2016—A year of reflection and transformation

In 2016, The Coca-Cola Company began charting a new course for our future. From the drinks people love to how we make them and everything in between, we’re rethinking our products, our purpose, and our impact on the world.

We’ve reflected on the role our drinks have in people’s daily lives. People around the world have an increased interest in managing the food and beverages they consume. Concerns about obesity and health mean people now want more natural ingredients, drinks with more nutrition and benefits, and often less sugar.

We’re listening to consumers, and we agree with the World Health Organization that too much sugar isn’t good for anyone. We’ve responded with Our Way Forward, the Company’s long-term plan to reshape our business by embracing people’s evolving preferences and giving them more of the drinks they want.

The world is changing at lightning speed. Technology is fundamentally shifting everything, including the way we communicate and the way we shop. Whether navigating retail channels, browsing from the comforts of home or anywhere in between – nothing is static. There is an openness to new experiences and cultures globally, as consumers have more power, and their tastes are changing more quickly than ever before. For us to grow responsibly in this new world, we must clearly understand the trends, passions, and expectations of the people we serve—and take action to meet them where they are.

Social license is a privilege, not a right

Today’s consumers care deeply about the social and environmental impact companies have on the world, and many are willing to spend more on products and services from companies committed to a positive social and environmental impact. These same consumers also expect us to be responsible corporate citizens that positively impact their local communities. 

Everywhere we operate, we do so at the pleasure of the communities we serve. That’s why we will always strive to create a positive impact and provide meaningful solutions. We understand that our social license to operate must be earned day-in and day-out.

In the end, sustainability isn’t just essential for our planet; it’s essential for our communities, our business, and, ultimately, our shareowners.

Continuing our legacy

If there’s one thing our Chairman, Muhtar Kent, understood well, it’s that while a business must always create shareowner value, we simply cannot look at value solely in terms of dollars and cents. We must continue to widen the lens and look at all of the ways our system interacts with and, ultimately, impacts the people in the communities we call home and the planet we all share.

For years now, our three W’s (women, water, and well-being) have helped shape and guide the social conscience of our Company through investments that create shared value around the globe—value for local communities as well as value for the Coca-Cola system.

Whether its packaging or carbon or any number of externalities, we cannot look forward to future growth without being mindful of the trail we inevitably leave behind us. We must make sustainability an even more integral part of who we are.

Responsible growth makes a difference

For us, sustainability is our charge to grow the business in a way that leaves the world better than we found it. That fundamental idea runs through everything we do and our actions must be measured through that lens.

As the world’s leading beverage company, we have a responsibility to many audiences around the world: customers, suppliers, parents, public health advocates, NGOs, our bottling partners, our shareowners and employees. Responsible growth isn’t just about selling more drinks to more people in more places. Our Company’s long-term success hinges on taking all of these diverse perspectives into account.

Only then can we can truly engineer our business to add lasting value to this world. Yes, this will help us grow the business, but it’s also the right thing to do. As a leader in our industry we have responsibilities beyond the bottom line, and we fully embrace those responsibilities and anyone willing to work with us to fulfill them.

No one can do it alone

Today’s headlines are filled with a continuous barrage of challenges – whether environmental, human rights and suffering, education, rule of law, conflict or health care – the list goes on.

What is clear is that no one company, nation, or organization can solve the sustainability challenges we collectively face. Building a better world demands we work together and combine expertise, networks, influence, and passion toward meaningful solutions. This is also why we continue to support the principles of the United Nations Global Compact. We must remind ourselves, daily, not to accept that things have to be the way they are.

Our approach starts with a clear understanding of the needs and interests of the communities we serve and an honest assessment of our mission and vision in the changing world we live in. Then, we can align our business interests with the interests of communities and work with partners to make a meaningful difference—that’s the essence of shared value.

I will continue to listen, process, and act on the constructive feedback our stakeholders are willing to provide to ensure we meet or exceed the high expectations we all have for The Coca-Cola Company. 

Together with you, Our Way Forward begins now.

James Quincey
President and Chief Executive Officer
The Coca-Cola Company

Read a handwritten version of the letter from this year's report