Regina Maria Silva Gomes, Recycling Cooperative Founder, Brazil 

Empowering Women through the Coca-Cola Value Chain

By Beth Jenkins, Senior Fellow, CSR Initiative and Insights Director, Business Fights Poverty

Empowering Women through the Coca-Cola Value Chain

Photo: Regina Maria Silva Gomes, Recycling Cooperative Founder, Brazil

The CSR Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School and Business Fights Poverty Release New Study of The Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 Initiative

Women’s economic empowerment is a powerful development driver. For instance, Goldman Sachs estimates that closing the gender gap in 15 high potential emerging markets could increase projected per capita incomes there by 14% by 2020 and 20% by 2030. At the same time, studies show that women’s economic empowerment has positive multiplier effects on nutrition, health, and education.

The Coca-Cola Company knows that women are key to development – and that it cannot realize its own potential for growth without them. On the retail side, women have a strong presence in the so-called “traditional trade,” running many of the corner stores, kiosks, market stalls, and street carts that make up one of the Company’s most important sales channels. On the supply side, the Company is working to expand and diversify its sources of agricultural commodities like coffee, tea, citrus, and other fruits around the world (for example, through partnerships like Project Nurture). And in developing countries, half of potential sources – half of all farmers – are women. Women are also the primary buyers of Coca-Cola products.

With the business and development imperatives in mind, in 2010, The Coca-Cola Company made a commitment to economically empower five million women entrepreneurs through its global value chain by the year 2020.

But what does this commitment – dubbed 5by20 – mean in practice?

Most importantly, it does not mean an enormous pot of funds to be doled out from corporate headquarters in Atlanta. 20 regional business units and nearly 250 bottling partners manage Coca-Cola’s global value chain, and women’s economic empowerment will only happen sustainably and at scale if it is driven at the same level – in line with local and regional business priorities, capabilities, and resources, as well as the context and needs of women there.

As a result, 5by20 will require a significant upswell in awareness and implementation of women’s economic empowerment practices within the rank and file at Coca-Cola business units and bottling partners all over the world. The Company is supporting this upswell with an ambitious global goal, set by CEO Muhtar Kent, and a lean corporate support structure offering knowledge, best practices and tools, strategic social investment, and monitoring and evaluation help. This approach will take more time than check writing – but its impact on the Coca-Cola system may also be more profound, catalyzing the economic empowerment of women more sustainably and on a larger scale. To learn more, read the full report, released today.

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