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Coca-Cola: Sustainability amidst global health crisis

by Goddie Ofose
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The devastating effects of Covid-19 pandemic on global institutions have been huge. It forced many governments, corporate organizations and individuals to strategize to catch up in an economy knocked to its knees by the pandemic. Coca-Cola is not exempted. As a driving force propelled by its unflinching commitment to its purpose to refresh the world and make a difference, Coca-Cola, despite the damning challenges, remained resolute in the pursuit of its goals for the year 2020.

It sought to refresh its key stakeholders in body and spirit, and create a more sustainable business and better-shared future for the people and their communities. In 2020, amidst the ravages of Covid-19, Coca-Cola focused on helping communities around the world with relief materials. The world’s leading beverage manufacturer also rose with a sense of duty to strive for greater justice and equity within its system, as well, as within the communities where it operates. It put smiles on the faces of its customers by providing relief materials to communities through its outreach programs.

Coca-Cola Nigeria is a people’s company. It has never, for once, neglected its corporate social responsibilities since its inception in Nigeria.  Its sustainability pillars (known as the 4Ws) are in the areas of women, water stewardship, waste and wellbeing. It is a darling firm, locally and worldwide, because it has given so many people numerous opportunities to improve their lives. Through its flagship initiatives, like the 5By20 and Replenish Africa, it sought to give economic empowerment to women.

The 5by20 started in 2010, with the target to economically empower 5 million women entrepreneurs by the end of 2020. It was designed to address structural inequalities and economic barriers affecting women entrepreneurs by providing business skills, training, mentoring networks, financial services and other assets to support women and their businesses. A decade later, 5By20 has empowered 5 million female entrepreneurs, out of which 460,000 were Nigerians, and Replenish Africa has impacted over 6 million people with sanitation and access to good water.

However, the challenges facing female entrepreneurs across the world remain enormous and require collective and deliberate action among the private sector, government and civil society to achieve transformative change. Under its catalyst for change intervention program, Coca-Cola ensured that women were empowered, while bridging the gap of opportunities to achieve an inclusive and sustainable society positioned for economic growth in 2020, the year of pandemic.

Recognizing the financial instability spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially, among women, the Coca-Cola Foundation, in partnership with Karis and Eleos Hand of Hope Foundation, launched Catalyst for Change – a women empowerment and capacity-building program across five communities of Iwaya, Oworonshoki, Sangotedo, Magboro and Ogijo in Lagos and Ogun States. The program empowered over 4,600 women with various skills and 1,000 of them received start-up kits upon completion of the training to help their small-scale businesses.

In addition, Coca-Cola rolled out its Recycling Scheme for Women and Youth Empowerment (RESWAYE). In a country notorious for its worrisome waste problem, the initiative was most pertinent.   Nigeria generates about 32 million tons of waste per year, including 2.5 million tons of plastic waste. It supported the government’s effort in clearing the coastlines and shorelines of plastic waste, with its $100,000 grant to support RESWAYE. In February 2020, the Whitefield Foundation, with funding from the Coca-Cola Foundation, kicked off its S.H.A.P.E 2020 program to economically empower women and youths from local communities. This program has since helped many of its participants through training and skill acquisition, like soap making, tailoring, hairdressing, farming, digital skills and seed grant.

Thus far, it has successfully trained over 700 women and youth in various areas of skill-acquisition, and given 150 seed grants to start their business. Coca-Cola is manifestly inspired to make a difference in serving communities, and working to create more sustainable businesses. To this end, it has spent over $100 million as a testimony to its intent and commitment to help build a better-shared future. In 2020, the opportunities to boost the company’s corporate image came endlessly, and Coca-Cola keyed into them for an effective sustainability strategy. It did not only meet consumers’ and the public expectations, it also demonstrated its commitment to ensuring a better-shared future. It listened to people’s needs, and served them, as distilled in its key program areas (the 4Ws): women, water, waste, and wellbeing.

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