1 billion, and organic revenues (non-GAAP) grew 16%. Financial profits plus positive community and social change efforts equals a win/win situation.
“We know when we go into retail and different outlets, we are a significant financial driver of those stores,” says Price. “We’re always going to blend what is good for the community, and what’s good for our business, because we’re not a not for profit. I need to strengthen the communities because I want people to set up stores. I want people to come and work for us. I want people to be able to afford my products. I want people to be educated so that they’re healthy and they’re choosing the right products. So it’s always going to be that blend.”