Owner of world-renowned beverage brand, Coca-Cola Company, has pledged to empower five million women entrepreneurs throughout its global business system, by the year 2020.
Announcement of the pledge was made by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the company, Muhtar Kent, at a plenary session on empowering women at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, USA on Tuesday, September 21, 2010.
The pledge is a follow up of a promise made by the company at last year’s Clinton Global Initiative, to ensure 50% of all new Micro Distribution Centres (MDCs) are run by women, and is in turn a step up a commitment made by the Coca-Cola Company in 2008 to the United Nations “Business Call to Action”, to grow the company’s MDCs in Africa.
Currently in Ghana there are already about 200 of the MDCs, of which 80% are being run by women, disclosed Conrad Van Niekerk, General Manager, Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Ghana.
Making this known at a meeting with some editors and senior journalists in Accra today, he said “Right now in Ghana, we have up to about 200 of the MDCs in the old type model and about 80% of them are owned and run by women as we speak today.”
Commenting on the company’s pledge, Mr. Muhtar Kent said; “Our experience on the great continent of Africa and the model of our existing MDC programme provides an expanded platform to empower an additional five million worldwide over the next ten years. We need to increase awareness that better societies can be created as a result of empowering women.”
The Coca-Cola CEO stated that the decision of the company to empower women was also informed by a research conducted by the Harvard Kennedy School and interactions with local stakeholders on Coca-Cola’s MDC business in Africa, which showed that women face three barriers to success, which are the lack of access to finance, business skills training and mentors as well as networks of peers.
Divulging that plans were underway to conduct further research with potential partners to better understand how to empower women across the company’s global system, he said during the plenary session that he believed “Enhancing economic opportunities for women in the Coca-Cola value chain will result in increased incomes, enhanced skills in business, increased stature within the community and improved potential for communities.”
Mr. Kent held that “The only way we are going to have a profound and lasting impact on global issues is by joining the forces of business, government and civil society, to pool our collective expertise and experience.”
For her part, Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State declared; “with today’s announcement, Coca-Cola has issued an ambitious challenge with the potential to transform millions of lives, significantly contributing to community development, while driving business success – a great example of sustainability.”
She added that “This is exactly the type of investment that we need in order to reinvigorate our economies and foster long term sustainable growth.”
According to a news release announcing the pledge, which was issued by the Coca-Cola Equatorial Africa Franchise, the new pledge capitalises on the company’s presence in over 200 countries and its business model, which relies on millions of small-scale distributors and retailers, many of whom are women.
It stated that through the world’s largest distribution system, consumers in the over 200 countries enjoy the company’s more than 500 brands at a rate of 1.6 billion servings a day.
The release further affirmed that to meet the target, the company will build on best-practices in its business system worldwide, encourage innovation, and seek the insights of women executives as it considers how to break down barriers faced by women in its value chain.
By Edmund Smith-Asante