It’s our duty to make a positive impact: to the world, to consumers, to children and to the future.

I joined Net Impact a few months ago after starting my MBA journey at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business in hopes of gaining insights on what impact looks like from a business perspective. Coming from an industrial design (product design) background, I’m very interested in product lifecycle, design intensions and the strategic development decisions behind every product brought to market. Additionally, I'm passionate about learning and observing what organizations are doing to influence consumers to make sustainable and responsible decisions.

As a member of the MBA program and the Net Impact Club, I recently was given the opportunity to visit Coca-Cola headquarters, right next to Tech’s campus. I arrived at Coca-Cola expecting a presentation promoting all Coca-Cola initiatives in the realm of impact and sustainability.

But I left with much more! Mary Merrill’s presentation was one of the most honest and transparent discussions I’ve ever seen. When discussing the motivations behind sustainable and social change, Coca-Cola believes there must be a marriage between business and impact. As Mary pointed out, “Sustainability is good for business, and business is good for sustainability.”

That statement made the proverbial light bulb go off. For a business to make an impact, it of course must have the influence, ability and drive to invest necessary resources. Coca-Cola is ideally suited to change lives.

Mary’s presentation covered Coca-Cola’s current sustainability initiatives and commitments. After answering questions, she left us with the admission that Coca-Cola’s sustainability work is never done, and that the company is focused on translating sustainability into action.

In addition to my experience at Coca-Cola, I attended the Net Impact conference in Seattle. Never have I been a part of such a large congregation of like-minded individuals passionate about making an impact. To say the conference was humbling, inspiring and extremely influential is an understatement. We were fortunate to meet and engage with world changers from extraordinary backgrounds, causes and stories. I saw inspiring keynote speakers and attended as many panel sessions as possible. One of my personal favorites, “Diversity and Inclusion for Women in the Workplace,” featured a panel of four women including Lisa Borders, chair of The Coca-Cola Foundation.

Lisa and her fellow panelists discussed the importance of a top-down approach to tackling diversity issues inside and outside organizations. The women repeated the importance of equity in making an impact. Lisa shared an anecdote of how she taught her son the importance of being different and how each individual contributes to make something beautiful.

“To make a delicious cake, you don’t just need flour. You need butter and eggs for the flavor,” she said. This must be true in our own lives.

The women also spoke of the programs being supported by and outside their organizations. Specifically, Lisa spoke of Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs globally by 2020. Finally, Lisa and the other panelists spoke about the importance of mentoring programs and the need for professional women to support each other to ultimately close the gender gap.

As I mentioned, I have a passion for making an impact. I have much to learn and plan to continually push myself into new avenues for change.

 

Elizabeth Schultz is a 2017 MBA candidate at Georgia Tech's Scheller College of Business